Sexual Compulsivity/Addiction

What Causes Sexual Compulsion?

In our decades of experience, we have found that any type of addictive behavior is an indication that one’s life is out of balance. There are multiple reasons that a sexually addictive, sexually compulsive behavior many manifests:

  • Anger or rage that was suppressed, related to powerlessness experienced in childhood
  • Depression or anxiety is getting effectively relieved by distracting oneself with sex
  • Fears related to relationships and intimacy are not processed
  • Attachment issues are prevalent, where an individual finds that they can neither stay in nor leave a relationship

The lacking of the skills required to effectively navigate the world because of social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive perfectionism, bipolar-like mood changes, and so on…There are unfinished, unresolved issues from childhood, often caused by some sort of trauma in the family of origin. There has been excessive preoccupation with pornography or illicit sexuality during puberty.

Photo by Renee Fisher

Individuals who move into sexual addictions typically have a history of intimacy disorder.

This is some block to closeness, sharing one’s thoughts and emotions, as well as, deep connection with friends, family or spouse. These deeper issues require specialized treatment.Sexual Compulsion is considered a problem when:

  • Sexual Compulsion is considered a problem when:
  • Sex or thoughts of sex are primary, continual focus
  • Sex is both necessary and distressing
  • Sex is out of control and the person is acting outside their value system
  • Sex is interfering with establishing a healthy, intimate relationship or marriage
  • Sex has interfered with working, such as browsing internet pornography while on the job or an inability to concentrate without becoming distracted with thoughts of sex, or the planning to engage in sex or sexual stimuli
  • Sex or thoughts of sex are obsessive or compulsive
  • The individual feels important or inadequate with performance or lacks desire.

There has been a recent epidemic —like an increase in clients presenting with out of control sexual behavior for men/woman, an Its and children. Access to pornography, and dating websites and chat rooms can seduce an individual who is lonely or unhappy to get hooked on behaving illicitly, out of control, outside their own value system. Often the out of control behavior is progressive and more-time-an experienced their risk. Tolerance can build, requiring more hours more unusual pornography to obtain satisfaction. As sexually addictive behavior increases, genuine heartfelt relationships can become intense and intimacy is displaced. Often the partner’s desirability and physical closeness suffer, resulting in chronic distress and marital difficulties.

Why Harmony Place Monterey?

Dr. Schwartz has specialized in the treatment of sexual compulsivity for 30 years. He has written numerous papers and edited a text called “Treatment of Sexual Compulsivity” He has lectured on the topic with Dr. Patrick Cornes, who is one the leaders in the field. Sexual compulsivity is quite complex and difficult to treat for some individuals. For this reason, coming to a specialty clinic even over a long distance can be advisable.

Photo by Uriel Soberanes

Photo by Imani Clovis

Treatment Process for Sexual Compulsivity

Treatment begins with a thorough assessment. Sexually addictive behaviors can be widely divergent, so understanding each individual’s proclivity and the background is vital. Interventions and treatment plans are based on a complete delineation of the contributing factors. Treatment for sexually compulsive behavior usually begins with abstinence. The individual most often will need to learn how to deal with emotions such as loneliness, sadness, and anxiety in more effective ways. Sometimes a major psychiatric disorder underlies the problem. For a subset of clients, sexual arousal patterns may be atypical; the desire is not felt for a person they would find physically attractive and for whom they might feel affection. In such cases, techniques to facilitate change in arousal partners may be useful.

Treating the Partner Too…

At Harmony Place Monterey, we work with the individual as well as the partner, and as a couple (as applicable). For out-of-town clients, we offer an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) consisting of three hours of daily treatment that includes individual and couples therapy plus group therapy. Participation in a 12-step program is also encouraged between therapeutic sessions if co-dependency is an issue, special treatment for the identified client or partner is available.

Paraphilia/Gender Confusion

Individuals sometimes develop atypical sexual arousal patterns (paraphilias) that can interfere with healthy intimacy when in a relationship, when part of a couple. Examples include fetishes, transvestism, preferences for violence or abuse, humiliation or shaming, and so on. In our experience, these paraphilias are often tied to childhood trauma caused by neglect. We also work with issues related to gender confusion abd any level of dissatisfaction with one’s sense of self and intrapersonal identity.

Hyposexuality

There is an epidemic of inhibited sexual desire treatment involving a detailed assessment of:

  • History of trauma or neglect
  • Physical causes and general health
  • Intimacy issues and attachment difficulties
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Anger and problem-solving skills
  • Communication and capacity to express emotions and control impulses
  • Other psychiatric difficulties
  • Treatment is closely tied to the origin of the problem.