Does sex addiction really exist?

In the update of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published in July 2018, The World Health Organisation (WHO) included a diagnosis called ‘Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder’ (CSBD) which covers “sex addiction, hypersexuality, excessive sexuality, or problematic sexual behaviour, characterized by repetitive and intense preoccupations with sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviours that are distressing to the individual and/or result in psychosocial impairment.” (Fong, Reid & Parhami, 2012).

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction, also called sexual compulsion, is an ongoing, out-of-control pattern of sexual behaviour that causes problems in an addict’s life. Any sexual behaviour can become addictive, but ATSAC therapists are seeing a growing proportion of clients addicted to online porn. Other compulsive behaviours include visiting prostitutes, the use of chat lines and conducting extra-marital affairs.

What’s the difference between having high sex drive and being addicted to sex?

Sex drive is a person’s overall desire for sexual activity. It is determined by a number of different factors such as hormone levels e.g. testosterone, stress levels and other psychological factors, and the health of intimate relationship(s). A high sex drive does not have the negative consequences associated with sex addiction (See ‘What is sex addiction?’)

Do women suffer from sex addiction?

Although reliable statistics can be hard to come by, due to the secrecy and shame surrounding sex addiction, there is strong evidence that women do suffer from sex addiction. In fact, in his book ‘Sex Addiction 101’ Robert Weiss states that some10 to 15 percent of clients in the USA are women. The challenge therapists have is that women seem to be less likely to think they suffer from sex addiction. The perception is that it is mainly men who become addicts. However, these women may find themselves constantly looking for ‘love’ via dating and on-line chat sites and engaging in anonymous sex.

Can sex addiction really be cured?

Many individuals have tried to stop their addictive behaviour with limited success and so there tends to be a belief that this form of addiction is not treatable. Especially because being sexual is an innate part of being human.

Unlike alcohol and drug addictions where the individual is expected to stop using the drug of chose and abstain forever, not surprisingly, those suffering from sex addiction are likely to want to engage in sexual relations especially if they are in an intimate relationship. Working through a programme of understanding sex addiction, accepting one’s own addiction and learning control and avoidance techniques with a trained ATSAC therapist will help those with this addiction take back control over their lives. However, similar to taking control of other addictions, it is difficult and it will take a focused, and determined person to succeed.

A full list of therapists can be found here

Is there anything I can do for myself?

Yes there is. Firstly look at the times you are most likely to succumb to your addiction and figure out ways to avoid these triggers. If you use on-line porn, then install child locks on the devices you use. Avoid taking your phone etc to places where you may be alone and able to act out. If you can’t work with a private therapist because of financial or other reasons, try to get counselling on the NHS, asking for a counsellor experienced in the field. You could also consider joining a sex addiction 12-step programme.

My partner is always looking at porn – could he be addicted?

He may be addicted but you would need more information to arrive at a diagnosis. If you are worried, try talking to him. Answering our diagnostic tool may help.

Is it my fault because I didn’t give my partner enough sex?

Sex addiction is not about being with a partner that the addict no longer finds attractive. Nor is it about not having enough sex. It is a compulsive, out-of-control activity. In fact many sex addicts have sex with their partners yet still feel the compulsion to seek sexual gratification elsewhere.

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