Sex addiction is one of several possible terms used to describe patterns of sexual conduct, sexual thought, or sexual fantasy that seriously impair a person’s ability to maintain a sense of well-being or to follow a stable daily routine. In the U.S., there is no standard definition for this behavioral addiction, and the medical community has not formulated a consistent treatment regime for affected individuals. In a study review published in 2014 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, researchers from three U.S. institutions examined treatments for sex addiction.
Sex Addiction and Behavioral Addiction
Behavioral addiction is an officially recognized form of addiction that centers on excessive, dysfunctional participation in pleasurable activities not directly associated with the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or medications. Despite the lack of damaging substance use, a person dealing with this form of addiction develops some of the core chemical and physical brain changes associated with substance addiction. They also develop related patterns of harmful, addiction-supporting behavior that largely mimic the behaviors of people affected by substance addiction.
In the U.S., the American Psychiatric Association (APA) plays a lead role in setting the accepted terms for diagnosing behavioral addictions and alcohol-, drug- and medication-related addictions. As of late 2014, the APA has only defined the diagnostic terms for a single form of behavioral addiction: gambling disorder. In the U.S., there is no single set of criteria used to identify the symptoms of sex addiction. This is true partly because doctors and researchers seeking to identify affected individuals must be careful not to include highly sexually active people who don’t suffer a decline in well-being or experience a diminished ability to maintain generally functional lifestyles.
Nevertheless, current evidence indicates that some people experience significant amounts of daily dysfunction stemming from their preoccupation with sexual activity or thoughts and fantasies related to such activity.
There Is No Sex Addiction Cure, Currently
People affected by a behavioral addiction commonly benefit from participation in psychotherapy that’s designed to produce real-world changes in day-to-day thought and action. One form of therapy commonly used for this purpose is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Participants in CBT learn to understand the underlying causes of their addictive behavior, how to recognize the emotional responses that help maintain such behavior, and how to develop new responses that don’t support addictive behavior.
While there is no medication proven to consistently help individuals dealing with behavioral addiction, potential future options receiving scrutiny from doctors and researchers include two medications—naltrexone and topiramate—commonly used in the treatment of alcoholism.
Possible Treatments for Sex Addiction
In the study review published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, Argosy University, and Pine Grove Behavioral Health explored the range of treatments for sex addiction (also known as hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, and compulsive sexual behavior). This exploration was conducted as part of a larger examination of various issues reflecting the current state of knowledge on this form of behavioral addiction. The researchers preliminarily concluded that research on sex addiction treatment lacks a wide variety of well-designed, large-scale studies that meet the highest standards of scientific excellence.
Nonetheless, numerous relatively well-designed studies have been conducted over the last 30-plus years. The researchers found that many sex addiction treatment programs use techniques that closely mirror the techniques used in programs geared toward treating substance problems. In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapeutic approaches that fall under this heading include motivational interviewing, dialectical behavior therapy, individual counseling, and group counseling.
In addition, many sex addiction programs utilize a 12-step mutual help approach similar to the basic tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous and other substance addiction-oriented 12-step programs. The researchers note that people dealing with sex addiction often have significant problems with physical/mental sexual dysfunction. This means that affected individuals often need sex therapy focused on issues such as erectile dysfunction, an inability to orgasm, and premature ejaculation. The researchers also note that, perhaps surprisingly, treatment of sex addiction can potentially substantially damage any given person’s intimate relationships. This means that affected individuals may also need some form of relationship counseling or marriage counseling.
Sex Addiction Rehab at Recovery Ranch TN
Recovery Ranch is a leading rehab facility that offers treatment for sex addiction and other behavioral addictions. At our beautiful campus in Tennessee, we provide evidence-based therapies, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy – During CBT, your therapist will help you understand the thoughts and emotions contributing to your addictive behavior. You will learn how to identify and manage these triggers to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
- Dialectical behavior therapy – This type of therapy is designed to help you cope with difficult emotions healthily. During DBT, you will learn how to develop a more positive outlook on life, so you can manage your addiction and live a life you love.
- Trauma therapy – If you have experienced trauma, it can contribute to your addictive behavior. During trauma therapy, you will work with a therapist to address these issues, so you can heal the wounds of your past and move forward in recovery.
At Recovery Ranch, we understand that addiction is a complex disease. Even if you don’t use drugs or alcohol, addiction to sex and other behaviors can impact your daily life. Contact us online or call 1.844.876.7680 today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs and how we can help.