Sexual Addiction

The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans (18-24 million people) are sex addicts.


There have been numerous medical and psychological theories about why sexual addiction occurs. There is no known single cause. Psychological theories include childhood trauma; including physical and sexual abuse. Additionally there are certain diagnostic mental illnesses for which hypersexuality is included: bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as other personality disorders.

Sexual addiction may be the result of an imbalance of natural brain chemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Rarely, some neurological disorders can result in sexual addictions: epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, head injury and dementia. Certain medications have also been found to cause hypersexuality including apomorphine and dopamine replacement therapy (for Parkinson's disease).

The Possible Consequences of Sex Addiction

The consequences of sexual addiction can be quite overwhelming as our most notorious bad boys can tell you. Just ask Tiger.

Obviously, sexual addiction is associated with many levels of risk taking. A person with a sex addiction engages in various forms of sexual activity, despite the potential for negative and/or dangerous consequences to himself or others, emotionally and physically. The major consequences of sexual addiction include the loss of the individual's standing within his community, his career, his interpersonal relationships and his own self esteem.

The financial consequences can also be very real. Divorce is pricey. So are prostitutes. Add up the phone and cyber sex bills, as well as travel expenses, you might be surprised. Careers, jobs and endorsements are frequently lost. Some sex addicts are sued civilly, legal costs and financial restitution can also add to possible bankruptcy. In fact, sixty percent of sex addicts have faced financial difficulties.

For some people, the sex addiction progresses to involve illegal activities with resultant arrest and incarceration. 58% of sex addicts have engaged in illegal activities. Their crimes include exhibitionism, voyeurism, making obscene phone calls, stalking, pedophilia, bestiality, molestation or even rape. They are usually not welcome cellmates.

Additionally 83% of sex addicts have other concurrent addictions: alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, or compulsive gambling. Many have coexisting psychiatric diagnoses. The good news is that there is effective treatment for those willing to seek it out.

Treatment for Sexual Addiction

The effective treatment for compulsive sexual behavior typically involves a multitude of modalities: psychotherapy, medications and self-help groups. If an individual presents with a sexual addiction has a severe mental illness, poses as a danger to self/others, or has additional addictions, inpatient treatment is indicated initially. If the addict is considered stable, treatments can be done at a rehab center or on an outpatient basis. Addicts need to find qualified mental health professionals with previous experience in addiction, specifically, sexual addiction.

Psychotherapy consists of increasing the addict’s unconscious thoughts and behaviors, allowing for insight to help resolve conflicts. Whereas, cognitive behavioral therapy helps the addict identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy and more positive ones. Group therapy allows the addict to realize that he is not alone; with the guidance of a mental health professional the addict can share his own experiences, and listen to the experiences of others. The mediator can than assist with problem solving tactics. Finally, family therapy or marriage counseling is essential if the addict has a partner or children. The addict's compulsive sexual behaviors will have affected the entire family. Spouses, partners, and children need to be able to confront the addict and explain how the addict’s behavior has affected each of their lives.

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