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Sex Addiction Therapy: When Do You Need to Seek Medical Help

    Sex Addiction Therapy: When Do You Need to Seek Medical Help

    Sex addiction, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, does not have its own formal criteria. Instead, it is associated with other conditions such as impulse control disorders or behavioral addiction. The easiest way to detect compulsive sexual behavior is through identifying its clinical features, though these too may vary.

    Clinical Features of Sex Addiction

    Patients suffering from sex addiction usually present with a hallmark of continued engagement in sexual activities. This is even when there are negative consequences associated with their actions. This is very similar to the phenomenon we see in patients suffering from substance use and impulse control disorders.

    Like that of other addictions, patients with compulsive sexual behavior tend to use their addiction to escape from physical or emotional pain. They use sex as a coping mechanism for their stressors in life. The consequence of this is that their behavior tends to make more problems in their lives, causing them to enter a dangerous cycle of stress, coping, and additional stress.

    Diagnosis of Compulsive Sexual Behavior

    The diagnosis of compulsive sexual behavior is divided into paraphilic and nonparaphilic.

    Paraphilic sexual behavior

    To sum up their differences, paraphilic sexual behavior refers to patients with significant impairment due to their sexual addiction that involves exhibitionism, voyeurism, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, transvestic fetishism, fetishism, and frotteurism.

    Remember, in order to classify this as sex addiction, the behavior must be distressing and cause significant impairment to one’s life, which is why pedophilia and fetishism is not typically associated with sex addiction.

    Nonparaphilic sexual behavior

    Nonparaphilic sexual behavior, on the other hand, refers to sexual activities which are more conventional. These may include compulsive masturbation, paying for prostitutes, excessive pornography viewing, extramarital affairs, and attending strip clubs.

    Sex Addiction Therapy

    There are various types of treatments available for sex addiction. The most common and widely available sex addiction therapy are Sexual Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. In the Philippines, however, it may be difficult to find support groups like mentioned above, especially one modeled after the 12-step theory and practice that is often used in the United States.

    Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for sex addiction can help by identifying core triggers and the beliefs of the patients about their addiction. This can help them make better decisions and develop other coping mechanisms to lower the chances of urges and giving in to them.

    Individual Psychotherapy for sex addiction commonly includes 2 types of therapy:

    1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy is commonly used in patients with substance use disorders. The focus of this therapy is to identify the triggers for sexual behaviors and to try to reshape the distorted perceptions of the patient regarding their sexual behaviors. (For example, when a patient is cheating on their spouse and says “I’m only paying for sex, it doesn’t count if I don’t care about her/him”). CBT is focused on preventing relapses of the negative behavior from occurring.
    2. Psychodynamic psychotherapy. This method of therapy explores the patient’s thoughts and tries to determine the core conflicts for the negative sexual behavior.

    There are also forms of sex addiction therapy, such as motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and couples therapy. Motivational enhancement therapy may be useful to help patients be more motivated to change their behavior. When cravings are present, they may resist succumbing to their addiction. Couples therapy is directed to those relationships that may have been damaged due to sex addiction.

    Sex Addiction Therapy Through Medication

    There are no particular drugs/ medications that are used specifically for the treatment of sex addiction. However, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Mood Stabilizers have been seen to reduce the urges that patients feel for sexual activities. On top of that, SSRIs have been used in patients with depression and can help treat the depressive symptoms associated with sex addiction.

    Another medication used in the treatment of pathological gambling and kleptomania (both compulsive disorders) has also been used in sex addiction therapy.

    How Effective are the Treatments?

    Whether or not therapy and medications will have a significant effect on the patient’s condition depends very much on the patient. If the patient is willing to change and actively seeks out help of his own accord, the likelihood of treatment success is higher.

    Key Takeaways

    Sex addiction is diagnosed based on its clinical presentation and the effect that the sexual behavior has on the patient’s life. If used as a coping mechanism for stressors and causing additional stress to the patient, we may be able to consider this as sexual addiction.

    There are many treatment options available for patients suffering from sex addiction, and this may include different types of psychotherapy as well as medication. The first step to recovery is realizing and accepting that there is a problem and seeking professional help.

    Learn more about Sexual Wellness here.

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    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    Sex Addiction, https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/sex-addiction, Accessed on January 15, 2021

    Get Help for Sex Addiction, https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/sex-addiction/get-help, Accessed on January 15, 2021

    Sex Addiction Treatment, https://americanaddictioncenters.org/sex-addiction, Accessed on January 15, 2021

    Compulsive Sexual Behavior, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-sexual-behavior/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360453, Accessed on January 15, 2021

    Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945841/, Accessed on January 15, 2021

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    Written by Gerard Tamayo Updated Jul 15
    Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD