One of my specialties is treating sex addiction and working with partners and spouses affected by sex addiction. Sex addiction is a devastating illness to the sufferer and the sufferer’s family. Recovery from sex addiction is possible, but takes complete honesty and reintegration into reality.
Sex addiction can come in many forms. For some sex addicts, it is viewing pornography and compulsively masturbating. For others, it is cruising and hiring prostitutes, cybersex or sensual massages. Sometimes I see multiple affairs outside a primary relationship where the behavior continues despite attempts to stop because of the pseudo-intimacy one gains from the affairs. The behavior is secretive, shameful and can at times be offensive or abusive. Voyeurs, exhibitionists or those who view child porn cross the line into offending behavior as the victims have no choice as to whether they want to be viewed or flashed.
Sex addiction is no different than other addictions. In alcohol and drug addiction, the substance gives us the high, the fix we desire. With love or sex addiction, the experience of acting out is a high as well, and it changes brain chemistry just as a drug would. Sex addicts often speak of this “bubble” or “zone” where nothing else matters but getting their fix.
For sex addicts, there is a cycle that helps maintain and reinforce this illness. Sex addiction causes its sufferers to not know how to meet needs in a healthy way. When they feel emotional stressors, they want to numb this feeling. They move into fantasy, preoccupation, and rituals, and then will act out to release these feelings in their body. They can often be left with feelings of depression, sadness and guilt afterward, but rationalize their behavior in order to continue this unhealthy relationship with themselves and the world.
Sex addicts are able to compartmentalize their world. They have their addicted, acting out world and their reality world. Often those who later discover that their husband, partner or friend is a sex addict are stunned. The sex addict can effortlessly move between the world of acting out where they are getting their “fix” and lack total empathy to the world where they are the good husband, father, friend and employee. This compartmentalization is a hallmark feature of sex addiction and one that is often maintained for decades.
When working with sex addiction, I use cognitive behavior therapy to help the client recognize triggers that cause them to act out, and then work with them to develop healthy ways to self-sooth and utilize replacement habits. With over a decade of experience treating sex addiction, I know we can work together to help you recover.
Please note that sex addiction is a hotly debated topic. WHO (World Health Organization) has recognized compulsive sexual behavior as a mental disorder but it has not been recognized as an addiction by WHO nor DSM. For the sake of brevity and ease, I will use the term sex addiction. You can replace it with compulsive sexual behavior if that feels better for you. What I do know is compulsive sexual behavior is hugely destructive to individuals, couples and families.