You might find that seeking help for sex addiction is difficult because your addicted brain wants sexual stimulation and pleasure in much the same way a cocaine addict wants cocaine. Addiction tricks your brain into its “survival mode,” creating a biochemical reward mechanism to continue sexual behavior despite the harmful effects on loved ones and yourself.
If you want to help yourself, call a trusted family member, friend or clergy member and ask them to help you get treatment. You can find addiction specialists through a local addiction treatment center or by asking your primary care physician for a referral. Ask a family member or friend to go with you for an evaluation. He or she can provide you with moral support and your clinician with another perspective about the problem.
Admitting you need help does not diminish all the good things about you. Sex addiction is a bad disease that happens to good people.
What To Expect
The professional who evaluates you will consider three general things before determining the most appropriate type of treatment: the severity of the addiction, your motivation to change and available support from family or friends.
The severity of your addiction depends on the type, amount and frequency of the sexual behavior, and its harmful effects. Symptoms that a therapist will evaluate to determine severity include:
- Increasing guilt, remorse and suicidal thoughts
- Irritability when unable to engage in the desired behavior
- Pronounced mood swings or violence
- Heated arguments with loved ones about sexual behavior
- Severe financial problems
- Job loss
- Increased substance abuse or dependency
- Tolerance (escalating frequency of sexual behavior; engaging in more sex than intended — need for more sexual activity to achieve the desired effect)
- Preoccupation with or persistent craving for sex
- Unsuccessful attempts to limit sexual activity
- Continued involvement in excessive sexual practices despite desire to stop
- Time devoted to sex-related activities
- Engagement in sex to the detriment of valued activities and obligations such as work, school and family
- Continuation of the sexual behavior despite negative consequences
Motivation To Change
Sex addicts generally don’t seek help on their own. More often than not, they are forced into getting help by a court, or when the threat of divorce or some other loss is imminent. It isn’t that sex addicts don’t know they have a problem — they do. They have told themselves repeatedly that they will stop, but they can’t. Some seek help when they can no longer reconcile the conflicts with their values and moral beliefs, such as lying to loved ones and sexual promiscuity.
As with other addictions, support and accountability from family and friends are critical to treatment. It’s ironic that the individuals hurt most by the addict’s behavior must step forward to play a critical role in the recovery process. This works two ways. First, these significant others can offer themselves as evidence that sex addiction has had a devastating impact on their lives. Second, they can acknowledge how they have covered up for the abuser and, in essence, perpetuated the addiction. When family members recognize the addiction as an illness and understand their role in the treatment process, the chances for recovery are enhanced.
Explore More About Sexual Addiction
- What is Sexual Addiction?
- What Causes Sexual Addiction?
- Symptoms of Sexual Addiction
- Symptoms of Hypersexual Disorder
- Am I Addicted to Sex? Quiz
- If You Think You Have a Problem with Sexual Addiction
- Treatment for Sexual Addiction
- Understanding More About Sexual Addiction
Mark S. Gold, M.D., and Drew W. Edwards, M.S. contributed to this article.