Sex Addicts are men and women who partake in compulsive sexual behaviors and acts. Like all addictions, it is progressive and worsens over time. Sex addiction affects the individual, their partners and families, as well as many other aspects of their lives. Just like a drug addict, over time they need more of their drug to get high, in this case it's sex, but it is the same concept of how addictions worsen.
A sex addiction can manifest itself in many ways. Some sex addicts only practices behaviors like compulsive masturbation and excessive use of pornography or hotlines. Others, however, take it to a much more dangerous and illegal place. They engage in behaviors like voyeurism, exhibitionism, obscene phone calls, child molestation and even rape. There are also the addicts who compulsively have sex with one or multiple partners.
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has defined sexual addiction as "engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others." Essentially, sex addicts will continue to engage in behaviors despite financial losses, broken relationships, health risks and legal troubles. It is possible that brain chemistry or some biochemical abnormality can increase risk for addiction. Also, individuals who have experienced trauma are at greater risk of developing a sex related addiction.
Signs of a sex addiction include:
- Compulsive searching for multiple partners
- Frequently having more sex than intended or with more people than intended.
- Compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner
- Constantly craving or being preoccupied with sex
- Compulsive masturbation
- Neglecting important responsibilities such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex
- Compulsive sexuality in a relationship
- Feeling angry or irritable when not engaging in compulsive behaviors
Men and women who identify with three or more of these may be sex addicts. In general, sex addicts arrange their lives around sex the same way that someone who is addicted to cocaine would arrange their life around cocaine. Their reason for going out in the world and interacting with other people is to obtain sexual pleasure.
Knowledge of sex addiction is becoming more prevalent and treatment is readily available. There are multiple treatment centers in the United States that specialize in sexual addictions. Most of these programs approach recovery with the same strategies that have been effective in treating drug addictions. Due to the fact that sex addiction is more common among drug users, many chemical dependency treatment facilities offer a sex addiction component.
The ultimate goal of treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is life-long abstinence. Since sex is a natural part of life, the goal is to terminate compulsive and unhealthy behavior. Typically, it is difficult for a sex addict to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy sex it is recommended that they refrain from any sexual activities during treatment. Most programs request their patients to spend 60 or 90-day periods of complete abstinence. This helps sex addicts to recognize the triggers and circumstances that cause them to act out in unhealthy behavior.