What is sex addiction?
Considerable controversy surrounds the diagnosis of “sex addiction.” It’s been excluded from the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), but it’s still written about and studied in psychology and counseling circles.
Additionally, it can still be diagnosed using both DSM-5 (as “Other specified sexual dysfunction”) and the “International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems” (ICD-10) criteria (as “Other sexual dysfunction not due to a substance or known physiological condition”).
By way of a definition, “sex addiction” is described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve the kind of “fix” that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink or someone with opiate use disorder gets from using opiates.
Sex addiction (the compulsive sexual behavior described here) should not be confused with disorders such as paedophilia or bestiality.
For some people, sex addiction can be highly dangerous and result in considerable difficulties with relationships. Like drug or alcohol dependence, it has the potential to negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, personal relationships, quality of life, and safety.
It’s purported to be somewhat common (although statistics are inconsistent), and some argue that it’s often not diagnosed.
It’s believed that a person with sex addiction will seek out multiple sex partners, though this in itself is not necessarily a sign of a disorder. Some report that it may manifest itself as a compulsive need to masturbate, view pornography, or be in sexually stimulating situations.
A person with sex addiction may significantly alter their life and activities in order to perform sexual acts multiple times a day and are reportedly unable to control their behavior, despite severe negative consequences.
The following was published by Healing Hearts Counseling Center.
Addictions of all kinds such as Sex Addiction, are unhealthy methods to dealing with emotions.
It begins with a trigger that leads to increased tension, negative changes in thoughts, feelings, mood, and behaviours. Then the addict engages in high-risk behaviours as a result of both internal and external conflicts. For the sex addict, the relapse to sex addiction begins in these risky situations. This might be acting out provocatively as sexual with others or exposure to pornography. After these risky behaviours start to take a toll on the addict, it influences the desire for change. They promise to themselves and others to change as a result of feelings remorse, guilt, and shame. Then they might reach the stage of proactive behaviours and positivity about recovery. If the addict is not prepared to face their triggers with healthy coping mechanisms, then they relapse and the cycle repeats in sex addiction.
Here are 8 tips to aid yourself or someone you know that might be struggling to overcome Sex Addiction to avoid relapse and maintain prevention:
How to Overcome Sex Addiction
1. Partnering – you need someone to walk through this process of recovery with you. This person should be an addict as well or at least has recovered from some type of addiction.
2. Accountability – similar to sponsor mentoring in a 12-step program, seek out support through family, friends, peer support groups, professional counselling, etc. Make sure that several people in your life are aware of your addiction, including your triggers and goals. This will help particularly in social situations when facing temptation.
3. Predicting – keep a record to track your behaviour patterns, you can call this a “prediction journal” or any other name that fits your overall goals. The main point is for reflection upon progress versus regression.
4. Distractions – identify what works for you, everyone has preferred interests, passions, and self-soothing techniques. If you have trouble with creating effective distractions, then seek out advice. Always distract yourself away from any potential sexual exposure that could be triggering.
5. Exercising – this stomps out depression and acts as a form of antidepressant that stimulates endorphins “the happy cells” in your brain. These endorphins also get released when you feed into your addiction, therefore using exercise can replace it.
6. Securing – we all have items that we hold onto for consolation purposes. The sensations from attachment, security, and safety can be felt when we have our consoling devices. Whether it is a pet or a childhood keepsake, these items can be very helpful when fighting against an urge to relapse.
7. Helping – there is power in knowledge, try reading books about this topic such as “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction” by Patrick Carnes, learn and teach others, become an expert in how to overcome sex addiction, you will notice a shift of hope with your struggles once you start helping someone else
8. Seek Out Help – contact a mental health professional for individual and/or family counselling.
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Times of change can be a challenge, no doubt! Whether it’s a relationship breakup, job loss, or being diagnosed with a serious health issue. Or you may WANT things to be different, but it feels a little scary or overwhelming. The butterfly reminds us change can be beautiful, even necessary, in order to realize our full potential and live our best life.