Sex addiction is a progressive disorder marked by compulsive acts and thoughts of a sexual nature. People with this type of addiction tend to have unusually high sex drives and may be obsessed with sex. The addict’s mind is unusually preoccupied with thoughts of sex, making it difficult to maintain or foster healthy relationships.
The distorted thinking of sex addicts rationalizes or justifies their compulsive behavior. Most addicts deny any problem with their actions and may make excuses for their behavior. People with sex addiction often engage in high levels of sexual activity and may ignore the potential health and personal risks of such behavior.
Sex addicts may compulsively masturbate, have extra-marital affairs, engage in sexual activity with multiple partners outside of a relationship, view pornography often and engage in sex with prostitutes. They may also engage in exhibitionist or voyeuristic behavior. These acts are often done in an effort to satisfy an insatiable sexual craving. The disorder is characterized as progressive because the sex addict is rarely satisfied and must pursue more and more sexual stimulation to achieve the same results.
Overcoming sex addiction is similar to breaking a chemical dependency. Treatment focuses on helping the addict learn to control his or her impulses and develop a healthy sexuality. During treatment, addicts may attend individual counseling sessions that uncover the underlying causes of the sexual dependence. These sessions also help the addict identify triggers that may lead to unhealthy and compulsive behavior. The addict then works with a professional counselor to develop alternative and healthy reactions to these triggers.
Group therapy is another common component of treatment for sex addiction. Through group counseling sessions, addicts learn that they are not alone in their struggle to overcome sexual dependency. Group members share their experiences in a safe environment and learn from the stories of other addicts.
12-step programs may also be beneficial to people struggling with sex addiction. Throughout the steps, addicts learn the skills they need to overcome their addiction and lead healthier lives. A sponsor guides the addict through the recovery process so he or she may in turn help others in the future.