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One of the biggest challenges we face as humans is breaking a behavior. When you have a pattern that creates negative consequences in your life, you may need help.

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction is a condition where a person experiences excessive and compulsive acting out in sexual behavior. This can include preoccupation with masturbation, pornography, infidelity and sexual contact via chat and video. Sex addiction can occur in combination with pornography addiction.

Sex addiction is similar to other addictions where you compulsively pursue emotional relief in a way that causes problems in your life, and you have tried to stop without success. This can have consequences and affect your life, making you feel much worse in the long run. In health care, the term hypersexuality is used because sex addiction is not an official diagnosis based on diagnostic manuals such as DSM-5.

According to recent research, “The addiction is thought to affect five in every 100 sexually mature adults and occurs in both men and women, but may be diagnosed more often in men because women are less likely to seek treatment.”

The problem can still lead to many negative feelings for those with problematic sexual patterns, but help is available.

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Sex abuse diagnosis

Sex addiction is referred to as hypersexuality in health care as sex addiction is not an official diagnosis. It means that a person has excessive sexual behavior with compulsion to perform sexual acts, obsessive thoughts about sex and loss of control or sexual habits that are problematic.

Sex abuse cause

It is not clearly understood what causes sex addiction, there are often many different factors that interact. Genetics, environment and social factors in society influence its development. Addiction in general is a disease where the brain’s reward system is affected by dopamine and serotonin. In sex addiction, changes in stress levels and the hormone oxytocin have also been observed. There are higher levels of oxytocin, which is often triggered by pairing and closeness in relationships.

Sometimes neuropsychiatric issues with impulse control problems can be behind the behavior. There may also be a personality disorder that contributes to the behavior. With a bipolar diagnosis, manic phases can lead to problematic sexual behavior, so it is important to get the right diagnosis from a licensed professional. People may also act out in an addiction to alleviate other mental health problems such as anxiety, stress or depression. It is important to seek help and support if you have these problems.

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Sex abuse infidelity

A consequence of sex addiction is that you may act impulsively in relationships with people who are not your partner. This can cause a lot of distress for all parties and affect trust in the relationship which can take a long time to repair. It is also important that family members receive support and help.

ADHD and sex addiction

There may be an increased risk of sex abuse if you have ADHD, just as there is with other addictions such as alcoholism, drug addiction or gambling addiction. In ADHD, people often have difficulty with impulse control and this can lead to various impulsive behaviors. It is possible to treat both ADHD and the symptoms of sex addiction, so if you or someone else has these problems, you should seek treatment.

Help for sex addiction

If you wonder whether you have a sex addiction or are at risk of developing one, it is important to seek help. Otherwise, the problems can develop and become even worse over time.

Sex abuse symptoms

If you suffer from problematic behavior such as sex addiction or hypersexuality, it is common to have these symptoms:

  1. Discomfort or inability to control sexual behavior: You may have difficulty controlling your sexual impulses and behaviors, which can lead to a pattern of compulsive sexual behavior. Examples include watching pornography, self-sex or acting out with other people.
  2. Neglect of everyday activities: Sex addiction can lead to neglect of work, relationships and other responsibilities.
  3. Increased sexual behavior despite negative consequences: Despite experiencing negative consequences from their sexual behavior, they may continue to act compulsively.
  4. Constantly thinking about sex: One may constantly think about sex, which can affect concentration and focus in other areas of life.
  5. Engaging in risky behaviors: People with sex addiction may seek out increasingly risky and dangerous sexual behaviors to achieve the same level of excitement or satisfaction.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help so that the behavior does not get worse and so that you can break your pattern and increase your quality of life.

Treatment for sex addiction

It is possible to get help with treatment if you suffer from sex addiction. There are psychologists and therapists who specialize in sexual problems. Treatment may involve a combination of interventions, support groups and other therapeutic strategies to address the underlying causes of the addiction and develop healthier patterns of sexual behavior. It is possible to change your pattern and create a better quality of life. There is also some research showing that drugs such as Naltrexone, which is currently used to treat alcoholism, can be helpful for hypersexuality.

Treatment with CBT

It is possible to get therapy for sex addiction online. At Lavendla we have licensed psychologists and CBT therapists who can help you with treatment.

From conversation to understanding and change

Talk therapy is often the first step in seeking help. By working with a psychologist or therapist, you can begin to understand your symptoms and triggers, which is essential for long-term change.

When professional help is unavoidable

If you are experiencing signs of abuse or addiction that are affecting your life or work, it is essential that you seek professional help. There are many training courses on addiction and dependency that caregivers undergo to provide the best possible support and treatment.

It is never too late to break free from abuse or addiction. Help is available and support is just a click away. So if you or someone you love is struggling with these issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

The first step to change

Book a 20- or 45-minute session with a psychologist or therapist today via our website booking form. If the time is not right now, remember that there is always a possibility to come back when you are ready to make a change. Together we make the hard things easier.

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12 common questions and answers about sex addiction

What is sex addiction?

Addiction is a complex psychological condition in which the individual feels an inability to stop performing a certain activity, despite negative consequences.

Is sex addiction a disease?

Yes, sex addiction in the form of hypersexuality is considered a brain disease because it affects the brain’s reward and hormone systems and decision-making.

Can sex addiction be cured?

Any type of addiction can be treated, but it often requires long-term care and support. It is possible to change your patterns and improve your quality of life.

What are the signs that I may be a sex addict?

Symptoms include excessive compulsion to perform sexual acts, obsessive thoughts about sex and loss of control or problematic sexual habits.

What are the risks of sex addiction?

The potential risks range from problems with our physical and mental health, unemployment and loss of relationships. You can also harm yourself and others so it is important to seek help.

How can I help a family member who is a sex addict?

The first step is to offer your support. Encourage them to seek professional help and stand by them during treatment. Seek information about the problem if you find it difficult to understand and if you are a partner, you may also need to go to therapy.

What treatment options are available?

There are several different types of treatment such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and support groups.

Can you have other mental health problems while being a sex addict?

There may be underlying mental health problems such as ADHD, personality problems, a bipolar diagnosis or other mental health problems.

What can be done in case of relapse?

Relapse can happen and it is important to seek help immediately. Relapse is not a sign of failure but it is important to act quickly to get back on track.

What resources are available?

In addition to our professional therapists and psychologists, there are many websites, books, and support groups that can offer additional information and support.

Can I be treated online?

Yes, several of our therapists and psychologists offer support sessions via video conferencing, for example.

How important is the support system around a person with an addiction?

A support system is often crucial to successful recovery. This includes professional help with treatment and a good support system both emotionally and practically. It can help reduce the risk of relapse and help the person maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Treatment steps to improve quality of life

Treatment for a sex addiction or hypersexuality differs from person to person although they often follow a similar format. To give you an understanding of what professional help to break a destructive behavior might look like, we have listed examples of the different phases.

  1. Evaluation and diagnosis
    The first step is often a thorough evaluation and diagnosis by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.
  2. Treatment planning
    An individual treatment plan is created, which often includes different treatment methods such as psychotherapy, drug treatment and sometimes even self-help groups.
  3. Psychotherapeutic treatment
    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly recommended method. It involves working with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with sex addiction. Relapse prevention is also usually part of the treatment. It may also include motivational interviewing.
  4. Follow-up and Maintenance
    Long-term treatment and follow-up are often necessary to prevent relapse. This may include regular meetings with health care providers and continued participation in support groups.
  5. Lifestyle changes
    Changes in lifestyle, including work, leisure and relationships, are often necessary to support long-term recovery.
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Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.