Sex Addiction is a Mental Health Disorder
The recent revelations about Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, engaging in compulsive predatory sexual assaults has brought the topic of sex addiction into the foreground. Mr. Weinstein’s representatives quickly announced that he would be treated for his alleged sex addiction, initiating debate as to whether sex addiction is a valid mental health disorder. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has yet to give sex addiction its own diagnostic category.
However, many of the behaviors that may influence the compulsive sexual behavior can be found in other diagnosable mental health disorders, such as behavioral addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or impulse control disorder. With this in mind, sex addiction treatment methods can rely on many of the same evidence-based approaches that are used to treat those disorders. Sex addiction, as with any other compulsive behavior that results in extreme preoccupation, disruption in relationships and work, and legal or financial consequences, is addictive behavior that continues even in the face of those negative repercussions.
What is Sex Addiction and Signs and Symptoms?
As with any other type of behavioral addiction—eating disorders, gambling addiction, substance use disorders—sex addiction, also known as hypersexual disorder, involves compulsive efforts to experience sexual gratification, even when the obsession with sex interferes with all other aspects of life. Authors of an article published in Current Pharmaceutical Design entitled “Sexual Addiction or Hypersexual Disorder: Different Terms for the Same Problem?” estimate that 3-6% of adults struggle with an addictive sexual disorder.
Traits of a sexual addiction might include:
- Hyper focused on attaining sexual fulfillment and spend much time pursuing it
- Regular use of sources for sexual fulfillment that do not involve emotional attachment, such as pornography, online sex forums, and prostitutes.
- Inability to restrain sexual urges
- As addictive behaviors to sexual fulfillment deepen the need to seek more extreme sexual behaviors increases
- Compulsive sexual behaviors negatively impact intimate relationships
- Negative consequences mount, including financial problems, loss of a job, legal issues, divorce
- Attempts to discontinue the behaviors fail, even knowing the resulting negative consequences
- Feelings of shame, self-loathing, and guilt accompany the compulsive sexual behaviors
- Often co-occur with a anxiety, depression, or substance-use disorder
What are the Sex Addiction Treatment Methods?
Sex addiction treatment methods are similar to treating other mental health disorders. In most cases, treatment for sex addiction includes a combination of medications, individual psychotherapy, and group therapy. Medications used to treat sex addiction may also target underlying mood disorders, so antidepressants are common. For many entering in inpatient program our outpatient program will be key to recovery and receiving a proper evaluation and treatment plan.
Different modalities of psychotherapy can be utilized to treat the hypersexual disorder. The most common ones are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. In most cases the psychodynamic approach, which focuses more on childhood issues and trauma, is reserved for individual therapy sessions, but the other two behavioral therapies are effective in a group setting. Group therapy is a good setting for the sex addict to gain an understanding that they are not unique in experiencing the disorder, as well as external reinforcement.
Other Support for Sex Addiction
In addition to the primary treatment for sex addiction, the 12-step programs have been found to be very helpful. There are two primary 12-step programs for sex addiction: Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA). These recovery groups offer social support for as long as the individual desires it. For individuals who prefer anonymity, there are also online forums available for support.
Inpatient Treatment Centers for Sex Addiction
The Treatment Specialist connects you with a mental health treatment program that offers help and recovery for sex addiction. Call to connect with a treatment center and receive a confidential assessment today at (866) 644-7911.