If you have had failed attempts to stop or cut back on problematic sexual behaviors like porn consumption, compulsive masturbation, or extra-relational affairs, or if those behaviors have interfered with your normal life or caused you or others pain, you likely have a sex addiction.
“Addiction” is a label, and we know as therapists that labels are only as good as they are useful. However, it can be helpful to label compulsive sexual behaviors as an addiction because it underscores the severity of the issue and the need for comprehensive treatment.
In his book Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict, Dr. Patrick Carnes writes, “Contrary to enjoying sex as a self-affirming source of physical pleasure, the sex addict has learned to rely on sex for comfort from pain, nurturing, or relief from stress, etc., the way an alcoholic relies on alcohol, or a drug addict on drugs.”
When do I need counseling for sex addiction?
If you’re reading this article, wondering if you may need counseling for a sex addiction, you probably do. If you’re searching for help, it’s because you need it. And it’s important that you get that help from a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT).
Problematic sexual behaviors are caused by trauma. If you’ve read our blogs before, you know there are two different categories of trauma: Big T trauma and little t trauma. Big T trauma encompasses traumatic events: a car accident, witnessing an act of violence, losing a parent. Little t trauma encompasses more ongoing situations: childhood sexual abuse, early porn exposure, emotional neglect, insecure attachment.
In sexual addiction, sex is not the problem; using sexual behaviors to meet your underlying needs is the problem.
While sex addicts can be men or women, men in particular are often unaware of their addiction’s origin or they become skilled at surviving their trauma, so for a successful recovery, it’s critical to see a CSAT who is specially trained to treat both the sexual addiction and the underlying trauma.
How do I tell my partner I am struggling with sex addiction?
If you have a sexual addiction, reach out to a CSAT for help. Commit to change and recovery, then tell your partner that you have a sex addiction and that you are actively getting help. It’s important to invite your partner to be a part of the recovery process and to welcome their perspective.
Many sex addicts mistakenly overshare details out of shame or in an attempt to clear their conscience or “come clean” with their partner. In the beginning, however, this will only intensify your partner’s betrayal trauma. Staggered and partial disclosures always do more harm than good.
During a formal disclosure process with a CSAT, the addict has the time needed to recall all of their behaviors and organize them in a straightforward and complete manner for the partner, and the partner has time to put a safety or care plan in place.
For maximum impact, a polygraph may also be used during the disclosure and therapeutic process. Polygraphs often serve as a catalyst for rebuilding trust in a relationship because they require complete honesty from the addict.
Disclosures are akin to heart surgery; you want a heart surgeon to facilitate the procedure.
Is there hope to recover from sex addiction?
Absolutely, yes. There is hope for the sex addict. Sexual addiction is very treatable, but it requires a robust accountability structure with both a 12-step program and a CSAT skilled at diving into the trauma because in order to achieve freedom from a sex addiction–like with any addiction–you must address the root cause.
There is also hope for the partner of the sex addict. Partners often feel left behind in the treatment process because so much attention is put on the addict’s recovery. However, partners of sex addicts experience betrayal trauma and heartbreak at a deep, deep level. For this reason, we recommend that partners meet with a certified partner trauma therapist (CPTT) like our own Allyson Shoptaw.
Lastly, there is hope for your relationship. CSATs and CPTTs are trained to help heal and restore trust in relationships. Couples that recover together can experience intimacy and connection they never dreamed possible. Our therapists have borne witness to the amazing gift of recovery time and time again.
The Finding Place Counseling and Recovery is located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our therapists specialize in treating sexual addiction and betrayal trauma and offer both secular and Christian counseling to sex addicts and their partners. Contact us to schedule a session or to book an intensive.