How to Overcome Sexual Addiction
Sex addiction, or hypersexual disorder (HD), means you repeatedly participate in sexual activity that causes detrimental effects to your relationships, job, and/or self esteem. Some people are more susceptible to sex additions. Particularly, patients who have coped with mood disorders, a history of physical or sexual abuse, alcoholism, or drug abuse are more likely to develop sex addictions.Although controversial among mental health professionals, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not regard hypersexual Disorder or sex addiction as an addiction or mental disorder.Nevertheless, to combat an addiction, first determine whether you have a problem. Then examine options for treatment and personal change to help you recover.
Determine whether you have an addiction.A sex addiction is not the same as having a vigorous sex drive. You might have a sexual addiction if you exhibit persistent, escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences for yourself and others.The high that you feel from sex occupies your mind constantly. You always are looking for your next chance to feel that pleasure.Examples include persons who spend half their income on prostitutes or business people who watch pornography at work despite warnings that they will lose their jobs. This preoccupation with sex leaves less room in your life for healthy relationships and other interests. Anyone can have a sex addiction, no matter his/her gender, sexuality, or relationship status.The following signs indicate a possible sex addiction:
- Seeking extramarital affairs
- Using compulsive sexual behavior as an escape from loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress
- Thinking about sex to the exclusion of other interests and occupations
- Using pornography excessively
- Masturbating frequently, especially in inappropriate situations such as while at work
- Having sex with prostitutes
- Sexually harassing other people
- Having unprotected sex with strangers that could lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STD)s. If you are unsure whether you have an STD, get tested right away. If you are in a relationship, your partner should get tested as well.
Decide whether you need professional help.For some people with hypersexual disorder or a sex addiction, they can treat their condition on their own through lifestyle changes. Ask yourself: can you manage your sexual impulses? Are you distressed by your sexual behaviors? Is your sexual behavior harming your relationships and work life, or leading to negative consequences like arrest? Do you try to hide your sexual behavior? If you feel your condition is leading to negative consequences, seek help.
- Risky sexual behavior is a hallmark of Borderline Personality Disorder, which the DSM-5 recognizes, and is treatable through therapy and sometimes medication.
- Get help immediately if you might harm yourself or others, have bipolar disorder, or are suicidal.
Find a qualified mental health provider or therapist.Ask your family practitioner for a recommendation of someone who specializes in sex addiction. Psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, or licensed clinical social workers are all potential options. It is preferable to find someone who has experience helping people work through sex addiction. Hypersexual behavior can appear similar to behavior associated with impulse-control or substance-use disorders. Still, it is unclear whether the brain operates the same way with hypersexual disorder as it does with substance addiction.Thus, rather than finding someone who works on substance addiction, look for a specialist on hypersexual disorder.
- If you are in a committed partnership, marriage and family therapists can help both you and your partner.
Discuss treatment plans with your therapist.Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment method.CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment, which utilizes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. In CBT, you work with your therapist to change patterns of thinking or behavior with the goal of changing the way you feel.Your therapist might also prescribe medication. For example, anti-depressants curb compulsive sex behavior. Common examples are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) including fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or sertraline (Zoloft). Your therapist also might prescribe anti-androgens, mood stabilizers, or another drug.
- An experienced therapist can help you handle the intricacies of your situation. As societal acceptance of sexual addictions varies, your therapist can help you navigate your relationships and overcome any shame you might feel.
Set aside shame or embarrassment.Focus on the positive benefits of treatment. Remember that your therapist is there to help you. It is her job not to judge you or make you feel "bad" about your compulsions. Finding a therapist you feel comfortable with and who you feel like you can trust is essential for recovery.
- If you're having trouble because you feel embarrassed, consider therapy like any other form of treatment.If you had a physical illness, you'd see a doctor. If you had a cavity, you'd see a dentist. You probably wouldn't be embarrassed or ashamed about seeking those treatments. Remind yourself that you are seeking help to make your life healthier and happier, and that's a sign of courage and belief in yourself that is admirable.
- Remember you are not alone. Many people struggle with hypersexual disorder. Mental health providers are discreet and understanding. They will keep your information confidential unless you report that you will hurt yourself or another, report the sexual abuse of a child, or report abuse or neglect of someone in a vulnerable population (e.g. elderly or underage).
Seek support from loved ones.Quitting a sex addiction can be a lonely endeavor. Even though your previous sexual activity might have lacked an emotional connection, you might miss the physical closeness. Spending time with loved ones will help you remember why you are quitting and commit to stop.
- You might have loved ones who do not understand sex addiction or who are angry with you for your past behavior. These feelings are normal. Try to find a few people who can understand your struggle and help you be successful. Do not spend too much time with critical people.
Join a support group for people with sex addictions.Whether you want a structured 12-step program, a faith-based program, or a hotline you can call, it is a good idea to connect with other patients. Look for groups online or ask your doctor for recommendations. Examples include The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, Sex Addicts Anonymous (12-step program), and COSA, formerly an acronym for Codependents of Sex Addicts. COSA can help your family with their recovery.
Part 1 Quiz
Which of the following is not an indicator of a sex addiction?
Self-Reflecting on Addiction
Write about the harmful effects of addiction.To begin your personal recovery, consider journaling about your addiction. Think about how sex addiction has affected your family, your personal relationships, and other areas of your life. Describe how your addiction has impacted your mental and physical health. Your writing can serve as a reminder of the negative aspects of your addiction and give you extra incentives to move forward.
List positive changes you want to make.Once you have detailed your problems, write how you would like your life to look post-addiction. What positive changes will come once you gain control? For example, you might:
- Feel a new sense of freedom.
- Care about things besides sex and spend more time on things you love.
- Concentrate on forming deeper bonds with people.
- Repair your relationships.
- Feel proud about being able to overcome an addiction.
Create a quitting mission statement.Your mission statement is a summary of the reasons you are fighting your addiction. It is a personal commitment to quitting. Having a list of reasons will serve as a reminder when you feel like faltering. You know your reasons for wanting to quit and you can overcome the mental and physical hurdles. Here are a few reasons:
- I am quitting because I want to repair my relationship with my partner and move back to my family.
- I am quitting because I contracted an STD and know I need to make better choices.
- I am quitting because I want to set a good example for my children.
Set timed goals.Create a schedule for your recovery. Include goals like attending therapy or joining a support group. Although your recovery might take more or less time than planned, having achievable goals will direct your steps. Schedule your therapy appointments. Plan when you will join a support group. Decide when to have conversations with people you have hurt.
Part 2 Quiz
What is an example of a quitting mission statement?
Stopping Addictive Behavior
Get rid of your trigger items.If you are surrounded by items that remind you of sex, it will be harder to quit. Dispose of or recycle pornographic magazines, pictures, videos, and anything else that puts you at risk of backsliding. Delete porn from your computer, and clear your history of sites you formerly visited. Consider installing software that blocks pornography sites.
Stay away from people and places that trigger addictive behavior.Avoid the places where you have sought harmful sexual encounters in the past. Stay away from red light districts and do not visit sex shops. If your friends want to go out in these areas, ask them to go somewhere else with you.
- Certain situations might trigger addictive behavior. For example, maybe you have one-night stands when you travel for work. Figure out a way to prevent yourself from doing this. Travel with a colleague or try to stay with a platonic friend instead of alone at a hotel.
Remove contact information of sexual partners.Delete numbers and names of former sexual partners from your phone, computer, and any other devices. Having a list of people willing to have sex could be tempting when you crave sex. Notify regular partners that you will no longer be seeking relations with them. Be sensitive to their feelings but do not waver in your commitment to stop.
- You of course can retain the information of your committed partner or spouse.
Part 3 Quiz
True or False: You will want to keep some pornography on your device, in order to establish a healthy relationship with it on your road to recovery.
Moving Beyond Addiction
Replace addictive sex with healthy energy outlets.When you stop doing addictive sexual activities, you might have excess energy. Try healthy activities like exercising or other forms of recreation.If one activity is not stimulating enough, try something else. Keep searching for ways to keep yourself occupied. Here are a few ideas:
- Write daily in your journal.
- Take music lessons or join a choir or band.
- Take an art class or draw, paint, or sculpt at home.
- Take up a new hobby that requires physical exertion, such as woodworking.
- Try stress reduction activities like yoga or tai chi.
- Do activities that get your heart racing like caving or parachuting.
Rely on your strongest relationships.As you disengage from addictive behaviors, reengage with loved ones. Your partner, best friends, children, parents, and siblings can support you. Focus on repairing relationships that need to be fixed and nurturing those that have faltered. The more you invest in people around you, the less you will need sex as an escape mechanism.
Work toward a healthy relationship with sex.Overcoming sexual addiction doesn't mean you must stop having sex forever. Instead, it means that you don't allow compulsive behaviors to control you. You feel in charge of your sexual behaviors, and happy and fulfilled by them instead of guilty or ashamed.
- Your therapist can help you work toward this. You may even find that a therapist with specific training in sexual health issues can be useful in teaching you ways to develop a healthy attitude toward sex.
- Explore what you like about sex. When you're addicted to sex, you may do things that you don't even really enjoy doing because they feed your compulsion. Take some time to explore what you actually enjoy about sex. What makes you feel valued as a sexual partner? What feelings do you enjoy inspiring in others?
- Try to consider sex as a part of a healthy life, rather than its own "forbidden fruit" or something to hide or be ashamed of. Someone with a problem overeating won't simply stop eating food; similarly, you do not have to simply stop having sex. You just want to learn a healthier way of integrating it into your overall life.
Stay focused on your goal.Recovery will take time. You probably will experience cravings for addictive sex. It is fine to have sex with an intimate partner, but having a one-night stand or watching porn could return your addiction. Be open with your therapist and family about your struggles. Keep your mission statement in mind and remember you can repair damaged relationships and fix financial problems.If you relapse, reflect on what went wrong. Try to avoid the triggers that caused the relapse. Overall, do not give up. Keep pushing forward.
- If you relapse, review your journal. Read your mission statement and remind yourself why you want to recover. Stay fully engaged in therapy and your support group.
Celebrate your accomplishments.After you accomplish some of your goals, take time to celebrate how far you have come. If you go a month without exhibiting addictive behavior, acknowledge your achievement with a treat. For example, visit a favorite restaurant, tour a museum, or purchase a new clothing item. Celebrate how far you have come. Set a new goal to work towards.
Part 4 Quiz
If you relapse, you should:
QuestionHow do I stop sexting?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStopping was difficult for me, but I took away my trigger. I did all of it on my phone, so I deleted all my apps that were pushing me to sext. I stopped talking to guys that were making me want to jump their bones. It's hard, but can be done.Thanks!
QuestionHow could I control my sexual urges publicly?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI have had the same problem and I learned that sometimes you have to "punish" yourself. Give yourself slight pinches or a tug on your hair so that you feel pain.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I stop thinking about sex completely?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThat will be almost impossible. Sexuality is a natural part of being human; the drive to have sex is innate and biological. There's nothing wrong with thinking about sex as long as it doesn't begin to overtake your life.Thanks!
How can I overcome the addiction and make people stop hating me?
- Drugs and alcohol often can trigger sexual addictions. If you are struggling with a sexual addiction, limit or eliminate use of these substances.
Sources and Citations
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of How to Overcome Sexual Addiction was reviewed by on November 9, 2019.
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