Though highly controversial, sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior can be distressing to those struggling. Unfortunately, there’s still much debate in the psychiatric community about how to define sex addiction. Still, there are many sex addiction treatment options for those who’re looking to find help.
Sex Addiction Diagnosis
The most significant hurdle people with compulsive sexual behavior face is diagnosis. Because it’s challenging to determine when sexual behaviors become problematic, diagnosis isn’t a straightforward process.
Most mental health professionals rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for diagnosis. Unfortunately, sex addiction, as well as other behavioral addictions, are not within the DSM-5. Because of this, there isn’t a set number of symptoms, a timeline, or a diagnosis guideline to follow.
So far, mental health professionals diagnose the condition on a case-by-case basis, considering the impact someone’s sexual behavior has on their lives, relationships, and wellbeing. In the end, behavioral addictions bottle down to their negative consequences and how they impact someone’s overall estate of being.
Treatments Available for Sex Addiction
Sex addiction treatment primarily focuses on managing urges and reducing excessive or dangerous behaviors. The goal isn’t to eliminate sex, but instead, to show patients how to maintain positive sexual health.
People with sex addiction usually struggle with co-occurring disorders like substance abuse, anxiety, or depression. These underlying conditions also need treatment to find full recovery from sex addiction. Overall, treatment includes a combination of psychotherapy, medications, and support groups to find long-term recovery.
Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is by far the most effective treatment for sex addiction. As the foundation of sex addiction treatment, psychotherapy helps people manage their compulsive behaviors and teaches them how to prevent urges or relapse after treatment. The most common types of psychotherapy used in sex addiction treatment include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): this form of therapy helps identify unhealthy and harmful beliefs or behaviors that could be contributing to the problem. Using different techniques, therapists teach new, adapting ways of coping with other urges. CBT’s goal is to change unhealthy behaviors for healthy ones while addressing the triggers, responses, and actions that could be negatively affecting someone.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy: part of CBT treatment. This form of psychotherapy focuses on accepting thoughts and urges to help define the right coping strategies consistent with healthy values. Under this form of treatment, sex addiction and its urges aren’t dismissed. Instead, patients learn to accept these symptoms and maintain their commitment to manage them and not let them take control.
- Psychodynamic therapy: this form of treatment focuses on increasing awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviors. By learning how to recognize and identify these unconscious triggers, people can develop new ways to tap into inner motivations that resolve conflict.
- Family therapy: sex addiction often impacts the family unit, marriages, and relationships, family therapy can help restore the broken bonds. Family therapy also helps other family members learn how to cope with the situation, react in front of triggers, and relapse prevention strategies to support their loved ones.
In addition to psychotherapy, medication can help reduce sexual compulsives. Medicines that address obsessive thoughts and behaviors can help manage specific symptoms. However, there aren’t particular medications designed solely for sex addiction treatment. The most common drugs used in behavioral addictions include:
- Antidepressants: these medications can help address depression, anxiety, and other obsessive-compulsive disorders that co-occur with sex addiction.
- Naltrexone: while this drug is generally used to treat alcohol and opiate dependence, it can help block parts of the brain that respond to addictive behaviors. Naltrexone could be helpful for gambling disorders and compulsive sexual activities.
- Mood stabilizers: mainly used to treat bipolar disorder, mood stabilizers can effectively reduce compulsive sexual urges and other addictive behavior patterns.
- Anti-androgens: in essence, these medications reduce the effects of sex hormones in men. Since they reduce sexual urges, they can be help men with severe sex addictions that are causing negative consequences to them and pose a danger to others.
Like with other addictions, support groups can be quite helpful. Most of these support groups are modeled after the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In this case, you can find a Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) group almost in every state. Sex addicts can turn to these self-help groups to learn more about the disorder, find unbiased support, identify resources, and find help with relapse prevention.
Nowadays, some of these groups may be internet-based besides their in-person meetings. Make sure to look for self-help groups that have a good reputation and make you feel comfortable. Not everyone likes attending support groups. So, keep your options open and try speaking to a mental health professional to find alternatives to support groups.
Finding Help for Sex Addiction
While the root cause of sex addiction remains unknown, those struggling know that the consequences are, in fact, very real. One study found that almost 72% of participants with sex addiction also struggled with depression or bipolar disorder, 38% of participants had an anxiety disorder, and 40% had a substance use disorder.
Depending on the individual’s needs, level of motivation, and co-occurring conditions, treatment may occur at either a residential facility or outpatient recovery center. Inpatient programs offer a highly focused and supportive environment to help people concentrate exclusively on recovery. Outpatient programs allow for more flexibility and allow patients to maintain work, school, and personal obligations. However, it is always best to speak with a mental health professional to find the best treatment program for your needs.
Treatment for sex addiction can be effective if the client’s psychological, emotional, and psychosocial needs are met. A comprehensive treatment plan incorporates therapies that address the disorder’s multiple dimensions, including co-occurring psychiatric disorders, past trauma, and substance abuse. Finding a treatment center that offers a dual-diagnosis program is critical to find help for multiple diagnoses.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact us today. Seeking sex addiction treatment is nothing to feel ashamed about. Our therapists will help you learn more about this disorder and create a personalized treatment plan to help you find the relief and recovery you need.