Sex addiction is a progressive disorder defined by compulsive thoughts and acts of a sexual nature. As with all addictions, its destructive impact on the addict grows more severe as the disorder progresses. Although there is no official clinical diagnosis for sex addiction, there are characteristic symptoms that define the disorder.
People suffering from sex addiction may frequently engage in sex more often and with more partners than they intended. They may have a preoccupation with or persistent craving for sex but feel unable to limit their sexual activity. People with sex addiction also generally devote a considerable amount of time to activities related to sex, including finding partners or browsing the Internet for pornography. When the addict is cannot obtain what is desired, he or she may become irritable or frustrated.
These symptoms may cause significant consequences for the addict. He or she may neglect obligations like school, work or family while pursuing sex or ignore the health and personal risks of engaging in compulsive sexual behavior. As the disorder progresses, many sex addicts find themselves needing even more frequent sexual activity to satisfy their craving.
There are a number of treatment options available for people struggling with sex addiction. Most programs use an approach similar to that of chemical dependency treatment. Programs may include 12-step meetings where addicts can share their experiences with others suffering from the same disorder. Addicts work the steps in an effort to overcome their dependence on sexual activity.
Many programs also feature individual counseling that helps the addict understand the underlying causes of his or her dependence. Through these sessions, addicts also discover the triggers that spark compulsive behavior and gain the skills they need to deal with these triggers in a healthy way.
Education about addiction and compulsive behavior may also be a component of treatment. Addicts learn how the cycle of addiction works and acquire the skills needed to break that cycle. They may also learn about the health risks associated with sexual addiction, such as unwanted pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections.
Unlike treatment for chemical dependency, the aim of sexual addiction programs is not lifelong chastity. Instead, treatment focuses on expressing sexual desires in a healthy manner. During the initial stages of treatment, patients are advised to restrain from sexual activity as they learn to better manage their compulsions. Following treatment, many patients enroll in aftercare programs that help them stay on track living healthier lives.