Crossed Hearts Counseling
Professional Counseling with a biblical Perspective
What is Sex Addiction?
Nearly 12 million people suffer from sexual addiction in the United States. Due to the accessibility of sexual material available on the Internet, cable television and videos, these numbers are increasing. Despite common misunderstandings, this addiction is not simply about "too much sex."
Sexual addiction is a serious problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one's self or others. Like other addictions, these behaviors continue despite sincere and persistent efforts to stop. Some might not think sex can be addictive because there are no chemicals involved. However, the body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters during sex that produce the same chemical "high" as drugs or alcohol. Sex addicts, like other addicts, often have a background of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and/or neglect, and family histories sprinkled with numerous addictions.
Because of the denial and shame associated with sexual behaviors, it is only recently that the reality of sexual addiction has been acknowledged by those caught in its grasp or by treatment professionals. Since this problem was first addressed in 1983, compulsive sexuality has grown in scope and severity; more help is needed today than ever before.
What are the signs?
When sex has become addictive, it is used compulsively to "numb-out," get a "high," or both. An indicator that sexual addiction could be present is if someone expresses concerns about the sexual behavior of a spouse or partner that is not a part of their relationship (like viewing pornography or visiting a strip club). Another sign is if sexual behaviors are kept hidden from a spouse or others. Additional questions to ask to help identify if sexual behaviors are part of a sexual addiction are:
If a positive response is given to any of these questions, it is a good indication that you may have a sexual addiction, and further assessment by a counselor or other professional specializing in sexual addiction treatment is recommended.
What are some behaviors associated with a sexual addiction?
What causes sexual addiction?
Treatment generally includes a combination of individual, marital, and group therapy. Key tasks for recovery include breaking through denial, learning about the addiction process, and establishing sobriety. These are not necessarily sequential and most addicts will begin working on several of these simultaneously during the initial phase of therapy.
Much of the work in these first tasks is designed to help establish stability for the addict and his or her family. For instance, it is not uncommon for the addict to continue to minimize or deny the extent, frequency and/or damage caused by the sexual acting out. Reading books on the topic, attending self-help groups with others facing the same addiction, or working on a sexual history can help the individual more fully recognize the need for help.
Group work is strongly recommended because it affords the recovering addict both support and accountability. Within groups, it is common to seek out an accountability partner, someone with whom one can work through the process and check-in regarding sobriety. Having daily contact with somebody regarding recovery, is important during the initial phase of treatment.
Couples therapy is also an essential part of recovery. A spouse or partner may fail to see the need for his or her involvement. Initially, the goal of couples therapy is to stabilize the relationship and help the spouse work through the trauma they have experienced. The ultimate goal is to establish a desired level of intimacy, both sexually and non-sexually. An important goal is to help the couple restore trust in the relationship through a process of change and forgiveness.
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