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Let's Talk About Sex

Sex Addicition is a Hidden Illness. Know the signs.

By Rhonda Turner, Clinical Coordinator

Compulsive sexual behaviors, also known as sexual addiction, can present themselves in a variety of forms and degrees of severity.  In fact, they are similar to substance use disorders, mood disorders, or impulse-control disorders in that way.  Often, they are discovered after someone has gone into treatment for another addiction or mental health disorder and are not discovered unless inquired about.  Despite the lack of formalized criteria, there are common clinical features that are typically seen in compulsive sexual behaviors.  One of the most recognizable signs of compulsive sexual behavior is continued engagement in sexual activities despite negative consequences.  Psychologically, sexual behaviors serve to escape emotional or physical pain, or are a way of dealing with life stressors.  Compulsive or hypersexual behaviors may be triggered by manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, medications, or tumors and injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain.  Even though there is no current official diagnosis for sex addiction, doctors and researchers often define the disorder using the criteria used for drug addiction. 

A person with sexual addiction is obsessed with sex, or has an abnormally intense sex drive.  Their lives are dominated by sex and the thought of sex, affecting their daily lives and relationships. People with a sex addiction may deny there is a problem.  They try to rationalize or justify their sexual addiction.  But, experts say, their risk taking behavior can give them away.  Their risks put their health in jeopardy – both mentally and physically. 

Although a relationship may begin as healthy, a sex addict eventually develops an obsession.  Fantasies and sometimes actual acts may be well outside the radar of most people’s idea of what is sexually acceptable behavior.  Some sex addiction behaviors MAY include the following:

Cybersex, persistent pornography, one-night stands, using prostitutes, prostitution, practicing unsafe sex, multiple sexual partners, multiple affairs, this includes extra marital affairs, dating through personal ads, but in an obsessive way, rape, molestation, watching others in a sexual way(voyeurism), sexual harassment, feelings of guilt and shame, detachment-the sexual activity does not satisfy the individual sexually or emotionally; bonding is lacking, feeling of lack of control over sexual addiction, individuals engaging in sexual behaviors for much longer than they had intended and to a much greater extent, spends a great deal of time obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from a sexual experience, giving up social, work-related or recreational activities because of their sexual addiction, sexual rage disorder-individual may become distressed, anxious, restless and even violent if unable to engage in their addiction. 

Treatment for sex addiction is readily available and can be provided in one-on-one, group, or couple’s therapy. Self-help groups are also available (Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous and Love Addicts Anonymous).   In additional to therapy, medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and treatments that target hormones are also available.  These medications manage unwanted or intrusive sexual thoughts or urges.

Horizon Behavioral Health offers screening and testing for HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis C to all individuals served.