Call our Free 24/7 Helpline Now

Sexual Addiction and Substance Abuse

sexual addictionAddictions come in many forms. When we think of addiction, many times, we think of drugs or alcohol and the terrible effects they can have on our lives. Substance abuse can have detrimental effects on our personal and professional lives. It can cost us physically, emotionally and financially. In some cases, an individual may try to stop and simply be unable to withstand the compulsion to use. According to an article published in the New York Times, these same standards can be applied to any type of behavior that has the same effects. When someone has a compulsion they can’t ignore or overcome and their behavior affects their daily life in a negative way, even if that compulsion involves sex, they may suffer from an addiction.

Cause of Sexual Addiction Is Not Understood

Much like substance abuse and addiction, it is not possible to determine who will suffer from sexual addiction and who will not, as explained by Medical News Today. There is some thought, however, that because there has been a great deal of success in treatment with the use of antidepressant medication, there may be a link to abnormalities in the brain.

It is also important to understand that sex addiction isn’t really about sex at all. When an individual is addicted to sex, he or she is using sex as their drug of choice, in a manner of speaking. The use of sex is an escape or avoidance measure, according to NBC News. Just as someone might choose to abuse drugs to reduce their level of anxiety or stress, those who are addicted to sex will use physical contact with another human being to make themselves feel better.

Dangers of Sexual Addiction

Some individuals who suffer from sexual addiction do not have contact with others on a physical basis, at least not initially. These individuals may relegate themselves to online sex services, self-stimulation or masturbation, or the obsessive viewing of pornography. Eventually though, as with any kind of addiction, they may eventually have to increase their level of sexual conduct in order to achieve the emotional state they are seeking. In other cases, individuals may engage in promiscuous behavior with multiple partners from the beginning. In either case, it is important to understand the risks involved in this type of dangerous behavior. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Departmental Management’s information on sexual addiction, the effects can be devastating.

For instance:

  • Almost half of women who suffer from sexual addiction will contract a sexually transmitted disease.
  • About 70 percent of women who suffer from sexual addiction do not use birth control, exposing themselves to health risks and unwanted pregnancy.
  • About 59 percent of individuals suffering from sexual addiction reported symptoms of diagnosable exhaustion.
  • Nearly 40 percent of individuals suffering from sexual addiction have required medical treatment for physical injury.
  • Approximately 56 percent of individuals who meet the criteria for sexual addiction reported having significant financial problems because of their addiction.
  • About 80 percent of individuals suffering from sexual addiction self-reported that they were unable to meet requirements of their job.
  • Nearly 60 percent of individuals diagnosed with sexual addiction engaged in illegal behavior for which they could be arrested or thought they could be arrested.

Difference Between Sexual Addiction and Substance Abuse

Perhaps the most glaring difference between substance abuse and sexual addiction is the fact that one of the two activities – taking drugs and having sex – is a normal part of the human condition. An individual who suffers from cocaine addiction, for instance, can undergo treatment and never use cocaine again. While relapse is a possibility, the intention to not use this dangerous drug is clear. In the case of sexual addiction, there is no sober lifestyle upon which to concentrate. When treatment ends, the individual who suffers from sexual addiction will want to have healthy sex again at some point.

The objective of treatment for sexual addiction is for the individual to no longer use sex as a method of avoiding pain, stress or loneliness. Rather, the person will develop better, healthier coping strategies while paying attention to their own unique warning signs that sexual addiction may resurface.

Symptoms of Sexual Addiction and Substance Abuse Are Comparable

Because sexual addiction and substance abuse are both disorders that involve a lack of control, it is not surprising that they have very similar symptoms. For instance, both disorders may involve:

  • Repeated attempts to stop the behavior without success
  • Interference in one’s personal relationships, such as arguments with family members and feeling the need to lie to cover behaviors
  • Placing the need to engage in that behavior above other significant responsibilities, such as work, parenting, school or other commitments
  • Legal problems related to the behavior, up to and including arrest

Effective Treatments for Sexual Addiction and Substance Abuse Are Similar

womanAccording to an article in Psychology Today, cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective tool for the treatment of sexual addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is also an effective therapy for the treatment of drug addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment method that is designed to help an individual see the irrational patterns that take place in their own thought processes. An example might include a young woman who experienced sexual trauma as a child. Perhaps she experienced sexual abuse at the hands of someone she trusted. She might think, later in life, that sexual contact is somehow related to true love and affection. She may be in search of those feelings and turn to sex to satisfy her need to be accepted and loved.

On the other hand, an individual who has suffered sexual abuse may feel they are unworthy of real love. This particular individual may be using sex to convince herself that she is worth loving. Both of these individuals are associating the act of sex with their own well-being. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an involved process that can change these types of thoughts. Rather than associating sex with their emotional well-being, they may learn to look at the circumstances in their lives with more realistic expectations and the tools they need to improve their quality of life.

Unlike traditional talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy is based on a short-term relationship between the counselor and patient. According to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, this concentrated form of psychotherapy will generally last between six and 20 sessions. During this time, the patient and the counselor will develop a plan that includes homework assignments and hands-on, practical experience for the techniques learned.

In the cases of our two hypothetical women, cognitive behavioral therapy may help them unlearn their expectations for anonymous or promiscuous sex, replacing their behaviors with healthy interaction and true intimacy. In similar fashion, cognitive behavioral therapy can help someone suffering from substance abuse discover that their drug use is causing more problems than it solves, and teach them better decision-making skills regarding her daily life.

Receiving Treatment in a Residential Treatment Facility

If you believe you may be suffering from sexual addiction and substance abuse, getting the help you need when you need it is an important aspect to recovery. The sooner you receive help and remove yourself from the environment in which your addictions have developed, the more you reduce the chances of encountering significantly dangerous consequences. Substance abuse can lead to addiction. Sexual addiction can lead to significant health risks, not to mention the physical danger you may be placing yourself in when your addiction puts you into close contact with anonymous strangers.

The Orchid is dedicated to helping women heal from trauma in their lives, regardless of the circumstances. Our trained and professional staff will never judge you or your behaviors because we understand with compassion and experience that you are not your illness. We are dedicated to using evidence-based, proven treatment methods as well as complementary and alternative therapies that can help you succeed, no matter how many times you have already tried in the past. All you have to do to begin your healing process is call us to find out the many ways we can help.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.