Rehab Treatment Options for Sex Addiction Explained
Sex can be a powerful and intimate expression of love. It is also a strong source of pleasure and can trigger feelings of ecstasy within a person. As it is a significant part of life for almost everyone, sex addiction is often misunderstood and undervalued. To many, it seems almost implausible as an addiction because so many people find it enjoyable and enticing. Yet in the UK alone, tens of thousands suffer from sex addiction.
It becomes a compulsion and obsession that can lead to unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards sex and relationships.
Like any addictive behaviour, it requires treatment from professionals who recognise and understand that sex addiction can destroy lives. Therefore, there are many rehab treatment options out there for sex addicts who want to lead a happier and more fulfilled life.
What to Expect from Treatment?
Sex addiction is treated in a similar way to any other addiction, including those to drugs and alcohol.
Therefore, there is the same process of screening and assessment, detox and therapy, and aftercare. Research outlines effective treatment as addressing both the addictive process and addictive behaviour (Goodman, 1993). Therefore behavioural therapy along with individual and group counselling, self-esteem boosting activities, and sometime pharmacotherapy can treat the issue.
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Addiction screening and assessment
This is the first step on the path to sex addiction treatment. Assessments such as the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST), PATHOS screening, or other similar tools might be used to get a wider outline of an individual’s sexual habits (Carnes, 2018). Such methods assist in evaluating the severity of sex addiction and the longevity of unhealthy sexual behaviour. Then staff can move on to create a more individualised patient treatment plan with informed understanding.
Detox and Therapy
By being in rehab, patients will go through a detox period of not have access to sexual activity, and this is an important part of outpatient treatment too. Similar to drug addiction treatment, you also undergo an individualised plan of therapy. This might include cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy, individual therapy and couples or family counselling. The purpose is to find the root of addiction and internalise tools to aid healthier behaviour in the future.
Follow up and aftercare (to avoid relapse)
As with any addiction, follow up and aftercare is an important part of recovery. It is a main factor in avoiding relapse as you have support to keep you on the path of a healthier lifestyle. Aftercare can last for up to twelve months after treatment and makes the transition to ordinary life much easier. It keeps up self-esteem and confidence levels, assuring individuals that they are not alone on their journey to recovery.
Dual Diagnosis in Sex Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Sex addiction can also be interrelated with some form of mental condition, which perhaps triggers or encourages the addictive behaviour. Therefore, diagnosing both conditions and understanding how they co-occur can be a significant part of treatment and recovery. There are some mental illnesses that are statistically specifically connected to sex addiction.
Borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is diagnosed when a person has difficulty in life about how they think about feel about others and themselves. Symptoms include abandonment issues, intense and fluctuating emotions, a loss of self-identity, a feeling of emptiness, impulsive behaviour, and an inability to maintain stable relationships (Mind, 2018).
Treatment for BPD is often similar to sex addiction treatment, such as counselling and group therapy, which can help with treating a dual diagnosis. Medication is not often recommended due to the broadness of the condition and the fact that not many drugs are proven to help BPD. Self-care treatments like mindfulness and meditation can also ease feelings of anxiety, anger or depression common to sufferers of BPD.
Some research shows that BPD and sex addiction can be connected through a predisposition for impulsive behaviour. Those with BPD can be more likely have had earlier sexual exposure, show greater sexual preoccupation, have casual sexual relationships, and act promiscuously. But, due to its broadness, BPD is a controversial diagnosis in itself, and other research challenges the connection between sex addiction and BPD (Dual Diagnosis).
Depression is a common mental illness with symptoms of low self-esteem, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, low energy, and experiencing a low mood. Due to these effects, depression can fuel addiction, including sex addiction. Similarly, unhealthy addictive sexual behaviour can also prompt or maintain depression. Both conditions can cause feelings of guilt and low self-worth, which makes them particularly interrelated.
Studies have shown a link between sex addiction and depression, as individuals can feel an increased interest in sex when feeling depressed (Bancroft, 2004). Certain triggers of depression, which might include sexual abuse of childhood trauma, can also be triggers of sex addiction. Sometimes medication is recommended, which can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective serotonin & norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), or tetracyclic antidepressants.
Anxiety is when a person is uneasy, however severely, from feelings like fear or worry. It can be diagnosed from symptoms like sleep disturbance, dizziness, and heart palpitations, or when continuous feelings of unease affect your everyday life. Studies on the link between depression and sex addiction often evaluate the connection between anxiety and sex addiction too. A characteristic of some sex addicts is an increased preoccupation with sex when feeling anxious.
Sex addiction can be a coping mechanism for anxiety, a way to deal with or distract from feelings of restlessness, dread, apprehension, or insomnia. Especially if not properly diagnosed, an individual might become hypersexual as a reaction to the intense emotional effects of an anxiety disorder. Medicated treatment for anxiety might be those also used to treat depression like SSRIs and SNRIs, but can also include pregabalin or benzodiazepines.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health issue diagnosed when a person often gets trapped in a cycle of compulsions and obsessions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that intrude upon an individual and cause distress. Compulsions are behaviours that attempt to rid the person of such distressing obsessions. When obsessions and compulsions are so intrusive they disturb your everyday life, you might be suffering from OCD.
Research suggests that between six and 24% of people with OCD experience sexual obsession (Kelly, 2019). This shows a common preoccupation with sex between sex addicts and a number of OCD sufferers. Like sex addiction, OCD can disturb intimate relationships due to an obsessive interest in sex. It can also trigger common feelings of shame or low self-worth, and sexual obsession is a symptom of both conditions.
Medication can be used as part of OCD treatment. Many of the drugs are also used to treat depression and anxiety, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Luvox, and Paxil. Or tricyclic antidepressants like Anafranil. Antipsychotic medications like Risperdal might also be recommended, often improve the effectiveness of SSRIs in reducing OCD symptoms.
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Drug abuse/substance use disorders
There is a strong link between drug or substance abuse and sex addiction as they are both often driven by a similar compulsion of reward through reckless or destructive behaviour. Both conditions trigger addictive chemical reactions in the brain, which the individual stimulates through repeated behaviour. With any dual diagnosis, one condition can influence and feed off the other.
Sex addicts might turn to drug or substance abuse in order to deal with the feelings of guilt or shame that can follow high-risk sexual behaviour. Substance abusers might also engage in more sexual activities for a similar sense of reward as drugs or alcohol. Or they might feel less prohibited in their sexual activities when drunk or high, which could encourage a dependency upon drugs or alcohol. The result can turn into a negative cycle of addiction.
Depending upon the type of substance abuse, medication might be used to treat the issue. For example, those abusing opioids might take methadone as a maintenance drug in order to ease them off painkillers. Medication can sometimes treat substance abuse disorders. This process could consequently help people overcome their sex addiction when facing a dual diagnosis.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It is particularly common for veterans who have fought on the frontlines of war (Farmer, 2014). But it can ultimately affect anyone who has faced trauma. Sufferers might turn to sex as a way of dealing with the feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear that come with PTSD. The rewarding chemicals triggered by sexual pleasure can offer relief or distract from their distress.
Sometimes antidepressants like paroxetine and sertraline can be used to treat PTSD. These might also help treat the roots of sex addiction too. PTSD might trigger sex addiction as people learn to depend upon the feelings of relief and chemically-induced pleasure from sex as a way to reduce stress. The sense of euphoria from chemicals like dopamine can offer fleeting relief but are ultimately an unsustainable method of coping with PTSD.
Duration of Sex Addiction Rehabilitation
Residential rehab generally lasts for up to twelve weeks. But aftercare might have a duration of twelve months to encourage recovery and avoid relapse. Those dealing with a dual diagnosis of a mental health issue and sex addiction might stay longer in inpatient rehab.
However, the duration of treatment always depends on the needs of the individual, the severity of their sex addiction, and their motivation to change their behaviour.
Therapy in Sex Addiction Treatment
Therapy is an important part of dealing with any addiction as it helps you find the roots of your behaviour and learn how to change it in the future.
The exact treatment plan depends upon the state and attitude of the individual. But it will often include the enhancement of self-regulatory functions and behavioural symptom management, conducted through therapy. A variety of different therapeutic methods might be used and combined to treat sex addiction.
Alternative therapies are those that fall outside the terms of mainstream healthcare. One example is art therapy, which uses the creation of art as a tool to aid emotional growth and recovery. Through artwork, sex addicts can tangibly represent often hidden and ashamed thoughts through creative symbolism. It might offer greater relief to portray their feelings through painting or sculpturing, especially those they find difficult to articulate in words.
Equine therapy is another example, which is therapy through working with horses. It often offers a relief from the more intensive, head-based talking therapies. In a less formal setting, you might notices changes in or repetition of certain behaviours that manifest in a real-world environment. Equine therapy can increase behavioural, psychosocial and psychological challenges, which is very important in the recovery of a sex addict.
Trauma therapy is designed to help an individual overcome their reactions to a traumatic experience, one which might have threatened their life, sanity, or bodily integrity. Many sex addicts have experienced such a traumatic, triggering event and use sex as a way to cope with the aftermath of emotions (Hosier, 2014). Therefore, trauma therapy can address the underlying roots of sex addiction for many individuals.
Most forms of trauma therapy adapt ordinary therapies to effectively treat those specifically suffering from trauma. For example, trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TFCBT) teaches you about the effects of trauma and offers ways of facing the reality of the past without getting lost in it. Methods might include psychoeducation, relaxation techniques, effective modulation, and understanding the cognitive triangle.
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12-step Programmes or alternatives
The 12-step programme has been adapted to treat many forms of addiction, including sex addiction. It is a pathway with the purpose of freedom from addictive and destructive sexual behaviour. Some of the steps include admitting powerlessness over addiction, apologising to those affected by an individual’s addiction, and admitting to personal wrongdoings. They are the core principles for living an addiction-free life.
Treatment for sex addiction might include alternatives to the 12-step programme. For example, BRENDA is a counselling method that uses cognitive behavioural therapy. Each letter stands for a different step of the programme, including biopsychosocial evaluation, empathy, and direct patient advice. Therapists might stick to one pathway towards sex addiction recovery or use multiple methods depending on the needs of the individual.
H3 Behavioural Therapies for Sex Addiction
Behavioural therapies for sex addiction focus on reconditioning learned behaviour so individuals can lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) addresses the psychological processes behind sex addiction and teaches techniques to avoid unhealthy actions. Methods might include role-playing or storytelling to actively alter attitudes towards sex and build coping strategies to tackle addictive patterns.
The Role of Counselling in Sex Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Counselling plays an important role in addiction recovery, including treating the unhealthy mindsets and behaviours behind sex addiction. The therapeutic process of counselling offers a support path for individuals and professional guidance along the way. As well as understanding the past influences of their addiction, sex addicts can learn the strategies and tools to promote positive change and eventually live an addiction-free life.
Counselling guides you forward into a better future. There are various different frameworks and treatment programmes.
All are adapted and combined to fit the needs of the individual and their specific road to sex addiction recovery. Emotional and practical support from counsellors establishes an environment of care in which you can overcome sex addiction and avoid relapse.
Individual vs Group Therapy
Group therapy supports sex addicts in knowing that they are not alone. Peer support can positively influence an individual into understanding the reality of addiction and seeing that others face the same challenges. While it can be greatly beneficial to work together and overcome similar issues as a group, some struggle with social environments. Not everyone thrives in a group and shy people might not be comfortably honest or open with their thoughts.
Individual therapy is when a therapist works one-on-one with a sex addict. There is an environment of trust and understanding guiding the individual into a happier future. They can develop coping mechanisms and learn to build healthy relationships free from addiction. While individual therapy offers more intense focus on personal issues, you might miss the community spirit offered by group therapy. That is why both are often provided in a treatment plan.
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Choosing a Treatment Centre for Sex Addiction Treatment and Rehab
There are many things to consider when deciding upon a treatment centre for sex addiction. Factors include the required duration of stay, location, and the age and gender arrangements in each facility.
Some choices will depend on personal preference. But others will be advisedly better options for the benefits of successful treatment and recovery. While all addictions have similar elements, sex addiction does require unique considerations in terms of rehab.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment
Short-term treatment is briefer and more intense. It might be a better option for those recently noticing a growing addiction to sex, who have an awareness of their behaviour and a strong will to stop it from further damaging their life. Those choosing residential rehabilitation might need a break from daily routines that trigger unhealthy behaviour. Short-term treatment might prompt the necessary boost and self-esteem to continue recovery within their daily life.
Long-term treatment is a larger commitment and requires more time away from your usual daily routine. It is better for those who need to reassess deeply-rooted addictive behaviour and systematically train themselves to make different choices in the future. Long-term might be the right option for sex addicts who have struggled with their addiction for a long time and need a comparatively longer stay to re-balance their mindsets, health, and sense of self.
All-Age Rehabs vs. Specific Age Group Rehabs
All-age rehabs have no age limits on those admitted to the facility. Counsellors understand that sex addiction can affect anyone at any age and is not limited to a select criteria of people. Through group therapy or recreational activities, patients can learn from one another and perhaps pass on knowledge, experience, or fresh perspectives to those of other ages. If a sex addict also has a sexual disorder like paedophilia, they will not stay at an all-age rehab centre.
Specific age group rehabs do place an age-limit on those admitted to the treatment centre. Adolescents also suffer from sex addiction and might need specialised care. Teens have different attitudes towards sex as they are freshly introduced to a typically adult concept and less familiar or experienced with its effects. Adolescent rehabs might offer education programmes so patients can maintain their schoolwork while treating sex addiction.
Adults and seniors might also find it easy to recover from sex addiction if in an environment of people their own age. During activities like group therapy, it might be easier to open up and be honest to people more relatable to the individual. Older sex addicts might also require additional resources to treat other conditions associated with old age. Or they might prefer more relaxing activities than teens or adults when treating sex addiction.
Gender-Specific vs. Mixed Gender Programmes
Some rehabs are gender specific, meaning they only contain men or women. This can be an important factor for sex addicts. Sexual relationships during rehab are never recommended as romance can distract an individual from treatment and recovery. But this is particularly true for sex addicts. Heterosexual sex addicts might find that a mixed gender rehabilitation environment disturbs their progress.
However, some argue that mixed gender programmes are a more realistic representation of life outside rehab. Therefore, learning to cope with a true representation of society in the safe space of a treatment centre is useful. Then, when a sex addict is undergoing recovery in the real world, the presence of both genders might not be such a shock. But others might have a traumatic association with the opposite gender and feel safer in a same-gender environment.
Treatment Near Home vs. Different City or County
Choosing treatment close to or far from home is a decision faced by most addicts. Some might have triggers of sexual behaviour in their local city that they want to get as far away from as possible, even if in inpatient rehab. The fresh-start feeling of being in another place can prompt new perspectives and hope for a different future. But it can also feel lonely or overwhelming without the familiarity of a known environment.
Others would prefer to stay close to family and friends who can offer support on the road to sex addiction recovery. Changing behaviours within a familiar city might help make progress easier when applying new routines and strategies to the real world. Local treatment is often more affordable than rehab in a different city or country. Avoiding financial stress can help an individual focus on recovery and evade anxiety that might trigger promiscuous behaviour.
What Is an Inpatient Sex Addiction Treatment Programme?
An inpatient sex addiction treatment programme takes place within a residential facility.
It is a form of rehabilitation that moves you from your everyday routine into a safe and controlled environment. In such a space, you can focus on recovery from sex addiction and undergo an individualised treatment plan of behavioural therapy and counselling.
Advantages of Inpatient Sex Addiction Treatment and Rehab Centres
One benefit of inpatient sex addiction treatment is structure. You are not distracted by the small duties of everyday life like cooking and cleaning. Instead, you are free to focus on personal recovery. With a structured routine, you are kept busy but given time to reflect upon the roots of sex addiction and the potential of an addiction-free future. A consistent routine offers a sense of order that many addicts don’t feel in their usual daily life.
The positive influence of others in the rehab centre, including patients and staff, can also be beneficial. A supportive and communal environment can aid recovery and help an individual recognise that they are not alone. 24-hour medical and therapeutic care means that professionals are always around to help. Plus they have expertise and experience in the different therapeutic techniques used for sex addiction treatment.
Outpatient Sex Addiction Treatment Programme
An outpatient sex addiction treatment programme does not happen in a rehabilitation residence. Instead, you receive regular treatment while still living at home. While this choice is more affordable, it is a less intensive option and keeps the individual in a familiar environment, potentially with familiar triggers of addictive behaviour. The disturbance to everyday life is beneficial to continue working but makes changing unhealthy daily routines more difficult.
Sex Addiction Rehabs and Confidentiality
Confidentiality is a huge part of the therapeutic alliance that establishes trust between you and your counsellors. All your emotions and thoughts expressed during therapy in rehab is confidential. Staff are trained to guard the identity of patients to ensure that sex addicts can focus solely on recovery without facing judgement or feeling anxious. Not feeling judged for or ashamed about your honest feelings is an integral part of sex addiction treatment.
Confidentiality is also an obligation. UK laws ensure that sensitive information is protected by legal and ethical frameworks.
Those undergoing sex addiction treatment have the right to choose whether or not they tell their friends and family about their admission to rehab and process of recovery.
Questions to Ask Treatment Centres and Insurers
What are the results of sex addiction rehabilitation? Before admission to rehab, an individual has the right to know the success rates of treatment. Inpatient facilities require a great disturbance to everyday life. By hearing the success stories of others and reassurance of the specific benefits of rehab, you can rest assured that the choice is worth it.
What is the length of the sex addiction treatment programme? The answer to this question depends upon the specific requirements of the individual, such as their life situation and severity of the addiction. Mentally preparing for the realistic timescale of rehab can be an important step. It can help you sort practical matters, like time off work or rearranging commitments. But it can also motivate you to face treatment and fight sex addiction.
Does my insurance cover sex addiction rehab? Any addiction should be covered by health insurance in the same way as another other medical treatment. But staying informed about the specifics of coverage is important as length or expense factors might vary. For example, sometimes insurance covers treatment but doesn’t include residential costs.
Does the centre recognise dual diagnosis? Dual diagnosis is an important part of understanding sex addiction. Professionals should know that sex addiction could have an interrelated link with a mental health condition. The answer to this question can also shed light on whether medicated treatment might be necessary.
Sex Addiction Rehab and Treatment Statistics
There is very little research on sex addiction compared to alcohol and drug abuse. However, statistics show that it is a very real issue with individual UK therapists treating up to 70 people a year for sex addiction (Henley, 2010). In fact, in the US, it wasn’t even officially recognised as an addiction until 1983. Yet statistics suggest that up to 1 in 10 people have faced an addiction to sex (Health Research Funding).
Sex Addiction Treatment and Rehab Success Rates
Most people facing an addiction don’t seek treatment. In the US, statistics show that over 23 million people live with addiction. Yet only about 10% of them seek and receive treatment. Similar statistics in the UK show that the number of people seeking treatment for addiction, including sex addiction, is shockingly low. Still, for those who do seek help, there are numerous success stories out there for those who have recovered after sex addiction treatment (Addictions, 2019).
Get Help Today
If you recognise the symptoms of sex addiction in yourself or a loved one, you can get help today. Treatment is available. Just talk to an adviser who can outline the next steps. Asking for support is the first step of recovery. You can start your path on the journey to a future free from sex addiction immediately.
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