Despite debate in the psychiatric community about how to diagnose and treat sex addiction, sex addiction is a real illness with visible and measurable consequences on your emotional, psychological and physical well-being. It can also seriously impact your work, personal and financial life. What makes sex addition a unique challenge for clinicians is the fact that sex is a key component to a healthy and fulfilling life and meaningful relationships. However, when sexual activity becomes a compulsion and takes ever-increasing amounts of your time, attention and resources and begins to cause significant stress and negative consequences, then it can develop into a behavioral disorder.
What further complicates sex addiction is the fact that unlike substance dependency and addiction, it is unreasonable to pursue full abstinence as the goal of treatment. A satisfying sexual relationship is fundamental to our enjoyment of life, and as such, you will naturally and repeatedly encounter the source of your addiction throughout your life. Sex addiction treatment, therefore, tries to create awareness of where a healthy sex life ends and where unhealthy sexual behaviors begin so that you can identify or avoid triggers and respond to sexual urges in ways that promote your wellbeing.
Drug and alcohol abuse which frequently co-occur with sex addiction make matters worse for all people with symptoms of sex addiction. The guilt, shame, fear, stress and loss of control you will likely experience as a result of your sex addiction will be difficult to handle, and drugs and alcohol may seem like a natural way to cope with these negative symptoms. However, substance use is never a substitute for medical care and therapy, and it will always bring its own problems while also making your sex addiction worse in several ways.
First, self-medication will increase symptoms of your sex addiction by loosening your inhibitions and adversely affecting your decision-making process, and it will also add its own negative symptoms as well. The more negative symptoms you experience, the more you will seek to self-medicate, creating a cycle which leads to ever-increasing damage to your health. A holistic approach which treats your substance use and sex addiction in a personalized, compassionate and sensitive way will be the best path for you to overcome each issue while preserving your health, safety and well-being.
SYMPTOMS OF SEX ADDICTION
Fundamentally, sex addiction is a lack of control over your sexual desires and behaviors that lead to significant distress and harm to yourself or others. That harm can come in many forms. For example, you could experience financial hardship or legal issues if you pay for sex, you could risk your physical health by exposure to disease, or you could risk damaging or losing important relationships due to infidelities. You may suffer from a sex addiction problem if you have experienced one or more of the criteria below.
- you feel unable to set limits or boundaries on your sexual urges
- you spend significant amounts of time planning for or engaging in sex
- you have suffered negative consequences from your sexual behavior, including issues on the job, loss of a relationship or financial or legal problems
- you side-step personal or social commitments to spend more time indulging sexual fantasies
- you frequently use and rely on impersonal, emotionless sources of sexual fulfillment including pornography, prostitution and cybersex
- you need to engage in ever-riskier sexual activities to achieve the same level of high
- you experience constant shame, guilt or self-loathing about your sexual behavior but remain unable to stop
- you try and fail to stop the sexual behavior and repeatedly re-engage when stressed or triggered
Instead of a source of joy, physical intimacy and emotional connection with a valued person in your life, if you suffer from sex addiction, sex becomes a source of grief, anguish and pain for both you and those close to you. However, sex addiction is treatable and manageable if you seek professional help.
THE CHALLENGE OF TREATING SEX ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Sex addiction is often a way to self-medicate symptoms of underlying mental illness. The symptoms of sex addiction, however, often frequently invite substance use. Sex, like drugs or alcohol, becomes simply a means to self-treat a disorder that you may or may not have previously addressed. Statistics — like those published in Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity in 2013 — show that as many as 72 percent of sex addicts also suffered from depression or bipolar disorder. Also, as many as 38 percent suffered from anxiety, and 40 percent suffered from substance use. The high prevalence of sex addiction with both underlying, undiagnosed mental health issues and overlying substance use points to the critical need for an individualized, holistic approach to recovery from substance use and sex addiction, with a full continuum of care to prevent relapse and assure the full benefit of behavioral therapy.
AN INTEGRATED RECOVERY APPROACH CAN HELP YOU ACHIEVE WELL-BEING AND SOBRIETY
An integrated approach to recovery first treats your substance abuse problem, arguably the most important phase of your overall recovery. Eliminating all traces of drugs from your body and ending drug cravings allows you to focus on the reasons you began to use and minimize your chance of relapse which can sabotage further treatment and lead to overdose. An individualized approach will guide this and all phases of your treatment, which means that your treatment will be tailored to your specific personality, habits and needs, ensuring you get the care you need and techniques that will succeed for you.
By addressing the specific unmet needs, traumas or persistent stress that lead to your sex addiction and substance abuse, together with your healthcare partners you can begin to understand, disarm and manage the factors which sustained and enlarged your symptoms, unravel the connections between your illnesses and begin to heal. While under our care at the Serenity Oaks Wellness Center, you can practice the techniques you will learn with our empathetic team members who understand the pain and difficulty of what you are going through and who will offer their support at every stage. Both substance abuse and sex addiction are treatable and manageable, but for almost all sufferers that involves seeking professional help from experienced addiction and mental health specialists. We are here to help you and want you to achieve wellness.