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  • Writer's pictureKasi Drummer

Can I Recover from Sex Addiction?

Updated: Jan 22

Suffering from any addiction can feel overwhelming. Many people describe an addiction as something that felt good at first, and that was still within their control. Sex addiction is even more difficult to control due the pleasure that one experience while acting out. However, over time, it became something that controlled them.

In recent years, researchers have identified a specific struggle with compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors. Many therapists describe this as sexual addiction.

A study published by the American Medical Association found that 7% of women and 10% of women reported “difficulty controlling sexual feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.” These sexual behaviors might include a preoccupation with sex, excessive use of pornography, or having multiple partners and affairs.

Perspectives on Recovery

Knowing that they’re not alone may or may not be a comfort to the millions of people who struggle with such sexual issues. Many people wonder how to cope and overcome a sex addiction.

The word “recovery” is sometimes debated within the mental health industry in general, and particularly within areas of addiction.

Many 12-step groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous and groups modeled after it, promote the idea that one must continue “recovery” forever. Under this perspective, not only should those addicted to one substance abstain, but they should avoid other commonly addictive substances and behaviors as well.

This idea is partially based on the concern that one addiction may be substituted for another. Someone may abstain from sexual acting out, but start drinking. If they can quit drinking then they may take up compulsive gambling. Because of these addictive tendencies, many believe it is important to stay on top of self-care, acknowledge areas of concern, and stay accountable to self and others.

Those with alternative views believe it may not be so straightforward. For example, they suggest that some people may be able to quit drinking for a while and slowly re-introduce an occasional beer or glass of wine. This debate remains ongoing within the mental health industry.

How Sex Addiction Recovery Works

Of course, sex addiction is somewhat different from substance abuse. It’s quite possible to go throughout life without alcohol. However, this would be unrealistic, if not unhealthy, when it comes to sex. Like with overeating, the “substance” itself is not the problem. However, acting in sexual ways that cause harm to you, others, and feel out of control is a different story.

Rather than abstaining from sex entirely, those in recovery learn to accept themselves as they are. They revisit or learn new ways of connecting authentically with others. This may be through finding new platonic friends, or through exploring more vulnerable and meaningful sex with partners.

Patrick Carnes, a well-known expert in sexual addiction, prescribes to the traditional 12-step method. In his book “Out of the Shadows,” he identifies new positive beliefs that those in recovery can come to accept. These include:

  • “I am a worthwhile person deserving of pride”

  • “I am loved and accepted by people who know me as I am”

  • “My needs can be met by others when I let them know what I need”

  • “Sex is but one expression of my need and care for others”

Through adopting these more self-loving views, many have found peace in recovery.

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