Sexual Addiction

Sexual Addiction Described

Sexual addiction, also known as sexual compulsivity or sexual dependency, refers to a propensity toward extreme or prolonged sexual behaviors that are damaging to the self, to others, or to healthy relationships. Sexual addiction may manifest with many of the symptoms common to better-understood addictive behaviors such as gambling and drug abuse. The sexual addict’s behavior endangers his or her health and jeopardizes the ability to create and maintain normal social and emotional bonds. In extreme forms, sexual addiction can create conflict in other aspects of the sufferer’s life and cause difficulties in career, finances, and more. Firm statistics on the number of people facing sexual addiction are not yet available, but recent trends such as pornography use on the Internet may be implicated in a rise in the addiction’s prevalence. Sexual addiction can appear in many forms, and often begins with relatively harmless behaviors.

Controversy About Sexual Addiction

Though much research has gone into sexual addiction in recent years, it remains a subject of controversy. Physicians, psychologists, and others who study sexual and pathological behavior have had difficulty coming to a consensus about exactly what sexual addiction means and how to test for it. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Development Disorders, which is used by health professionals as a major tool in classifying mental disorders, does not recognize sexual addiction. Some researchers raise concerns that the concept of sexual addiction is subjective and difficult to measure. Others believe the diagnosis is a way of projecting social stigmas onto patients, such as those once suffered by masturbators, “nymphomaniacs” and others formerly classed as sexual “deviants.” A lively debate within the medical and scholarly community continues, searching for ways that truly harmful sexual addictions can be tested for and classified separately from merely “unusual” sexual behavior. Studies about sexual addiction are ongoing, and wide agreement on the subject may take years to crystallize.

Sexual Addiction Recovery

Though the exact mechanisms of sexual addiction are uncertain, therapies have already been developed for treatment and recovery. Many organizations aimed at treating sexual addiction offer a supportive group atmosphere with a “12-step” recovery process based on Alcoholics Anonymous. Treatment can also take the form of couples’ therapy or one-on-one counseling with a medical professional. Though sexual addiction does not involve chemical dependency like alcohol or drug abuse, recovery is considered an ongoing process. Negative habits relating to sex have to be found, addressed, and rooted out. Counselors who work with sexual addiction patients tend to agree that the long-term lifestyle changes required for recovery take time to grow, and there is a possibility of relapse. However, with treatment, those suffering from sexual addiction can lead full lives and derive pleasure from healthy sexual activities. As with many compulsive behaviors, untreated sexual addiction is believed to worsen over time, and many patients may not recognize the signs until they hit “rock bottom.” For those reasons, it’s very important to get informed about sexual addiction.

For more about sexual addiction, consult these Internet links:

Sexual Behavior and Sexual Addiction: Scholarly overview of the concept of sexual addiction, its indicators, consequences, and responses. With references and further resources.

How to Recognize the Signs of Sexual Addiction: Doctoral-level research investigating the signs of sexual addiction and comparing them to chemical dependency.

Sex Addiction: A Dangerous Clinical Concept: Scholarly article from a sexologist discussing the difficulty of classifying, testing for, and treating sexual addiction from a medical perspective.

Sex Addicts Anonymous: Nationwide twelve-step addiction recovery program for sexual addiction, patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous.

Sexaholics Anonymous: Another sexual addiction recovery organization offering information and literature for those who believe they may have a sex addiction problem.

Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health: Offers a variety of informational resources for learning about and treating sexual addiction, including a large variety of articles and publications.

Codependents of Sexual Addicts: Recovery organization for individuals whose lives have been impacted by the compulsive sexual behavior of others.

Females and Sex Addiction: Cited article confronting myths about sexual addiction and its occurrence in women.

Sexual Addiction on the Internet: Article from Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom exploring the role of the Internet in promoting behavior that may be classified as sexual addiction.

Sexual Addiction: Index of informational and recovery resources concerning sexual addiction on the Internet.

Understanding Addiction to Sex and Internet Pornography: Video presentation from the Women’s Center at the University of Nebraska, Kearney.

Music Therapy and Sexual Addiction: Discussion of the methodology of using music therapy to treat sexual addiction. Includes ideas for treatment-oriented behaviors in specific sexual addiction situations.

Does Sexual Addiction Exist?: A series of six detailed, illustrated articles drawing on a variety of authorities to evaluate the two sides of the question of sexual addiction.

Therapists’ Perspectives on Facilitating Individual and Relationship Healing: A doctoral dissertation exploring the therapeutic recovery process for sexual addicts and those whose lives are affected.

Sexual Addiction Treatment: General information on sexual addiction, manifestations and recovery.

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