What is Sex Addiction?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not include sexual addiction as an official diagnosis, but this does not preclude clinicians from using diagnostic criteria for sexual addiction to assess clients’ problems with excessive sexual behavior. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive seeking and use of the addictive thing, despite harmful consequences.
Addiction alters the brain’s reward system. Typically, we experience pleasure when we do something good for ourselves, like eating food or exercising. But when someone becomes addicted to sex, for instance, their brain changes to become overly responsive to the pleasure or relief, they get from engaging in the act. A person may then use sex to feel good or get rid of emotional distress.
How Does Sex Addiction Develop?
Sexual addiction involves biological and psychological factors that make it difficult for addicts to control their behavior even when they want to stop. Specifically, people with a sexual addiction experience symptoms such as a strong craving for sex or an intense preoccupation with sexual thoughts, fantasies, or urges that persist for months or years. Having multiple affairs or anonymous sex partners or engaging in other risky sexual activities such as unprotected sex or prostitution to fulfill their desires.
Deeply entrenched feelings of shame, guilt, or remorse after having sex or engaging in masturbation; feeling empty after being intimate with someone new, or feeling depressed when unable to engage in sex. People with sex addiction often use sex to cope with stress and even turn to pornography to avoid dealing with emotions. They may isolate themselves from others (including family members) because of sexually obsessive behavior.
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How Does Sex Addiction Change the Brain?
The brain is perhaps the most complex organ in the human body. It controls most of our functions, including how we think, feel, and react to things. The brain is also responsible for making sure that we don’t die. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system. This system controls mood, behavior, and memory. The internal reward system helps motivate us to repeat behaviors that promote survival, like eating, drinking, and having sex. This reward system produces feelings of pleasure when these behaviors are completed successfully. These feelings help us remember to repeat these behaviors so that our species can survive.
Evidence for the Compulsive Nature of Sex Addiction
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity says that sex addiction has similarities to drug addiction, but it is not considered an actual medical condition. However, new research has found that sex addiction may change how your brain works. Research by Dr. Valerie Voon of Cambridge University suggests that people with compulsive sexual behavior may experience similar changes to those addicted to drugs or alcohol. This could mean similarities between these two types of addictions, although more research is needed to confirm this theory.
How is Sex Addiction Diagnosed?
Sex addiction is a controversial diagnosis, and not all medical professionals agree on its legitimacy. In fact, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there are no specific criteria in place for diagnosing sex addiction. However, the problem continues to exist, and, as such, researchers have identified a set of potential criteria that medical professionals often use to help them diagnose cases of sex addiction.
- People who suffer from sex addiction frequently and consistently engage in sexual activities that cause distress or cannot control themselves. They may feel as if they’re constantly thinking about sex or even acting out sexually in ways that are harmful to themselves or others.
- They may be excessively preoccupied with pornography or other sexual fantasies, which can often lead to damaging relationships with friends and family members. They often experience deeply entrenched feelings of shame and guilt after engaging in sexual behaviors, leading them to seek out more sexual experiences to relieve their depression or anxiety.
- Sex addicts also habitually engage in risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex, multiple partners, and anonymous sex, as well as frequent masturbation without partners present.
These are but some of the criteria that can constitute a sex addiction. These behaviors illustrate the inherent risks of sex addiction and can put people at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B & C, as well as unwanted pregnancies. Outside of that, these behaviors potentially put persons at risk of falling prey to sexual crimes like rape. The risks with this condition are significant and should not be dismissed or underestimated.
What Is CBT Therapy, and Is It Effective in Treating Sex Addiction?
CBT was developed in the 1960s by British psychologist Aaron Beck. Beck developed CBT as an alternative to more traditional psychotherapies like psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy, which focus on uncovering unconscious conflicts and past experiences to cause current problems. Instead, CBT helps patients identify negative thoughts and behaviors and replace them with more positive ones.
Using CBT Therapy for Sex Addiction
As a treatment method, it is effective in treating various mental health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, and addiction. However, specifically, as it relates to sexual addiction, there is little formalized research on whether CBT can help treat sex addiction.
This does not mean that the core framework of what CBT entails is not currently being used globally by mental health professionals to treat patients experiencing sex addiction successfully. It simply means that, as of right now, it has not been formally studied, accredited, and endorsed as an official line of treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be broken down into two primary components:
- Cognitive therapy helps people with sex addiction identify the patterns in their thinking that contribute to the problem. Essentially, Cognitive-behavioral therapy often involves identifying distorted or irrational thoughts and replacing them with more realistic ones. For example, someone who fears rejection may think, “I’m unlovable” when a romantic partner breaks up with them. The therapist would help them recognize this as an irrational thought that’s not based on reality. In its place, they could develop an alternative idea such as “I’ve been rejected before and still managed to be happy in my life.”
- Behavioral therapy would involve teaching people with sex addiction how to replace their problematic thoughts and behaviors with healthier coping methods. For instance, someone who might be addicted to the act of masturbation as a means of experiencing the endorphin rush associated with climax would be encouraged to replace that particular habit with one that achieves roughly the same result but in a healthier way; for example, the development of an engaging and rewarding hobby or an exercise regimen. The challenging component is uncovering the appropriate behavior that would resonate with that person in the way needed for it to stick and how to get them across the hurdle and into the practicing state of it to replace the current addiction.
Treating Sex Addiction in a Holistic Rehab Setting
This is not to say that CBT is the only current treatment framework employed to try to treat Sex Addiction. Psychodynamic therapy is also used with increasing frequency. This technique emphasizes self-reflection and examination to understand the causes of emotional challenges. Psychodynamic therapy promotes a better understanding of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and attitudes that make up the addiction behaviors. This can mean exploring the prompts that form unhealthy attitudes towards sex.
Motivational Enhancement and Sex Addictions
Another popular treatment is Motivational Enhancement Therapy. This treatment framework is essentially a collaborative effort between therapist and client that can help the latter find the inspiration to work through their various issues surrounding sex. This approach has shown a level of efficacy, as it allows for ease in setting goals for a healthier attitude towards sex.
Regardless of the treatment method employed to treat it, the truth is that the formalized study and widespread acknowledgment of its legitimacy are still being debated among various sectors; treatment of Sex Addiction is real. The treatments are being employed to help real people who experience massive gains, benefits, and healing in their quality of life.
Do Medications Assist in Treating Sex Addiction?
There are actually several medications that can aid in the treatment of Sex Addiction. It is critical to underline this statement and idea by saying upfront that these medications are not in and of themselves a perfect or even individual solution. They can yield the best and most lasting results when combined with an appropriate and targeted therapy plan.
- SSRIs: This medication classification is popularly used as an antidepressant worldwide. It works by increasing the amount of serotonin (a mood stabilizer) in the brain. Taking this medication may help control the cravings and obsessions associated with sexual acts. It can work to help the patient manage the harmful and unwanted sexual behaviors that manifest in their condition. It is essential to keep in mind that it is believed to work more effectively in cases where sex addiction co-occurs with disorders like depression or anxiety.
- Naltrexone: This medication can help manage the cravings and the euphoria associated with alcohol and opiate use disorder in treatment programs for those addictions. Similarly, it is believed that Naltrexone may also be used to help control similar sensations associated with sex addiction.
The pharmaceutical management of sex addiction comes with several advantages, as it can reduce the desire for uncontrolled sexual behaviors without decreasing the drive for healthy sex habits. This medication may also potentially lessen sexual urges linked with addiction, masturbation, and pornographic interests.
However, as was said earlier, drugs provide only short-term benefits for sex addiction and are most effective when combined with an effective and well-designed therapy plan.
Are Residential Treatment Programs Effective at Treating Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive treatment plan. There is no cure, but there are many options for helping someone who suffers from sex addiction. One of the questions about the specific treatment options available is: are holistic rehabs and residential treatment programs effective at treating sex addiction? The short answer is yes. But it depends on what kind of treatment program you’re looking for.
Features of a Holistic Rehab that Treat Sex Addiction
Holistic rehabs offer a variety of programs and services to help patients with sex addiction. These can include treatment and skillset development like yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques. Patients may also learn how to manage stress through exercise or other activities.
Traditional rehabs focus on teaching patients how to stop engaging in sex addiction behaviors by addressing the underlying causes of their behavior through a combination of therapy and, in some cases, pharmaceutical interventions. This can include learning how to manage stress or other emotions that make them want to engage in these behaviors. These features are also incorporated into a holistic treatment environment at the Exclusive Hawaii, making for a truly comprehensive approach to sex addiction.
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The Benefits of Residential Treatment for Sex Addiction
Residential treatment programs are often the best option for people who need long-term help overcoming their addiction. These programs allow patients to live at the facility for an extended period (typically 30 days or more).
In these programs, patients work on coming to terms with and conquering their addiction by attending group therapy sessions, individual therapy sessions, and other activities each day. Residential treatment aims to give patients enough time away from their daily lives to focus on healing without any distractions from home life or work obligations.
Holistic rehabs and residential programs are also effective because they provide a safe place to learn about yourself and work through your issues in a supportive environment. The staff members will help you identify the problems that have led to your addiction, but they won’t judge or criticize you for what happened in the past. They’ll encourage you to be honest about what happened with them so that they can help you recover from it.
The bottom line is that both holistic rehabs and residential treatment programs effectively treat sex addiction because they provide patients with the tools, they need to prevent relapse once they leave treatment. The best facilities offer both traditional and holistic practices as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for combating addiction, which is the exact approach employed at our facility.
Find Recovery from Sex Addiction at the Exclusive Hawaii Rehab
Sex addiction is a severe condition with far-reaching consequences and implications for one’s quality of life. While it is still being studied to this day, the fact remains that countless people around the world have experienced first-hand its debilitating side effects. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we understand. We see you. The pain of this, or any addiction, can feel unbearable.
Let our qualified, compassionate professionals help you regain your life and control over its direction. The comprehensive approach starts with a one-on-one consultation where we, in a judgment-free process, learn the details of your struggle from you. Every person is different, and so every case is unique.
Individualized Care that Yields Exceptional Outcomes
After your discussion with Intake, our expert team begins to work to craft a completely bespoke, custom treatment program, which will comprise the treatments and processes to help you get over the sex addiction. We are fully committed to ensuring that you leave us with a new lease on life and a sense of empowerment that is deeply rooted within you. Our expertise and track record speak for themselves. Don’t delay. Contact our Intake Coordination today and get ready to take your life back from compulsion and into your own hands again.