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Treating Sexual Addiction

Many smirk or outright laugh at the words "sexual addiction." For those suffering with sexual addiction, it's not a joke.

We all know about repetitive, destructive, compulsive behaviors—things we know as "addictions" like drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, compulsive overeating, compulsive undereating (anorexia)—and yet not nearly as many are aware of compulsive sexual activity.

There is a controversy amongst experts about whether this represents a "true addiction" or not, or whether it is just repetitive, compulsive, destructive behavior. When most of us think about having sex, we imagine having non-forced sex, envisioning pleasurable activities, and it is difficult for some to imagine that non-forced sex can actually compulsive sexual behavior. The people with the behavior tell us that they feel "driven," compelled to engage in sexual behaviors, which they know are at best inappropriate, and at worst are potentially destructive.

Whether it is compulsory masturbation or risky sex or compulsive viewing of internet pornography or other impulsively driven sexual activity, the end result is generally:

  • negative feelings of guilt
  • embarrassment
  • shame
  • self-anger or loathing
  • impairment in productive day-to-day activity

The Outcomes of Sexual Addiction

Compulsive sexual activity can result in the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases, legal or social entanglements, or destruction of otherwise appropriate relationships. I have known of patients with the disorder to be respected individuals involved in productive work, and have had what appears on the outside to be "perfect relationships with their spouse."

Generally the behaviors are driven only partly by sexual pleasure, but mostly by feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, or stress. The end result of the disorder is generally negative outcomes for the person involved, and when discovered can cause problems not only for the individual but for all those involved with the sufferer.

Treating Sexual Addiction

The good news is that if identified for what it is, a disorder, there is help available for those who suffer from "sexual addiction." Treatment for sexual addiction generally involves individual psychotherapy, group therapy, and if possible a 12-step support network of those suffering from a similar disorder (such as sex addicts anonymous).

More information about the treatment of sexual addiction is available elsewhere on the HeathyPlace.com website.

On the HealthyPlace TV Show on sexual addiction, Tuesday April 28, (7:30p CT, 8:30 ET live and on-demand on our website), we will discuss sexual addiction and its treatment in more depth.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of HealthyPlace.com. Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: What Is Treatment-Resistant Depression?
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, April 23). Treating Sexual Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/about-hptv/croft-blog/treating-sexual-addiction

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
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Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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