According to the DSM 4, (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) there is no such diagnosis of a “sexual addiction”. The concept of sexual addiction is a new and emerging field. While one could spend hours debating whether or not there is a diagnosis for this condition, many people are suffering from too much sex on the brain.
What is a sexual addiction? We believe sexual addictions are best understood as a form of an intimacy disorder. Addicts typically experience compulsive sexual actions and / or thoughts. For example, people who have a sexual addiction compulsively masturbate, view pornographic material, cruise the Internet, engage in telephone sex, swing, have affairs, go to gentlemen clubs, frequent prostitutes, engage in voyeurism and—in the extreme—rape people. The common element among sex addicts is that they feel powerless to stop / control their behavior. It’s as if the behaviors are controlling them. Frequently, the sexual behaviors are progressive. Even as people living with a sexual addiction suffer the natural consequences of their behaviors: diminished self esteem, depression, decreased interest in things unrelated to sex, economic problems, relationship difficulties, health risks, job loss and possible arrest, they are still unable to listen to their rational self. They are unable to control their behaviors.
People living with a sexual addiction, organize their world around sex. People living with a sexual addiction interact with others as a way to facilitate their ability to obtain sexual pleasure. Sexual addiction takes up a lot of time and energy. As their energy investment increases, a pattern of behavior tends to emerge. Specifically, the person living with a sexual addiction begins to engage in ritualistic behaviors as part of their “acting out.” Though it’s different from person to person, the ritualistic behaviors may be flirting, masturbating, surfing the Internet, having one-night stands, swinging, frequenting massage parlors or prostitutes, and even raping someone. Sexual addictions are not about the actual sexual behavior, but about the anticipation of sexual behavior, the temporary relief felt during sexual behavior, and the denial of feelings while being sexual. Most notably, after the sexual acting out, the person living with a sexual addiction usually experiences some combination of: remorse, guilt, depression, despair, shame, hopelessness, confusion and resolve not to do it again. Then the cycle repeats itself. While the recovery process is different for person who makes the decision to change their ways, there are some themes. Recovery typically involves the following four concepts: 1) Detoxing; 2) De-traumatizing; 3) Centering & Healing; and 4) Seuxal Health.
Detoxing is defined as stopping the behavior and learning to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings: boredom, discomfort, anxiety, emptiness, pain, and sadness. De-traumatizing is best understood as identifying and exploring past events that have contributed to the uncomfortable feelings that the sexual addiction masks. Centering and Healing refers to learning to be comfortable with self and identifying new coping mechanisms to reduce negative feelings. Sexual Health is defined as learning ways in which to express one’s own sexuality. Full recovery is not celibacy, but rather developing the skill set needed to be sexually intimate with self and others.
If you are concerned that you may have a Sexual Addiction, take the test located under Resources on this website.
Anne Aja, Ed.D.