Unlike chemical addictions, sexual addiction does not have an official diagnosis in the medical community. However, sexual addiction shares many similarities with substance use disorders; therefore, many of the same treatment modalities are used in both types of addictions, including inpatient therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and 12-step programs.
Sexual addiction manifests in a number of ways, all of them defined by their compulsive nature. Examples of compulsive behavior include masturbation, viewing pornography, phone sex or Internet hookups, cruising for partners, patronizing prostitutes, sadistic or masochistic behavior, fetishism, exhibitionism, or voyeurism. There are a variety of signs of sexual addiction. Following are some of the most common.
Using sex as a drug
Sexual behavior is used to numb feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, and other problems. As with chemical addiction, those with a sexual addiction self-medicate with their compulsive behavior.
Sexual acting out occurs more frequently, and for longer periods. Someone with a sexual addiction may also seek out more partners than intended.
Feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse
Someone with a sexual addiction will feel a great sense of moral failure for their behavior. This can lead to depression or suicide attempts.
Trouble meeting obligations
The addiction interferes with day-to-day responsibilities, such as work, school, or family life. Someone with a sexual addiction will continually lie to cover their tracks.
There’s a constant craving for sexual gratification that distracts the person from all other activities. A great deal of time is spent in planning how to act out sexual fantasies, covering up for one’s behavior, and engaging in the behavior itself.
Attempting to “cut down.”
Those with a sexual addiction may realize they have a problem, and try to control their behavior. When deprived of their desired behavior, they become irritable or angry. Without treatment, their efforts to stop are universally unsuccessful.
High-risk or illegal behavior
Despite the strong potential for negative consequences, people with a sexual addiction continually need more and more stimulation, and will go to any lengths to achieve it. They risk losing a committed relationship, a job, their reputation, and their health, as well as being arrested.