Sex addiction is the term used to describe any sexual activity that the person feels is out of control. It is also known as sexual compulsion and sexual dependency.
When a person has a sexual addiction, it’s as though they are compelled to seek out and engage in sexual behaviour to satisfy needs, despite the problems it may cause to their personal, work and social life.
Sexual activity may mean sex with a partner, but it may also include excessive masturbation, use of pornography, online chat rooms, phone sex or paying for sex.
What is a sex addiction?
Having a high sex drive does not necessarily mean you have an addiction. Neither does regular use of pornography, cybersex or other sexual activities. In fact, regular engagement in sexual activity is considered healthy. It’s when you feel you can no longer control these actions that it may be a problem. If you’re engaging in sexual activity that may be putting you or other people at risk, or it’s having a negative effect on your own or another person’s life, consider speaking to a professional.
Relationship counselling service, Relate describe sex addiction as:
Being sexually addicted is not defined by the activity itself but by the possible negative effect on the individual’s quality of life and on those around them.
Control is the difference between a sex addict and a non-addict. Sexual addiction may result in the person spending a lot of time planning, engaging in and recovering from the chosen activity. A sex addict feels unable to stop the behaviour, in spite of any physical, emotional, relational or financial cost of said activities. It's thought that for many, engaging in these sexual activities are a way to cope with psychological pain.
Signs of a sex addiction
It is important to understand the difference between a healthy sex life and an addiction.
While the following may not accurately reflect how you’re feeling or your experience, these are common behaviours associated with a sexual addiction. Whether the following statements are familiar or not, if you're worried, it is important you talk to someone.
- Seeking frequent casual sex.
- Having multiple affairs even if you are in a relationship.
- Excessive use of pornography. To such an extent that it gets in the way of daily activities, such as work and socialising.
- A desire to stop having sex but being unable to. This lack of control goes further than a general enjoyment of sex, and may even lead to an active dislike of it.
- Using sex as a distraction or coping mechanism. If you feel like you need to seek sex for emotional reasons or to distract from life's stresses, your behaviour could be unhealthy.
- Needing to increase the frequency of sexual encounters to get the same ‘high’.
- Feeling low and guilty afterwards - being unable to do anything about something you know is harming you can have a detrimental effect on your mental well-being.
- Spending a long time planning sexual encounters. This is indicative of obsessive behaviour and can be dangerous for both you and the people you encounter.
- Missing important events or work to engage in sexual activities. This may result in you feeling as though your entire life has been taken over by your addiction.
Overcoming a sex addiction
If you think you have a sex addiction, or are worried about your habits, tackling it on your own can be a very daunting, lonely road. It may not be easy, but talking to someone about your feelings can be a great help. If you’re not comfortable talking to a friend or family member, consider talking to a professional.
Recognising and accepting that you may have a problem are the first steps to recovery. After this, you can begin to take the next steps. The journey is different for everyone and one person’s experience will differ to yours, but suggested steps include:
Accepting the problem and confiding in others
When you feel ready to talk about your addiction, confide in someone you trust. If this isn’t possible, or you’re not ready to talk to a close friend or family member, consider speaking to a professional. Asking for help isn’t easy, but it’s OK to need extra support. Also, talking to someone about how you feel is often a huge relief, especially if you’ve been keeping it to yourself for a long time.
Coping with your triggers
You may already know what triggers your addiction to certain sexual activities. If there are certain feelings or situations that drive you towards these activities, such as loneliness, sadness or anxiety, it's important you recognise these and learn how to cope in other, healthier ways. This may mean speaking to a counsellor or hypnotherapist. They can work with you to understand what may be causing the problem and teach you techniques to cope with the feelings.
Speaking to a professional may also help you to understand what may have caused your sex addiction. If engaging in sexual activities is your way of coping with deeper feelings, it's important you take the necessary steps to address them. Always remember that support is available, you don’t need to go through this alone.
Hypnotherapy for sex addiction
Hypnotherapy can provide considerable support in overcoming a sex addiction. However, for hypnosis for addiction to be effective, the client will first have to accept that he/she has a problem. The client will then have to want to make a change. While certain behaviours can be changed through hypnosis, the client must want to address the problem for the hypnosis to be a success. Recognising a problem and having a willingness to change will result in the client being more open to the subliminal suggestions during the session.
Hypnotherapy for sex addiction focuses on both the addiction itself and any possible triggers. The hypnotherapist will typically ask you to think about any particular situations you believe to be a trigger for your addiction. For example, do you find yourself wanting to engage in sexual activity after an argument, or stressful experience? You may also be asked to recall moments where you crave sexual activity, and when you don’t.
You may also be asked to record your feelings during these times. Tracking your addiction and recording any behaviours, thoughts and how you feel before and after engaging in the activity can give the hypnotherapist an idea of your triggers, and how you can manage them.
What to expect from a hypnotherapy session
Hypnotherapy for addiction aims to access your unconscious and change the thought patterns and behaviours believed to be causing the problem. Hypnotherapy uses the power of suggestion to alter the way you think and react to certain to situations. Your hypnotherapy sessions will depend on you as an individual, as well as taking into consideration your triggers, your past experiences and lifestyle. If your sex addiction is believed to be a result of a past experience, for example, hypnosis can help you through the recovery journey. Supported by the hypnotherapist and tailored sessions, you'll learn how to overcome the trauma and out of the negative cycle.
The number of sessions you have is completely up to you, so speak to your hypnotherapist and discuss how many you think are suitable. If you come to the end of your booked sessions but you, or your hypnotherapist, believe you may benefit from extra sessions, this can be discussed. You may also be taught self-hypnosis techniques, which can help you cope with potential triggers long after your sessions have finished.
Worried about someone else?
A sex addiction doesn’t only affect the ‘addict’ but the people around them. If you’re worried about a loved one, or their addiction is beginning to affect your quality of life, as well as theirs, it’s important you talk to somebody. If you’re able to speak to them about how you feel, express your willingness to support them and be there to listen to them. If they’re not ready to talk, that’s OK too, just be there when they’re ready.
Consider talking to a counsellor or hypnotherapist for further support. They can provide you with information on how they can help you and your partner manage and overcome the addiction. It’s important you look after your own health and happiness, as well as someone else’s.
Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself first.
Find more information about hypnotherapy on our FAQs.
Find a hypnotherapist dealing with sex addiction
All therapists are verified professionals.