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10 Jan 2003

sexual addiction
I want to know if sex can be addictive, and what books can you recommend or numbers can you give on how to cope with sex addiction.

Your help in this regard will be highly appreciated.
Answer 353 views

01 Jan 0001

Can sex become compulsive? Like most behaviors, sex can be taken to its obsessive and compulsive extremes. Sexual obsessions and compulsions are recurrent, distressing and interfere with daily functioning. Many people suffer with these problems but finding consensus about them among sexual scientists or treatment professionals is not easy. This makes it more difficult for those suffering from compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) to get the appropriate help they need. For those who want to know more about this problem, it is helpful to know about the types of CSB, the various theoretical viewpoints and treatment approaches. While there are many types of compulsive sexual behavior, they can be divided into two main types: paraphilic and non-paraphilic CSB. Sexual scientists have used various terms to describe this phenomenon: hypersexuality, erotomania, nymphomania, satyriasis, and most recently sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behavior. The terminology has often implied different values, attitudes, and theoretical orientations.

Disagreement exists as to whether CSB is an addiction, a psychosexual development disorder, an impulse control disorder, a mood disorder, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dr Patrick Carnes popularized the concept of CSB as and addiction. He believes that people become addicted to sex in the same way they become addicted to substances or behaviors. However, many dispute the idea that you can become addicted to sex in the same way that someone becomes addicted to alcohol or sex. Despite this criticism, sexual addiction has become a poplar metaphor similar to "workaholism." Twelve-step programs of spiritual recovery (similar to Alcoholics Anonymous) have become popular solutions to those who view CSB as an addiction. However, the "abstinence model" useful for alcoholics, cannot be applied to sexuality since sexual expression is a basic need of life. Critics view the abstinence solution as an oversimplification of CSB and potentially dangerous when proper medical and psychological treatment is not provided.

Since CSB is such a complex disorder involving biological, psychological and social factors, a careful assessment by a well trained professional is necessary. Because of disagreements in theoretical approaches, the lay person should ask the professional about his/her own theories on CSB and consider other professional opinions.

Treatment of CSB
While disagreement exists about the nature of CSB, treatment professionals have generally found a combination of psychotherapy and prescription drugs to be effective in treating CSB. While medications which suppress the production of male hormones (anti-androgens) are used to treat a variety of paraphilic disorders, newer anti-depressants such as Prozac (R), Zoloft(R) or Paxil(R) which selectively act on serotonin levels in the brain are also effective in reducing sexual obsessions and compulsions and their associated levels of anxiety and depression. These newer medications interrupt the obsessive-compulsive cycle of CSB and help patients use therapy more effectively. The advantages of these anti-depressants over older anti-depressants or anti-androgens are their broad efficacy and relatively few known side effects.

How Does One Know if He/She Needs Help Regarding CSB?
The following questions are examples of those used in assessing and treating CSB.

Do you, or others who know you, find that you are overly preoccupied or obsessed with sexual activity?
Do you find yourself compelled to engage in sexual activity in response to stress, anxiety, or depression?
Have serious problems developed as a result of your sexual behavior (e.g., loss of a job or relationship, sexually transmitted diseases, injuries or illnesses, or sexual offenses)?

Compulsive sexual behavior is a serious psychosexual disorder which can be identified and treated successfully. CSB does not always involve strange and unusual sexual practices. Many conventional behaviors can become the focus of an individual's obsessions and compulsions. The exact mechanism of CSB is still under debate and various treatment approaches have been developed. Research is needed to further clarify the nature of the disorder, the mechanisms involved, and to test the most effective treatment approach. In the meantime, individuals suffering from CSB should not hesitate to seek professional guidance to properly assess their problem and to find help through counseling and treatment.

Call SA Sexual Health Association for a referral near you.0860-100-262

Self help books: See the list on of books written by Dr Patrick Carnes.

Dr Elna McIntosh
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
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