The Benefits Of A Sex Addiction Therapist

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated May 10, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Many people living with sex addiction may experience trouble controlling their sexual thoughts, behaviors, or urges. Sex addiction may occur when a person uses sex compulsively or dependently, regardless of the potentially harmful consequences, like addiction. While sex addiction might harm relationships, family members, or lead to significant adverse effects in multiple areas of your life, therapy can teach you coping skills and help you identify and work through the underlying causes. 

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Compulsive sexual behavior

Sex addiction is a general term to describe a psychological dependency characterized by excessive thoughts, urges, behaviors, and desires related to sexual activity and challenges controlling them. Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) can be referred to as sex addiction, hypersexuality, sexual compulsivity, and sexual impulsivity. Many medical professionals debate whether excessive sexual impulses are an addiction, compulsion, or impulse control disorder. Each classification indicates a specific treatment plan, and it can be challenging to determine when compulsive sexual behavior becomes problematic. In these cases, reaching out to a therapist might be advantageous. 

The symptoms of sex addiction

This addiction may be wrongly portrayed as a joke in the media, trivializing the effect on those living with symptoms. As with many dependencies, knowing the signs and symptoms can make it feel safer to seek treatment early or help a loved one take steps toward recovery. Sex addiction can be challenging to manage alone, and therapy may be an effective way to learn coping skills and receive support. Research shows that sex addiction can function much like alcohol or substance use disorder in terms of its impact on the human brain. Having an active libido may not mean you are addicted to sex. However, if your sexual habits or compulsive sexual behaviors harm one or more aspects of your life, consider reaching out for therapeutic help. If you are afraid that you or a loved one may have an addiction, here are some sex addiction symptoms to keep an eye out for.

Though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders does not classify sex addiction among its list of mental disorders, signs you can look for can include: 

  • Cheating on romantic partners
  • Risky sexual behavior and unsafe sex practices
  • Obsessive dating
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Compulsive pornography use (porn addiction)
  • Difficulty stopping sexual behavior despite adverse consequences
  • An urge to have sex multiple times a day or in unsafe locations 

Sex addiction and relationships

According to the authors of a paper about compulsive sexual behavior in the Journal of Psychosexual Health, sexual addiction has been ignored by clinicians despite potentially causing significant emotional and behavioral symptoms. Few reputable studies have been conducted on this type of sexual behavior or sexual compulsion. While the debate continues within the psychological community about the criteria and the symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior and its facets, those living with addiction and their partners or families may still require therapeutic support. The addiction might involve excessive pornography consumption, compulsive masturbation, risky sexual behavior, or sexual activity with another person despite harmful consequences and their efforts to stop or control the behavior. 

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Sex addiction treatment options

Many available sex addiction treatment programs focus on separating the clients from their harmful behaviors. During therapeutic treatment, a therapist may consider your thoughts, emotions, and goals. They also may consider if you have a substance use disorder or other mental health conditions before beginning treatment. Therapy, either online or in person, can help them work through their feelings and address aspects of their mental and physical health, including any anxiety, depression, guilt, or shame they may be feeling.  

Sex addiction and compulsive sexual behavior are difficult conditions, and what does a sex therapist do in these situations? A qualified therapist can help you determine the underlying reasons for your sex addiction. However, sex addiction treatment may take time. Treatment for sex addiction often involves therapy, self-help support groups, and therapeutic medications to mitigate addiction symptoms. The primary goal of therapy may be helping the client reduce excessive sexual behaviors while maintaining healthy levels of other activities. Below are a few options to treat compulsive sexual behaviors.

Speak with a qualified therapist

The process of therapy (talk therapy) may help you explore the causes, thoughts, or beliefs behind your CSB and teach you how to manage them with minimal impact on your life. Therapeutic treatment can be effective in individual, group, family, or couple forms. Many therapists favor cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify unhealthy or unhelpful ideas related to sex and replace them with healthier perspectives and thought processes. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a form of CBT focused on accepting your thoughts and urges and committing to strategies that promote actions consistent with your values.

Psychodynamic therapy is another form of therapy centered on increasing awareness of your unconscious thoughts and behaviors. This evaluation offers insight into your motivation and may allow you the opportunity to resolve conflicts.

Distinguishing healthy and unhealthy sexual behavior

Sex is a natural, healthy activity between consenting adults, but it may have negative impacts if someone pursues it to the point that it interferes with everyday life or their relationships. Unhealthy patterns may cause conflict and lead to unintended health and safety concerns. CSB often drives a person to continue seeking sex despite these negative consequences. However, education and therapy may offer an intervention. 

For many individuals, sex was considered a taboo topic while growing up and your parents may not have discussed what a healthy sexual relationship is with you. Sex addiction treatment can help you differentiate between healthy and unhealthy behaviors in yourself and others. For example, seeking a new sexual partner after an adverse event might be a harmful way to cope with these difficult emotions. Sexual interactions with CSB can often leave a person feeling worse and more vulnerable than before and may limit their ability to appreciate sex healthily.  

Stephen B. Levine, the author of a study about sexual addiction, states, “conventional society expects adults to manage their sexual behavior within certain limits and parameters. These expectations form largely unwritten rules that support the institution of marriage, preserve the dignity and health of the partner who expects monogamy, and shield children from the risks of family breakup and skepticism about love.” Discussing consent, sexual health, medical history as it pertains to sex, and sexuality can reduce expectations, ensure trust, and establish healthy relationships. 

Recognize prompting events or thoughts

Suppose you’re using sexual activity to avoid the past, escape emotional or physical pain, or feel less alone. In that case, it may be helpful to identify what situations commonly cause you to feel this way. When you know the thoughts or behaviors that prompt you to want to partake in sex, you can talk to your therapist about challenging these and finding healthier coping mechanisms.  

Managing a dual diagnosis

Many individuals living with sex addition also have a history of co-occurring conditions. Common examples of these include bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and personality disorders. When sex addiction co-occurs with a mental health disorder, outpatient treatment such as therapy and medication can be helpful to address the addiction and the underlying symptoms of mental illness. Certain mood disorder medications such as mood stabilizers can be effective in managing the impulsive thoughts that accompany sex addiction.

Coping with sex addiction

Sex addiction and compulsive sexual behavior can be difficult conditions requiring a multifaceted treatment plan, including various therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, relapse-prevention therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and medication. Many people may also find that support from a self-help support group can help keep them accountable and make it easier to resist sexual urges. You can also try the following coping strategies to help you cope with sex addiction. 

Journal

Keep a journal of your sexual urges and times when you’ve made mistakes. Track the date, time, duration, and intensity from 1-10, along with what coping skills you practiced, how well they worked, and whether you repeated them. You can also journal about your emotions regarding sexual thoughts and sexual behaviors. Studies show that journaling can improve mental health and allow a healthy outlet for expression. 

Avoid prompting stimuli

For some people with sex addiction, avoiding certain people, places, or situations that might prompt a sexual urge could be beneficial at the beginning of recovery. For example, if strip clubs activate your sex drive, you may try avoiding them altogether. While avoidance might not be an effective long-term strategy, you might utilize it until you learn new coping skills from a sex addiction therapist. 

Learn from mistakes

Recovery from any addiction can be long-term and challenging. Treat yourself with kindness when you make mistakes and learn from the experience. Reward yourself when you meet milestones and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.

Join a support group

Groups and programs such as Sex Addicts Anonymous provide supportive, non-judgmental spaces to discuss addictive behavior with other people working to overcome sex addiction. Though it can be difficult to stop engaging in certain sexual behaviors, group therapy can help you feel less alone.

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Dating someone with sex addiction

Dating, living with, or being married to someone with hypersexual behavior may cause challenges. You might feel overwhelmed by the frequency of sexual activities or a lack of intimacy during sexual intercourse. In addition, you might worry about relationship problems,  infidelity, or exposure to sexually transmitted infections. These concerns can be valid, and you might also benefit from sex addiction therapy on your own – or couples or family therapy with your partner. You can also set sexual boundaries and ensure consent is present in your relationship. 

Sex addiction treatment

It can be challenging to accept professional help for sex addiction due to stigma or fear of vulnerability. However, sex addiction therapy can be effective. You can consider individual therapy or couples therapy and learn unique skills to target your unwanted sexual behaviors or urges while minimizing their impact on your life. You can also consider online therapy if you’re looking for a less stigmatized form of therapy. With online therapy, you can speak with a mental health professional via phone, video, or live chat therapy sessions. Through many platforms, like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples, you are free to choose a nickname when you sign up to stay unknown during treatment. Therapists can also provide personalized worksheets, resources, and advice. 

CBT is one of the most popular treatments for sex addiction, and a recent study found that online sessions of CBT can be as effective as in-person treatments. The same study found that virtual therapy is often less expensive and offers greater reachability than office visits. 

Counselor reviews

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Takeaway

Sex addiction can have distressing symptoms and impacts. Can a sex therapist near me help, you may ask? Yes, sex therapy or CSB counseling expert may help you develop coping strategies to withstand urges and communication skills to build a stronger relationship with your partner or a healthier relationship with sex to feel in control of your behaviors and urges. If you’re interested in discussing your symptoms with a professional, consider reaching out to a therapist for compassionate guidance and support.

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