Many people take for granted their own healthy sex lives. The importance of maintaining a physical and emotional connection with another person is a crucial part of a fulfilling life. What happens, however, when the physical overwhelms the emotional and sensation seeking overtakes someone’s life?
Sex addiction is defined as an escalating pattern of risky sexual behavior. In the early stages, the addict may become distant with family and friends and appear distracted from activities they formerly enjoyed. Inwardly, the addict may begin to experience extreme stress and anxiety, with a constant fear of discovery. The actions of the addict become increasingly reckless, with no real connection to the people with whom they share sexual encounters. While excessive masturbation and viewing of graphic pornography may not seem dangerous, this is often just the tip of the iceberg for the sex addict. The thrill of pornography leads to the acting out of such fantasies. A married sex addict may begin to engage in multiple extramarital sexual encounters, often in unsafe ways. Cybersex, phone sex, strip clubs and having sex with prostitutes are not uncommon occurrences. The addict may feel extreme guilt, as their actions do not portray their true feelings, morality, values or beliefs. Even in that knowledge, they are unable to stop on their own. Acting out in their addiction often will lead to financial consequences, separation or divorce, the loss of employment, among the potential physical consequences of their actions, such as HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Hitting rock bottom, and having a realization that they are now alone, can lead to their seeking out treatment and healing.
Like other addictions, healing can only come with the acceptance that they are helpless to overcome on their own, and the desire to change is key for success. There are several programs available to the addict, including traditional twelve step programs utilized for alcoholics and drug addicts. Learning how to control compulsions and institute a healthy form of sexuality is the targeted outcome for treatment. Counseling should be ongoing, with not only the addict participating, but also family and close friends. In some people, the use of psychiatric medication can be implemented to help control behavior and to regulate certain important chemicals within the brain of an addict. While there is no simple cure for any addiction, there are effective treatment options available for those who truly seek to change.