Treating Sex Addiction in an Outpatient Setting

For a long time, sexual addiction (or hypersexual disorder) has been ignored and even dismissed by professionals, despite the harmful consequences it can have for those struggling with this condition. However, as more and more people seem to engage in excessive or dangerous sexual behavior, it’s important to understand what sex addiction is and what to do about it.

What Forms of Sex Addiction Are There?

When a person engages in excessive or unsafe sexual behavior, despite the negative consequences it may have concerning their jobs or relationships, then it’s safe to assume that they developed a sexual addiction.

There are several types of sexual addictions, some more dangerous than others:

  • Voyeurism/ Exhibitionism: Sex addicts that engage in exhibitionism are turned on by exposing themselves to other people, typically in public. The risk of getting caught is the primary drive behind this reckless behavior, and the reasons addicts experience euphoria during this experience. Voyeurs, on the other hand, are aroused by watching other people in their most intimate moments, such as in the shower or when they’re undressing. Their victims are typically not aware that they’re being watched.
  • Pornography Addiction: Sex addicts can struggle with spending unhealthy amounts of time watching pornography at inappropriate times and places.
  • Trading Sex: Paying for sex, such as prostitutes, phone sex, or webcam sex is another compulsive sexual behavior that may lead to addiction.
  • Intrusive Sex: Intrusive sex refers to sexually touching people without their consent.
  • Exploitative Sex: Exploitative sex is the most serious form of addiction as it includes rape or pedophilia.

Who Is at Risk of Having a Sexual Addiction?

Experts are still debating the exact underlying causes of sexual addiction but have come to agree over the fact that anyone can become a sex addict just like they can become dependent on alcohol or drugs. However, there are some contributing biological, psychological, and social factors to compulsive sexual behavior:

  • A Biochemical Shortcoming – High levels of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters can sometimes be at fault for the intense euphoria sex addicts experience.
  • Hormone Imbalances – Androgens, the hormones found in both men and women, can also play a role in sex addiction. In some treatments, doctors will prescribe anti-androgens and LHRH to decrease sexual urges and help with sexual obsessions. This type of medication is also typically prescribed for treating male sex offenders.
  • Health Problems – Health problems such as dementia or multiple sclerosis can become a cause of compulsive sexual activities.
  • Genetics – Some sex addicts are more prone to this type of addictive behavior due to genetic predilections.
  • Alterations in Neural Pathways – Compulsive sexual behavior affects the neural pathways, which makes it ever increasingly difficult for sex addicts to overcome their desires.
  • Childhood Abuse – A significant percentage of sex addicts have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood and repeat the pattern of abuse during adulthood in an attempt to deal with unresolved trauma.
  • Dysfunctional Families – Another typical common element between sex addicts are dysfunctional families with a history of substance abuse and addiction, where parents weren’t emotionally available, caring, or were very strict in the upbringing of children.

How Addictive Is Sex?

Sex addicts experience sex differently from other people. Other than the fact that sex is vital for the evolution of the human race, people engage in sex because it’s a pleasurable activity and because it’s a way they can connect with their partners at an intimate level.

For sex addicts, however, sex is not about the euphoria you feel or about the intimacy created with the other person. For them, sex becomes a means of escaping from reality and a way they can deal with negative or painful emotions and situations. In some cases, compulsive sexual behavior can also appear as a reaction to stress. Just like alcohol or drug addicts are continually looking for their next “high” that will help them forget whatever it is they’re dealing with, sex provides sex addicts with their next fix.

It’s the same vicious cycle any other addict deals with. They indulge in the activity, and they feel good for a short period. Then guilt starts to creep in; they feel ashamed of the fact that they can’t control themselves and spiral down into a puddle of negative, self-blaming thoughts. Once they’re down, they again feel the need to engage in their habit, as a way of forgetting what they did and lifting up their spirits at least a little.

That goes on and on, each time falling lower and feeling more shameful than the previous time, bottling up destructive thoughts. This vicious cycle of compulsive sexual behavior can be difficult to escape without first acknowledging just how bad the situation has gotten and admitting you need help.

What Types of Therapies Help Treat Sex Addiction?

Some of the most common treatments for sex addiction include medications (such as Prozac or Anafranil), individual counseling sessions, group therapy and support groups, family therapy, and 12-step recovery programs.

What Does It Take for Long-Term Sobriety?

Addiction is a disease that can be treated, but it requires patience and, most of all, understanding the fact that it’s a long-term process. Staying informed, getting help, sticking to the treatment, and making sure you have a functional support group (whether it’s your family or your therapy group) are key to regaining control over your life, rebuilding relationships and leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Sexual addiction is something that can happen to virtually anyone, whether they’re a man or a woman, religious or not, married or single. With so many parts of our society revolving around sex, sexual desire and sexual satisfaction, it’s important to stay educated and accept that it’s a subject everyone is still learning about.

Get Help Now

There is no secret formula for overcoming sex addiction. Recovery is a long process, but its success depends on asking for help as soon as possible.

Find an SA Meeting in Santa Barbara

3rd Sunday 5:30 pm Business Meeting, Central Coast Intergroup – Mixed Unity Church 227 E Arrellaga St.
Downstairs, You Room
Sunday 7:30 pm Sunday Night Speaker Meeting – Mixed Unity Church 227 E Arrellaga St.
Downstairs, You Room
Monday 6:30 pm Book Study, Monday Night SAA Men’s Group Unity Church 227 E Arrellaga St.
Tuesday 4:00 pm De La Oscuridad a La Luz – Mixed First Congregational Church 2101 State St. Dorcas Room
Wednesday 7:30 pm Book Study, Hope & Recovery Literature Check-in – Mixed First Congregational Church Bradford room, 2101 State St
Saturday 8:00 pm Step/Book Study – Men Only Unity Church  227 E Arrellaga St.
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