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Sexual Addiction. Overview of the topic.

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Sexual Addiction

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overview of the topic
Overview of the topic
  • Sexual addiction, although not as obvious as addiction to drugs or alcohol, can be just as fatal. Its onset is normally early adolescence, prior to the surfacing of substance abuse. The family history of a sex addict often reflects conflicting rules, little intimacy, high expectations, poor supervision and an intergenerational history of addictions. In such families, children are often neglected, harmed, or exploited; thus, they are susceptible to sexual and other kinds of abuse by those within or outside of the family. They unintentionally find addiction as a means to cope with their physical and emotional wounds (Turner, 1995).
signs of sex addiction
Signs of Sex Addiction

Patrick Carnes a leading expert in sexual addiction describes ten signs of sex addiction, some of which correlate to other addictions. They include:

  • A pattern of unmanageable behavior.
  • Severe negative consequences due to sexual behavior.

3. Ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior.

signs continued
Signs continued

4. Inability to discontinue the behavior (s)

despite severe consequences.

5. Persistent quest for self-destructive or high risk


6. Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping


7. Tolerance or the need for increasing amounts and

varieties of sexual experiences to attain the desired



8. Severe mood changes regarding sexual


9. Inordinate amounts of time spent in

obtaining sex, being sexual, or

recovering from sexual experiences.

10. Neglect of important social, or

occupational recreational activities

because of sexual behaviors.

  • These signs appear gradually until the addict’s life becomes one of desperation and recklessness. Often by the time the secret life is revealed, the addict, family, and others have been severely damaged.
prevalence and incidence
Prevalence and Incidence
  • The research on the topic is mainly related to treatment. However, in looking at prevalence, according to Dr. Michael Johnson “About 80% of Sex Addicts experienced some form of child abuse in their developmental years.” “Sex addiction is more widespread than one would expect; possibly four out of ten adults in our culture may be sexually addicted” (Carnes, 1991). In looking at incidencea conservative estimate of those who could meet the criteria for sexual compulsivity is about 3-5% of the United
  • States population. This is most likely a very conservative estimate, since these numbers
  • are based on individuals who seek treatment. Based on drug and alcohol statistics, we do know that more people suffer from this problem, than actually seek treatment. These percentages are based on what we currently understand sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behavior to be, and should not be interpreted as unchanging truths ( Berlin, 2008).
  • Regarding Treatment options, while a difference of opinion exists about the nature of CSB, treatment professionals have generally found a combination of psychotherapy and prescription drugs to be effective in treating sexual addiction. While medications which suppress the production of a male hormones (anti –androgens) are used to treat a variety of paraphilic disorders, newer anti-depressants such as Zoloft ®, Prozac ®, or Paxil ® which selectively act on serotonin levels in the brain are also effective in reducing sexual compulsions and obsessions and their connected levels of depression and anxiety. These
  • recently made medications interrupt the obsessive-compulsive cycle of CSB or sexual addiction and help patients use therapy more successfully (Coleman, 1992).
important researchers
Important researchers
  • It seems that Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. is recognized as the leading expert in the field of sexual addiction. He is Clinical Director of Sexual Disorders at The Meadows, a treatment facility that works with clients who deal with a range of behavior disorders, addictions and psychological conditions. He is also the author of several books including, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction and Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict.