Sex Addiction

Marked By Repetitive Impulses and Uncontrolled Sexual Behavior

Intimacy Disorders

Intimacy Disorders

Compulsive sexual behavior is commonly referred to by the catchall phrase “sex addiction,” which can really cover a range of sexually acting out.

“It’s not about what behavior your participate in, it’s about your relationship to the behavior.”

Dr. Stefanie Carnes

Now classified as a mental health disorder on the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases list, compulsive sexual disorder is defined as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” The WHO’s ICD-11is recognized as the foundational document that clinicians and scientists around the world use to identify and study health problems, injuries, and causes of death.

There is often a lot of confusion around sex addiction. It isn’t defined by the number of sexual partners you have or specific sexual behaviors. It isn’t a moral issue either. Instead, it is marked by an individual’s sexual behavior becoming a “central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities, and responsibilities.”

Getting Beyond Labels

Sex addiction is a complex and even controversial condition. Some individuals may seek out this label as a way to explain their behaviors, and others may feel like they would rather be called anything but a sex addict. The truth is, sex addiction is a label that treatment teams use with patients to identify a classification of beliefs and behaviors regarding sex, but every individual is different.

Indications of problematic sexual behavior include:

  • Loss of control of behaviors
  • Preoccupation with sexual acting out behaviors
  • Significant adverse consequences
  • Continuation despite consequences

There is no average sex addict. Sex addiction may be present when an individual who is seeking attachment compulsively turns to sex, sexual thinking, and sexual relationships to a degree that is debilitating or harmful to both the individual and others.

Sex Addiction Causes & Treatment

Where does the disorder come from and what leads to this behavior? Sex addicts have typically been damaged in the area of attachment from a young age. Fortunately, sex addiction is treatable. To begin to heal, the unhealthy patterns formed around sex must be broken and new patterns must be created so patients can learn to have functional, healthy relationships with others. It also involves addressing emotional trauma with our trained therapists who specialize in female sexual compulsivity and love addiction.

Stefanie Carnes, PhD, LMFT, CSAT

Dr. Stefanie Carnes discusses the controversy of defining sex addiction as a disorder, why it’s important to seek treatment, and how it can be related to trauma and underlying issues.

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