Sex addiction is a phrase that had gradually become common place in society. People often reference being “addicted” to sex, porn, masturbation, hooking up, etc.
I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss this complex and confusing issue from the perspective of a professional psychotherapist.
Below are my thoughts on this topic gained from working in the field of psychology and as a result of advanced training in sex therapy.
The term “addiction” refers to a medical model. This longstanding model defines addiction as a disease with biological, neurological, genetic, and environmental sources of origin. This model also goes on to specify that this disease must include an abnormal condition be present, and that this condition must cause discomfort, dysfunction, and distress to the person.
Addiction refers to hard science.
For example: We can take someone addicted to heroin or alcohol, send them for braining-imaging, and physically see the differences in their brain compared to others who are not addicted to those substances. There have been groundbreaking scientific studies looking at genetics and the likelihood someone may develop an addiction to species substances.
This physical, objective, and scientific evidence is key in showing and validating that someone actually has an addiction.
There is no hard or clear scientific proof when it comes to “sex addiction”.
No scientific tests, imaging, or answers.
The concept of “sex addiction” (i.e. labeling people as addicts or being addicted to this) is inappropriate. It is irresponsible to apply the hard-core science shown in addiction to substances to this area of sex. Yes, your brain releases chemicals during sex and orgasm. However, people do not develop tolerance and dependency for these chemicals engaging in sexual actives in the same ways they do to substances.
While there is no validated scientific proof of “sex addiction”, there is longstanding and substantiated evidence of something called Compulsive Sexual Behavior (CSB). CSB is characterized by repetitive and intense preoccupations with sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors that are distressing to the individual and/or may result in impairment in functioning in different areas of life. (Grant, 2018).
Some common compulsive sexual behaviors seen by mental health professions may include:
- compulsive masturbation,
- compulsive sexual encounters,
- reliance on porn to achieve arousal or orgasm,
- behaving in a way that puts a person’s/other’s health at risk due to specific sexual activities,
- and sexual behavior that can involve people/things that are non-consenting (illegal).
People who struggle with CSB can:
- feel a lack of control over their sexual behavior,
- it may cause issues for them in different areas of life (work, relationships, socially),
- and it can even lead to physical injury.
There can be a lot of shame and secrecy surrounding this type of behavior.
Often clients with CSB function well in other areas in their lives, but they can experience considerable impairment within their sexuality. CSB is often missed or simply misunderstood by professionals because most do not have training in or, they found it difficult to treat, or it makes them uncomfortable. CSB can be difficult to manage, and it requires a highly trained professional.
Compulsive Sexual Behavior is a topic within sex therapy that has been of great interest to me as a professional.
Our sexuality is one of the most private and sensitive things our lives. Being in a profession that involves getting to hear and help people with their sexual issues is a great privilege. No topic is ever off limits or taboo in session with me as your therapist.
I have always felt that it takes a brave person to realize when they are having trouble and to ask for help. No matter what you are struggling with (sexually related or not) therapy may help.
Therapy is a place to examine the issues that are causing trouble in your life, and learn the skills you need to be successful moving forward.
If you are struggling with any of the behavior mentioned above, I would be happy to work with you on bringing about the positive changes you are looking for.
Please feel free to reach out to me for a free phone consultation so we can talk privately about your concerns. I truly look forward to working with you.
Hi, I'm Samuel Donath, therapist for couples and individuals at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help individuals and couples from all walks of life learn the skills to experience increased fulfillment in daily life, their relationships, and with their sexuality.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Samuel