There are so many aspects of modern life that are there to be enjoyed by adults. One of the most important is an active and vital sex life. Good sex releases endorphins and creates feelings of great joy and satisfaction, whether with a casual, consensual partner or in the context of a committed relationship.
However, for some adults, unfortunately that healthy approach to life can tip over into something unhealthy, if sex, certain sexual practices or behaviours become problematic. At that point, it becomes necessary to take a look at what is going on, to be brutally honest, and to potentially seek help &treatment. It is estimated that somewhere between 3 and 6 per cent of adults may have signs of sexual addiction.
What is Sexual Addiction?
It is important to say that enjoying a great deal of sex is not in itself sexual addiction, as many people have extensive and active sex lives that provide benefits. So, it is important to understand what we mean by sexual addiction.
Sexual addiction can be hard to define, but most psychologists, psychiatrists and sexual health professionals agree that the key indicators include a loss of control or inability to manage sexual impulses.
A healthy approach to sex can become sexual addiction if this loss of control means that thoughts, behaviours and actions of a sexual nature threaten to overwhelm the healthy day to day life of the individual.
Sexual addiction could also be a sign of other issues, such as anxiety, depression or loss. So when identifying and treating sexual addiction, it is important to look at the persons’ life from a holistic viewpoint.
Signs and Symptoms
One of the key signs for determining sexual addiction is quite similar to alcohol or drug addiction. It is that the individual is seeking sexual activity or behaviours in order to get a quick ‘fix’, and this can become more regular or extreme.
This could be excessive sexual activity, risky sexual behaviours (such as multiple partners or dangerous sexual practices), an obsessive reaction towards pornography, or prioritising sexual activity over maintaining a healthy balance to life through normal day to day activities. This may involve neglecting a current partner whilst having sex with multiple partners, or favouring pornography, particularly increasingly extreme pornography, over a loving sexual relationship with a long-term partner.
Again, an interest in pornography is not necessarily unhealthy, and many couples will use pornography as part of their lovemaking, either to gather ideas or as part of titillation in foreplay. However, it becomes an issue generally when one person, either in a relationship or as a single person, gains an unhealthy obsession that affects their daily life.
Other potential symptoms can be an excessive interest in sex with prostitutes or use of online or phone-based sexual chat services, again if used to excess.
This impact on day-to-day life is perhaps the key indicator that needs to be looked at. It is common across addictions that they affect the day-to-day life of the person, as well as their loved ones and friends. As also is often the case with addictions, a key indicator is that the person is unable to ‘let it go’ and control their choices, impulses and actions.
As with other addictions, it may be difficult to convince someone with sexual addiction to see it in that way, and they may be resistant to the idea. It is often a process to show someone with an addiction how it is affecting their life and the lives of those around them.
When someone admits that they have problems with sexual addiction, or when looking for advice or treatment for someone who may have issues with sexual addiction, the first steps may seem quite difficult.
This is often the case for addictions more generally, as admitting that help is needed and taking the first steps towards receiving that help can be challenging, either in terms of finding appropriate services to access, or even just in terms of the embarrassment of admitting that there is a problem in the first place.
Having conversations with a medical professional, trained psychologist or psychiatrist, or other specialist in sexual addiction can help to define whether a particular case is sexual addiction, and can then be a productive first step along the road to wellness.
The Internet can be a very helpful, anonymous way of looking for local sexual addiction treatment services in your particular region, with many options available online that will often give you initial advice and help you through the first steps of accessing their particular service. These services will often have websites which give advice and information for people accessing services for the first time, as well as information about the methods and practices that they use to help with treatment.
Sexual addiction treatment can range from online counselling, to regular face to face meetings, all the way to dedicated rehabilitation (rehab) centers for extreme cases that need more help and assistance. Treatment will often be through various forms of therapy that looks at the addict’s life and behaviours in some detail.
Something to consider when looking for an appropriate treatment center for sexual addiction is whether the treatment center specialises in sexual addiction or is a general center for treating all kinds of addictions. As addictions often have very similar roots, a general addiction treatment center is often appropriate, although in some cases a specialist location will be preferred.
If you are struggling to find services near you to access, a useful first approach can be to your doctor. Although they are unlikely to be able to treat the addiction themselves, they will have the local knowledge of treatment for various addictions and will most likely be able to refer or suggest options.
Sex can be one of the healthiest and most enjoyable activities that we can enjoy, but if it topples over into sexual addiction it can also be one of the most destructive. However, many options are available in terms of sexual addiction treatment that can help addicts to maximise the benefits of the world around them and to a normal, health, well-balanced life.