Sex Addiction, Compulsivity, Hypersexuality

What are examples of Sexual Addiction, Sexual Compulsivity and Hypersexual Disorder?

  • You are continually involved in affairs throughout your marriage/committed relationship.
  • You engage in anonymous sex in person and on line.
  • You can’t wait for your spouse and children to get out of the house so you can go online for cybersex including using video cameras to engage in sexual activities, use the phone for phone sex or other sexual activities.
  • You worry that your partner will see through your cover ups and find out how much time and money you actually spend on massage parlors, pornography, prostitutes, on line live sex sites, strip clubs, etc.
  • You are so preoccupied with sexual fantasy and romance that you prefer the world of fantasy to the “real world” of your partner, family and friends.
  • You engage in exhibitionism or voyeurism.
  • Your wife/husband/significant other is threatening to leave you because of your preoccupation with sex and sexual activities.
  • You have been involved with illegal sexual activities.
  • You have a sexually transmitted disease from your sexual activities outside of your primary relationship and you continue to be sexual with your spouse or partner but have not told them about this.
  • You want to stop.  You feel excitement but also shame about what you are doing. You are acting against your moral, religious and value system. You try to stop – over and over again- but just can’t do it. Instead of being able to control your desire and behaviors you actually find that you need more time and stimulation to get you where you want to go. You can’t get the images out of your mind. Your life is so complicated with the secrets, lies and cover-ups that at times you feel quite desperate.

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What is Sexual Addiction, Sexual Compulsivity and Hypersexual Disorder?

The main components of sexual addiction which is also referred to as sexual compulsivity and hypersexual disorder include:

  • repetitive pattern of obsessive thinking about sexual activities and compulsive acting out of problematic sexual behaviors
  • repeated attempts to control these sexual thoughts and behaviors but an inability to control them on their own
  • continuation of these sexual thoughts and activities in spite of repeated destructive negative consequences to their life (i.e. marriage, family, job)
  • need for increased and varied sexual stimulation to feel aroused.

Men and women struggling with sexual addiction spend much of their time on a daily basis immersed in thoughts and feelings related to sexual behaviors. They feel unable to stop thinking about what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, how it was to do it and how ashamed they feel to have done these sexual activities yet again. They may sincerely promise to themselves (and others) to stop the behaviors yet are unable to do this on their own. They feel very isolated in spite of their repeated and desperate attempts to feel connected to people through sexual behaviors. The behaviors that they hope will make them feel connected with other people are actually not intimate behaviors (i.e. sex with a prostitute, massage parlors, cybersex).

They spend their time preoccupied with these sexual activities. They are consumed with planning sexual activities, managing their daily lives to accommodate the activities (including lying and covering up for time missed at home, with family, and at work), and being in a trancelike state of preoccupation and fantasy about the sexual activities,

Their destructive cycle consists of planning and carrying out rituals and involvement with the sexual activities, doing the sexual activities, with a brief time of pleasure or respite from pain, and then experiencing a deep sense of shame and despair at what they are doing and have done once again. They despair at what they have risked (physically and emotionally) and swear sincerely to themselves and others important to them (wives, husbands, spouses, partners, children, bosses), that they won’t do it again. Yet they then go back into the unmanageable cycle as they feel overwhelmed with the stressors in their lives.

People who are sexually addicted have basic beliefs in common about themselves and other people. While they work hard to maintain an image of normalcy, their external  image does not match their internal belief system. In his book Out Of The Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, Patrick Carnes, PhD, one of the earliest and most respected researchers and therapist in the area of sex addiction, talks about four core beliefs of sex addicts. “I am basically a bad, unworthy person; No one would love me as I am; My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others; and Sex is my most important need”. These negative beliefs come from experiences with significant people in their lives from whom they have learned messages about how to treat other people, how to expect to be treated and how to treat themselves. Sexual addiction becomes one of their flawed solutions for dealing with these difficult beliefs about themselves and others and for dealing with stress.

Sex addicts want intimacy and connection but do not know how to do this without using sex and feeling the need to be in total control. You can’t be intimate with someone if you are in total control.

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How many people are sexually addicted?

Estimates are that approximately 18 million people in the United States – 6 percent of the population – are sexually addicted.

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Are women sexually addicted too? 

Yes, women as well as men can be sexually addicted.

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Isn’t it normal to have times in your life when you are much more focused on sex and sexually involved?  Does this necessarily mean you are sexually addicted?  What is the difference?

Sex is supposed to be fun.  Most of us go through periods of time in our lives in which we feel pretty “obsessed” with sex or sexual partners. We go through times when we may be especially curious, sexually “wild” and risk taking – exploring our sexuality in sometimes not very careful, discriminating or even safe ways. We are learning who we are as a sexual person and what sex means to us. Our sexuality is ever evolving and changes as we go through different developmental stages and experiences in our life.

These are not necessarily signs of sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity or hypersexual disorder unless they become a destructive pattern over time that includes the components of obsessive thinking and compulsive sexual behaviors that the person repeatedly tries to control but is unable to control in spite of negative life consequences.

Sexual addiction is something very different. Someone who is sexually addicted experiences an extremely destructive pattern related to sexuality. Their pattern repeats over time in which they are obsessed with thinking about and compulsive about doing sexual behaviors. They experience what has been called the three C’s of sexual addiction; being so preoccupied with thinking about and compulsively doing the behaviors that their personal, family and work life are negatively effected ; continuing to do the behaviors in spite of severe consequences to their relationship /spouse/children, work, personal safety; being unable to stop the behaviors in spite of repeated ineffective attempts at controlling these behaviors, i.e. trying to cut back or stop.

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What assistance is available for someone who is sexually addicted?

Specific focused therapy helps people who are struggling with sexual addiction and compulsivity. In the Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) clinical training I have participated in taught by Patrick Carnes, PhD, he identifies research based recovery tasks with specific performable activities that develop life competencies to help sex addicts be successful in recovery.

Breaking through denial is the first step in this healing process. Focus in treatment for the sex addict is on identifying, stopping and understanding the sexual addiction cycle. Helping the sex addict take responsibility for his/her behavior is critical as is identifying the real destructive effects of their behavior on themselves and their families. Therapy addresses establishing sobriety, developing a relapse prevention plan and strategies to prevent reoccurrence of problematic behaviors as well as strategies to deal with it when slips do occur.

Sex addicts are isolated. The world of fantasy, ritual, out of control sex and shame in which they live reinforces the gulf they experience between themselves and people who they can trust and feel intimate. Decreasing this isolation is a critical component of healing from the addiction. Developing a support system in which the addict feels safe to break through their isolation is critical. Having a primary therapist, being a member of a therapy group, participating in a Twelve Step group, (To learn more about Twelve Step groups, explore this Internet Resources – Links List I have compiled), involving their partners and family early in treatment, and developing a spiritual life are all important ways to help the addict feel connected to and supported by their community.

Sex addicts’ lives are off balance and in chaos. Treatment focuses on helping them to find balance in all aspects of their life including emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually and sexually.

Sexual health is an important recovery goal for someone struggling with sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity or hypersexual disorder.

Research has found that a significant number of sex addicts have experienced traumatic experiences possibly resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that may be contributing to their pattern of sexual addiction. Identifying and resolving these experiences is a therapy goal. Many sex addicts also are addicted to other behaviors and/or drugs.  Identifying and addressing these other addictions and their interactions as well as other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety that may be present is fundamental in helping the whole person.

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What services do you provide for someone dealing with sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, hypersexual disorder?

I provide the following services for someone dealing with sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, hypersexuality:

  • Evaluation of sexual addiction and treatment planning needs
  • Treatment planning using Patrick Carnes’ Recovery Zone performable tasks
  • Individual psychotherapy for the addict and/or partner
  • Couple sessions for the addict and partner as needed
  • Family sessions as needed
  • Community support sessions
  • Information and Referral to sex addiction treatment groups-both 12 step and psychotherapy groups
  • Coordination of services with other treatment providers for the addict and the addicts’ partner and family
  • Information and resources
  • Referral and assistance with arrangement for more intensive treatment if necessary including inpatient hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment
  • Referral as needed

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Where can I find out more about Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, Internet Porn Addiction and Cybersex Addiction, and Partners, Spouses and Families of Sex Addicts?

Explore these references for more information:

  • Shari’s Blog for articles, news and selected informational videos on these subjects and related topics including:

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How can I contact you to get further information?

Here is my Contact Information and Office Information.

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