Sexual addiction is typically characterized by continued out-of-control or compulsive sexual behavior even when the possibility of serious life consequences occur. Sex addicts use denial, rationalizing, minimizing and lying to avoid the truth to themselves and others.
They also typically have difficulty with genuine intimacy in committed relationships and use their sexual addiction behavior to escape painful and stressful feelings. The sex addict typically cycles through an addictive cycle of preoccupation, ritualization, compulsive sexual behavior, and shame.
The following criteria can be used to diagnose sexual addiction (3 or more):
- Recurrent failure to resist sexual impulses in order to engage in specific behaviors.
- Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent, or over a longer period of time than intended.
- Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control those behaviors.
- Inordinate amounts of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences.
- Preoccupation with sexual behavior or preparatory activities.
- Frequently engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic, or social obligations.
- Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the problem.
- The need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk level of behaviors in order to achieve the desired effect; or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number, or risk.
- Giving up or limiting social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior.
Distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior.
Without treatment and recovery, overcoming sexual addiction can be very difficult. Partners and spouses of sex addicts also have specific negative consequences that require help as well. We offer services that address these complex problems.
Sexual health is an objective in sexual addiction treatment. Sexuality should be an integral and balanced part of our life experience. However, when sex becomes all consuming, or when we deprive ourselves of healthy sexual expression, our sexuality acts as a barrier filled with shame and self-contempt. It isolates us from attachment with others. Healthy sexual behavior or sexual health, on the other hand, creates intimacy and closeness. It is characterized by trust, respect, joy and safety.
Sexual health can be achieved by sex addicts in recovery. Overcoming sexual addiction requires hard work and a commitment to settle for nothing less than full recovery. In doing so, sexual addiction recovery becomes a life shift that opens up hope and the possibility for change.