Some addictions have an apparent diagnosis. For example, when someone uses heroin for a long time, they have likely become addicted. Likewise, when a drinker becomes physically dependent on alcohol, they have likely become addicted. Sexual behavior is a bit harder to diagnose, though. It is a natural and healthy behavior. It can occur very frequently, even in healthy relationships. Because it can be subjective, it is not easy to determine when sexual activities become problematic.
We’re going to review how to treat sex addiction, as well as signs that sexual behavior may have crossed into addiction.
Most medical providers will rely on various medical manuals and diagnostic guides as they evaluate a patient. According to Mayo Clinic, sex addiction is not included as a diagnosable disorder in the most common diagnostic guides. So it will usually be diagnosed as an impulse control disorder or a behavioral addiction.
Research is ongoing, but mental health professionals will often use their professional judgment to diagnose sex addiction. This may consider the types of activity the patient is engaging in as well as the consequences they face as a result of those activities.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
As with most forms of treatment and therapy, a mental health professional will guide treatment based on the individual’s specific circumstances and symptoms.
In general, treatment will involve several core components: psychotherapy, support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication.
How Does Psychotherapy Assist With Sex Addiction?
Psychotherapy is an effective tool that aims to help reduce or stop impulsive behavior by educating and providing personal support. This treatment may take several months to several years, and the therapist will work with you one-on-one to identify problem areas and create a personalized therapy plan.
Psychotherapy for people who suffer from sex addiction and impulse control disorder (ICD) can help identify triggers that may cause impulsive behavior or self-destructive tendencies and factors driving the person to act out in this way.
Once these factors are recognized, the therapist and client can work together to minimize the chances of impulsive or self-destructive behavior occurring.
There are many different support groups for sex addictions and impulse control disorder, each with its own set of guidelines to follow. Those recovering from this condition can meet in person or online to share their experiences and difficulties with others who have used similar techniques.
These groups may also suggest ways to overcome impulses and navigate early and long-term recovery. Often, support groups will provide an environment that encourages reflection on the benefits of changing impulsive behavior.
Because of the private nature of sexual addictions, people are sometimes hesitant to attempt meetings. This is an understandable concern that a therapist can guide their patient on. However, support groups have proven their worth many times over. A group of people who understand each other’s struggles firsthand can be a core component of recovery for someone struggling with sexual addictions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
One method of sex addiction therapy designed for people with sex addictions and other impulse control disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT helps individuals identify dangerous thoughts and behaviors. It can replace them with positive thoughts and behaviors, and improve their lifestyle habits. This means developing healthy coping strategies to deal with stress, establishing the structure for one’s daily routines, and building a support system.
Over time, CBT helps people identify thoughts and behaviors that are not beneficial. It can also determine what changes they can make to replace them with more positive thoughts and behaviors. Monitoring their progress and developing strategies for maintaining these changes are also a benefit of CBT.
Medications help patients undergoing sex addiction therapy improve their symptoms. However, they aren’t a standalone cure. Most sufferers will experience the most improvement with a combination of multiple forms of treatment. For example, psychotherapy is used alongside medication.
Working on one’s impulses can be hard! It requires the patient to identify a thought or behavior as impulsive and then stop themselves from following that impulse. In this process, people often have to resist feelings of anxiety or distress. This is where medication can play a supportive role.
The most common medications used during sex add therapy are antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. Antidepressants can help with anxiety related to impulses by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Mood stabilizers may stabilize the swings that may prompt the individual to engage in compulsive sexual activities. Finally, antipsychotic drugs are used to reduce any manic symptoms that might affect those with bipolar disorder. It can also help to control impulses.
When sexual addiction becomes debilitating to one’s life, in-patient treatment may be beneficial. This provides a space to focus on your recovery without any outside distractions. In addition, patients will develop skills that will help them identify when impulsive behavior occurs. They can then work on strategies to respond to these situations.
In-patient treatment gives you the ability to truly focus on yourself, your treatment plan, and your recovery. There are no distractions from work, family, or friends. This allows you to fully engage in the process of recovering from ICD.
Overall, sexual addiction and ICDs can be treated just as effectively as other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders. However, they are encouraged to find a specialist experienced in sex addiction therapy to have the best chances of success.
Long Island Rehabs is your connection to rehabilitation in the New York City Metro Area. Call us at 631-250-6065 to get the help you need and deserve