The word “addiction” is often associated with substance abuse, but sex addiction can be just as serious. It is often a hidden problem that has significant negative consequences in a person’s life. People with sex addiction can have difficulties in all areas of their lives, including their personal relationships, work and home life. They may also have a greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unintended pregnancies. If you or someone you know has a sex addiction, it is important to seek treatment.
Some symptoms of sex addiction include chronic thoughts of sex or sexual fantasies that become obsessive and interfere with daily responsibilities. A person might also spend a great deal of time looking for partners or engaging in sexual activities, and might prioritize these desires over other obligations such as family, recreational or professional commitments. Other signs of sex addiction are spending money on sexual activities, being sexually aroused in inappropriate situations or having sexual fantasies about others (paraphilia).
Most therapists treating sex addiction will first focus on making sure the addiction is not caused by another underlying condition. They will likely use cognitive behavioral therapy to help the client recognize and cope with triggers for their behavior. These can be physical, such as having arousal from certain smells, or psychological, such as being exposed to pornography at work or having a sexual fantasy that reflects trauma.
Often, sex addiction is trauma-based. This is when the person’s predominant fantasy stems from some form of childhood or adolescent sexual trauma. Identifying the underlying trauma is an essential part of the recovery process for this type of sex addiction.