There are many types of addiction out there, but one of the most difficult to understand is sex addiction. When most people think of addiction, they think of substance abuse and envision people being addicted to substances like drugs or alcohol. They understand that addicted individuals have become physically dependent on these drugs, causing them to do anything they can to get access to them. The general public understands that people addicted to drugs or alcohol are addicted to a substance that is slowly destroying their bodies, so they need rehabilitation and detox in order to move forward with their lives.
What fewer people understand is the idea of sex addiction. Many of them question if sex addiction is even possible. This lack of understanding is sometimes blamed on the fact that lay people may not understand how sex addiction works. What many people aren’t aware of is that physical and mental health professionals disagree on what sexual addiction actually is as well. The fact that there are several schools of thought on the issue is something that can make it challenging for people who believe they suffer from some form of the disease and are in need of professional help.
What Is Sex Addiction?
Having a healthy appreciation and enjoyment of sex is completely normal. It’s a typical human behavioral trait to want to engage in sexual relations. In addition to keeping the species going, sex is a healthy part of life. Sex addiction is something completely different. By its simplest definition, sex addiction is a psychological condition where an individual isn’t able to control their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.
A modern definition of sex addiction came about in the mid-1980s with the publication of “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction”, a report written by Dr. Patrick Carnes. The book was revised in 2001, and it was revised again in 2014. The fact that it’s been revised several times shows that the very idea of sexual addiction is fluid, and our understanding of it changes as time goes on. Dr. Carnes and similar practitioners are usually looked to as the go-to sources for information about sexual addiction.
Why Has It Been So Difficult to Come to a Conclusion About Sexual Addiction?
The reason that sexual addiction has both believers and detractors is that many people simply don’t believe that it’s an addiction at all. People who don’t believe that it exists often say that although sexual addiction does have symptoms that are similar to those found in other obsessive-compulsive and impulse-control disorders, they still don’t believe that it should be defined as a specific disorder that falls under the same umbrella as drug addictions. Even the people who may believe that sex addiction exists often don’t have the training to treat this specific type of disorder.
In the last century, sexual permissiveness became a lot more accepted across the population. Music, film, television shows, and other types of audio and visual entertainment openly promote and encourage an atmosphere that allows for the acceptance of all types of sexual content where people can explore their need for sex.
Pharma companies spend billions of dollars on researching medications to help people suffering from a sexual dysfunction that makes them unable to enjoy sex naturally. The fact that the pharmaceutical industry has devoted so much of its R&D budget to drugs that help with sexual dysfunction shows that in much of the public eye, having too much sex is considered much less of a problem than not being able to have sex at all. However, for individuals who are concerned that they may have a sex addiction, it is indeed a problem worth professional attention.
Is Sex Addiction Part of the DSM?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, is a handbook that mental health professionals and other health practitioners use as the most authoritative guide on mental disorders. Inside the handbook, you’ll find a description of all recognized mental health issues. This journal is updated on a regular basis.
The DSM-5 used to have a section devoted to sexual addiction, but it was eventually removed. The last updated version of the handbook did not include sexual addiction. There are many people who believe that the sexual addiction portion of the DSM should be added back in, but the DSM-5’s vice-chair said that the condition was not yet at the point where it could be considered an actual addiction.
One global health organization that has classified compulsive sexual behavior disorder as a legitimate mental health disorder is the World Health Organization. In 2018, the WHO listed the condition as a mental health disorder that falls under the same category as other impulse-control disorders such as gambling. The fact that this global health organization gives the condition credibility is helpful news for people who believe they are suffering from it and think they have nowhere else to turn.
What Does Sexual Addiction Look Like in the Media?
Over the years, sex addiction has gotten a lot of attention in the mainstream media. Celebrities, religious leaders, sports figures and influencers have confessed to being unable to live normally due to an addiction to sex. Many of them who admit to it often do so after being caught having affairs.
The responses to these admissions can range from scorn and disbelief to confusion. For some, seeing people they admire admit to an addiction helps them feel more comfortable identifying and speaking about their own possible addictions.
Why Are So Many People Addicted to Sex?
There are several reasons that people can become addicted to sex over time. The internet has given rise to information that people all over the world can access for personal use, and this access to information is often a liability for people who say they are suffering from sex addiction. People with what’s considered sexual addiction have access to many pornography sites that don’t cost them a penny to view. Access to so much sex-based content makes it easy for people to feel like they have difficulty controlling their impulses. The fact that the content is usually available for free or at an accessible price means that there are no barriers to entry. This makes it harder for people who are already dealing with an addiction to resist their urges.
Advertising also plays a role in certain people’s addictions. So much advertising content sells the notion that buying specific products makes you more desirable and sexy, pushing forward the message that the goal should be more sex. The Internet has made it extremely easy for people to hook up with sexual partners as well. Today’s apps and platforms have made it easy for people to connect almost immediately. They’re able to exchange information and meet up in person, or they’re able to connect via texting, sexting, or online video chats.
There are even groups dedicated to linking people who seek group sex with multiple parties. Even the most popular dating apps push a narrative of “sex sells.” People struggling with what they believe is a sex addiction often point to all of the above as evidence of what they have to fight against on a regular basis.
What Are the Signs of a Sex Addiction?
There are several signs and symptoms that could indicate that someone is suffering from sexual addiction. Take note if sex seems to dominate someone’s life. They will often think of sex at the most inopportune moments, including at work or while doing something mundane like running errands. The urge to think of, look at or engage in sex acts feels uncontrollable.
Pay close attention if someone is often engaged in online sex, excessively viewing pornography or soliciting prostitutes to the extent that it interferes with other life responsibilities. With sexual content so easily accessible online, they may feel that they can’t escape it.
People who frequently or compulsively masturbate may be dealing with a sexual addiction if they’re constantly feeling like they have to find immediate relief. They might turn to sexual content to seek relief for a larger problem in the way that some individuals turn to alcohol or drugs for stress relief or to self-medicate depressive symptoms, which should be addressed by a medical professional or counselor.
People who frequently have affairs or who engage in frequent sex with multiple partners may be suffering from sex addiction if they feel like they can’t control their impulses. The worst examples of sexual addiction involve people who engage in criminal activity to fulfill their desires. By the time it gets to this point, law enforcement typically gets involved.
When Should Someone Seek Counseling for Sexual Addiction?
Even though sexual addiction is not recognized as a legitimate condition by some practitioners, people who believe they suffer from it frequently seek out help from professionals. When it gets to the point where the addiction is ruining every other part of their life, they need assistance as soon as possible.
How Can We Help?
At Granite Recovery Centers, we’ve seen it all. We understand that addiction comes in many different forms. There may not be consensus in the world regarding sex addiction, but we are aware that people suffer from compulsive behaviors of all kinds that interfere with their life. If someone is seeking help for any addiction, we know that they’re struggling.
We have the staff, facilities, tools and know-how to help you address the source of your addiction so that you can begin the healing process.
Sex addiction is often stressful for people who are suffering from it. We understand that people with any kind of addiction are often dealing with unpleasant side effects that can literally ruin their lives. From financial concerns to troubles with work, school or family relationships, addiction can negatively impact a person’s well-being, which is why the work we do is so important.
There are a variety of different ways to treat a compulsive disorder like sex addiction. Many of the ways involve intensive therapy sessions, 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy and other mental health programs. Speaking with our staff and reaching out for help is the all-important first step. We believe in providing judgment-free support that allows you to begin the healing process without fear of what other people may think or believe.
Contact Granite Recovery Centers today to learn about your options for treatment. We are here to provide help so that you can overcome negative behaviors in your life and feel hope for the future. We’ll provide counseling and resources to empower you to have control over your life again.