A person with sex addiction experiences compulsive sexual behaviors involving thoughts, fantasies and urges that exceed their control. These behavior patterns can cause damage to their physical and mental health. Their relationships may suffer and they can be at risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Like other addictive disorders, sex addiction is often misunderstood and stigmatized. People with sexual addiction are viewed as depraved and morally selfish. They are often unable to identify their problem as an illness, and may have trouble admitting they need help.
Many individuals who struggle with sex addiction have underlying issues such as anxiety and depression. These mental health problems can contribute to their symptoms of sex addiction, and lead to an increased likelihood of compulsive sexual behavior.
Treatment options for sex addiction are available in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Inpatient treatment requires a person to live in the facility while receiving care, and usually includes individual and group therapy. Outpatient treatment is less intensive, but usually involves meeting with a counselor regularly to work on their recovery.
Individual counseling can teach sex addicts new coping skills, and can also help them identify their personal triggers that lead to self-destructive sexual behaviors. Counseling can help them learn to replace these behaviors with more constructive and productive activities. Medications that act on the brain’s hormones and impulses can also be used to treat sex addiction. These include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and anti-androgens, which reduce libido.