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Don’t Worry About Whether Sex Addiction Is ‘Real’—Just Get Help

There is a debate raging about whether sexual addiction is a “real” addiction. Skeptics say that there is little peer-reviewed scientific evidence in support of sex addiction and that some evidence actually contradicts the existence of sexual addiction. The official authority on psychological disorders—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—has so far rejected appeals for sex addiction to be included in its latest edition.

Whatever You Call It, Sex Addiction Is a Problem

While the official debate continues, there are people who spend huge portions of their income on prostitutes, phone sex services and online sex services. There are people who spend most of their time in pursuit of pornographic materials to the neglect of their work and social obligations. There are people who constantly engage in risky sexual practices despite understanding the dangers and trying to stop. There are people who are constantly preoccupied with sexual thoughts and cravings to the extent that they can no longer conduct normal lives. These people clearly have a psychological problem that is threatening their mental and physical well-being. Research may eventually reveal that addiction is not the best theory to explain these and other symptoms, but the existence of some kind of disorder is quite clear. As a result, many experts are promoting the use of the term “hypersexual disorder” rather than sex addiction to describe this problem.

Counseling, 12-Step Programs

Fortunately, disagreements about the proper theory for explaining this kind of sexual dysfunction have not prevented the development of treatment approaches. People suffering from hypersexual disorder can consult clinical psychologists called “certified sex addiction therapists” (CSATs), who have received training that allows them to specialize in sex addiction treatment. For people who want the community support and progressive treatment of a 12-step program, either instead of or in addition to consulting a CSAT, Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) meetings can be found in all 50 U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Sex Addiction Can Have Serious Consequences

The exact nature of sex addiction may take years to resolve, but it is important that people who suffer from this disorder seek help in order to avoid more devastating consequences. Hypersexual disorder can tear relationships apart, causing the disordered individuals to make unreasonable sexual demands on their partners, spend all their time in the pursuit of sexual gratification or even stray outside the relationship for sex. Sex addiction can get people into legal trouble, as many people struggling with this condition will repeatedly solicit sex from sex workers and may even do things like masturbate or expose themselves in public. Sex addiction also puts people at serious risk for contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. People with sexual addiction will often have sexual encounters with many different people, often in clandestine or illegal circumstances during which sex is often unprotected. While many relationships can survive sex addiction if both partners receive counseling and support, it is by no means guaranteed, particularly if the addiction involved frequent infidelity. Arrest for solicitation or indecent exposure can have serious legal consequences that can affect a person’s life for years. Disease, of course, can eventually be fatal. These and other potentially devastating consequences from sexual addiction make it critical that people who suffer from this disorder seek professional help as soon as possible. Whether research eventually reveals this problem to be a true addiction or some other form of psychological disorder, the important thing is that people who come to recognize that they have a serious problem do not let this confusion prevent them from seeking treatment right away.

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