Clients at drug and alcohol treatment centers often have more than one issue when they come into rehab including problems with depression, anxiety and food. A lesser known and discussed issue is that of sexual addiction. Although sex addiction isn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-5) it is still a serious and often debilitating set of behaviors.
Sex addiction can refer to a range of sexually-related behaviors that are in excess and significantly and negatively impact a person’s life. Research shows that adverse sexual behavior is similar in development to chemical addictions.
Sexual addictions can come in a variety of forms including:
- Masturbation or fantasy
- Sadistic or masochistic behavior
- Other excessive sexual pursuits
It can have profound psychological effects, like generating feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress.
In his book “Out of the Shadows” author Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. outlines a four-step process for sexual addiction including:
- Preoccupation: the addict’s own special routines, which lead up to the sexual behavior. The ritual intensifies the preoccupation, adding arousal and excitement.
- Ritualization: the addict’s own special routines, which lead up to the sexual behavior. The ritual intensifies the preoccupation, adding arousal and excitement.
- Compulsive sexual behavior: the actual sexual act, which is the end goal of the preoccupation and ritualization. Those who engage in obsessive/compulsive sex are unable to control or stop the behavior.
- Despair: the feeling of utter hopelessness “addicts” have about their behavior and their powerlessness.
Sexual addiction can also be a relapse trigger for chemical addiction so must be watched closely.