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Compulsive sexual behavior: when is it time to seek treatment?
September 22, 2020 at 7:00 AM

As a psychologist, many clients come to my practice seeking therapy for various addictions and compulsive behaviors. For those suffering from compulsive sexual behavior, it can be difficult knowing whether or not treatment is necessary.

In this article, I’ll be taking a closer look at what constitutes compulsive sexual behavior, and I’ll share some ideas to help you understand when treatment is needed.

What constitutes compulsive sexual behavior?

Some people have naturally high sex drives, but this is different from compulsive sexual behavior. Compulsive sexual behavior, sometimes called "sexual addiction" or "hypersexuality disorder," is a preoccupation with sexual activities or ideas.

Those suffering from this disorder may find themselves feeling obsessed with their sexual fantasies, and they may have urges and behaviors that are difficult to control. This can take many forms, including compulsive masturbation, cybersex, unusual sexual behavior, and excessive pornography use.

Individuals who struggle this way often have trouble maintaining relationships due to their compulsive behaviors. Some may also have trouble keeping a steady job. Generally speaking, the key differentiator in separating most “addictions” from regular behavior is the loss of control.

For instance, someone with a sex addiction may display the following behaviors:

  • Neglecting important responsibilities to engage in sexual behavior or fantasies.
  • Regularly using sex to cope or avoid unpleasant emotions.
  • A pattern of engaging in sexual behaviors that threaten their well-being or the well-being of others.

When is it time to seek treatment?

Untreated, compulsive sexual behavior can damage a person’s career, health, relationships, self-esteem, and more. But how do you know when it’s time to seek treatment?

I recommend seeking treatment if any of the following occurs: 1) sex becomes a major focus in your life; 2) your relationships are not what you want because of your involvement in the compulsive behaviors; or 3) you are finding it difficult to control your urges or behaviors. You should also seek treatment if your sexual behaviors are becoming disruptive or harmful to others.

Some patients feel embarrassment or shame about seeking treatment, but it is important to know that you are not alone. Many people have successfully overcome compulsive sexual behaviors, but more importantly know what it is that drives them to do these things. They also become happier in their relationships and know how to maintain them. Also, what you share is confidential (unless it involves an imminent threat of harming yourself or others). Your right to privacy is one of my highest concerns.

Treatment options for compulsive sexual behavior

My treatment approach involves individual psychotherapy that is informed by contemporary psychodynamic theory. For many patients, but not all, seeing me more than once a week is an effective way to efficiently move to the core of these problems and getting a better psychological and behavioral understanding of them. Occasionally, I might recommend pharmacotherapy or a support group to assist in providing the support you need.

Please feel free to contact me through any of the means provided on my website. I do offer virtual sessions for those who need them