I work with many individuals recovering from alcohol and/or drug addiction. In the early stages of recovery (often within the first 18 months of recovery), many of my younger clients (between 18-26) report cross-addicting by having indiscriminate sex with multiple partners. In therapy, we often explore how clients replace their substance addiction with having sex as a means of attempting to achieve a similar high. When does this type of behavior become dysfunctional? When does one's behavior venture into the "sex addict" category?
I decided to do some research on sexual addiction, and this is what I found: Sexual addiction is defined as the following: Any sexually-related, or compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living. It typically causes severe stress on loved ones including family, friends; and on one's work environment. Sexual addiction has also been called sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity. It is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict's life. As is the case with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the drug of the addict's lives.
They are willing to give up everything order to continue this destructive and unhealthy behavior. Sexual addiction is not defined as having one specific behavior pattern. Specific behavior patterns, when they take control of addicts' lives and become unmanageable typically consist of one or more of the following: viewing pornography in excess, compulsive masturbation, compulsive heterosexual and homosexual relationships, prostitution, voyeurism, exhibitionism, indecent phone calls. They may also include: child molesting, incest, rape and violence. It is important to note that with sexual addiction, even the healthiest forms of human sexual expression can turn into self-defeating behaviors.
A sex addict craves validation, erotic highs/distraction, a "magical" sexual attachment that will heal all their pain, or at least offer some reprieve from pain. They fear: boredom, emptiness, shame, intimacy, feeling or being out of control. Security, safety acceptance, “one-ness” (merging of two people into one). A sex addict is often attracted to physically attractive people; they typically have a fantasy of someone who will give them a sense of validation, even if it is only sexual gratification; someone who will care for them, even if only in the bedroom. So, what does one do if they can relate to these symptoms? As a therapist, I would advise individuals concerned about having the above described behaviors to seek counseling immediately.
Talking about sex addict behavior and learning healthy tools for coping with the “whys” behind the specific addictive behaviors, can heal past wounds, current relationships, and keep the individual and society safe. If you believe you are a sex addict, or know someone with the described behaviors, and would like help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact me at 240-257-6463. ***Some of the information from this blog was adapted from the website by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., Sexhelp.com.***