Sex addiction might not be outlined in the DSM-5, but research shows this type of addiction impacts a small percentage of adults. There are several common symptoms and characteristics of sex addiction, which we will cover below, along with what you need to know about overcoming love & sex addiction.
In this article, we will explore how to overcome sex addiction.
How to Overcome Sex Addiction
Upon reaching physical maturity, interest in sex is a natural part of life. Much like with eating food, our human survival is dependent upon our eventually acting upon our primitive urge to engage. And, just like eating too much of the wrong foods can have a detrimental effect on our health, indulging in the wrong type of sexual thoughts and activities can wreak havoc on our physical, social, and psychological well-being.
Sex addiction impacts around 10 percent of all American males and seven percent of females. The numbers affected are likely higher, as the experience of shame and guilt associated with the disorder can prevent people from discussing the problem openly. These high levels of reported sexual addiction mean that it is even more prevalent than experiences of depression disorders.
To understand how to overcome sex addiction, it’s important to learn more about the various aspects of sex addiction so you can properly approach the best recovery path for you.
Identifying Sex Addiction
As with all classifiable disorders, the thoughts and behaviors associated with sexual addiction will interfere with your ability to live a healthy, productive life. It will cause problems in your relationships and be distressing to your mental health. The following are some factors indicating that sex has become an addiction for you.
Thoughts of sex and sexual behaviors will consume far too much of your time. You will find your mind drifting off into sexual fantasies when you are supposed to be mentally engaging in other tasks, and your free time will be taken over with thoughts of sex.
It will feel like you have little control over obsessing sexual fantasies or acting out sexual behaviors. These compulsions may take the form of masturbation, watching pornography, or paying for sex.
Admitting to the nature and frequency of your sexual thoughts and behaviors will cause social strife, so you begin to tell lies to conceal the extent of the problem. More lies will be considered necessary for smoothing out the mess when your lies are revealed.
Along with feeling compelled to engage, you will not exercise caution when pursuing sexual gratification. You will make choices that put yourself – or others – in danger of disease, trauma, loss, or harm.
Guilt and Shame
After the high of sexual gratification has worn off, you may feel bad about your actions. Your self-esteem will suffer, which can breed a vicious cycle of attempting to escape further into your addiction.
A hallmark of addiction is continuing in the behavior despite negative consequences. Your sexual activities may destroy your home or work life, but you still won’t cease them. Your psychological distress may increase with each subsequent consequence of sexual behavior.
Types of Sex Addiction
Just as human beings vary in their preferences, the types of sexual disorders experienced are unique to the individual. Researchers have identified several categories by which to describe the typical presentations of the disorder. These categories may overlap and intermingle within the personal experience of a person addicted to sex.
As suggested, this type of sexual addiction involves making up sexually-based stories in your head and spending excessive time indulging in this make-believe, sexualized world. Your sexual fantasy life will take the place of actual interactions and interfere with forming quality relationships in reality.
A person with a seductive sexual obsession will be hyperfocused on the idea of sexual conquest. The focus won’t be on the sexual act as much as on convincing others to give in to your charms and prowess.
The idea of voyeuristic sex addiction has been around for quite some time. With this addiction, a person gains sexual excitement from intruding on the privacy of others, often through spying or “peeping.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from voyeuristic are those who gain sexual excitement from being seen. A person with an exhibitionistic addiction will subject others to unwanted glimpses of nudity or sexual acts.
What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their room is their business. This behavior will involve giving and receiving pain during sexual acts for sadomasochistic individuals. The kink progresses into addiction when a person becomes obsessed with pain as a factor in experiencing sexual gratification.
Exploitative sexual addiction is the most dangerous on this list. Someone with this sexual addiction will gain arousal by forcing their will on a non-consenting target. Exploitative sexual addiction includes engaging in crimes such as rape and pedophilia.
Overcoming Sex Addiction
There are many hypotheses surrounding the development of sex addiction. These suggestions range from it stemming from a chemical imbalance to it being a response to the sex-addicted person’s trauma. While it may be impossible to know exactly what causes a sex addiction, there is hope in the form of treatment for the disorder.
For many in sexual addiction, sexual thoughts and behaviors are used to obtain a drug-like high. This high is produced when the body releases the chemicals and hormones related to the sex act. Rational thinking takes a back seat while feel-good sensations flood the body. Unpleasant feelings – such as anxiety, depression, and boredom – can be easily replaced through this process.
Like with other addictions, however, this method of using sex to address other problems is counterproductive in the long run. Rather than seeking a short-term escape from discomfort, a person addicted to sex will benefit from learning how to identify and address the underlying factors which feed the compulsive behavior.
Group support and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are very effective in learning to overcome sexual addiction. Group support provides a place for acceptance and validation, while CBT therapy provides tools for changing thoughts and beliefs about sexual activity. Unlike other forms of addiction, the goal of sex addiction therapy won’t be to eliminate the behavior. Instead, the focus will be on learning how to enjoy sex in a healthy, meaningful – and mutual – way.
Now that you know how to overcome sex addiction, you may consider contacting The Heights Treatment for help.
- American Psychiatric Association. Psychiatry.org – DSM. Accessed October 10, 2022. https://psychiatry.org:443/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
- Fox M. Sex addiction may affect 10 percent of men, survey finds. NBC News. Published November 10, 2018. Accessed October 10, 2022. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/sex-addiction-may-affect-10-percent-men-survey-finds-n934456
Last medically reviewed October 10, 2022