Many sex addicts do not recognize their behaviors as unhealthy and harmful towards others. The first obstacle for sex addicts is often realizing that they have a problem and need help. Much like drug addicts, sex addicts often need to experience significant negative consequences due to their addiction before they become willing to begin sexual addiction treatment. The negative consequences may be social, physical, emotional, legal or financial.
Several sex addiction treatment programs are based on Patrick Carnes’ book, Out of the Shadows, which lays out the criteria for diagnosing different levels of sexual addiction. Once a sex addict reaches the point when they begin to desire a change, treatment begins. There are both professional and self-help options for sex addiction treatment.
Several 12-step programs are available for sex addicts. Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) are all popular 12-step programs for sex addiction recovery. Each program has a unique approach to ‘sexual sobriety’. Sex addiction meetings are often divided up by gender.
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) allows members to create a personal ideal of sexual sobriety. They identify compulsive and destructive behaviors and vow to remain abstinent of them by working the 12 steps. They often identify acceptable sexual behaviors such as healthy, faithful relationships. The addict generally determines a third group of behaviors as a dangerous middle ground to be avoided. These behaviors may include talking to old partners or getting into risky situations.
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) has a clearly defined term of sexual sobriety for all members. Through the 12 steps, members of SA remain abstinent of all forms of sex, including masturbation. Members can add their own ‘bottom-line’ to their program of abstinence. Their bottom-line may include behaviors such as viewing pornography or fantasizing. SA is criticized by some for defining the ideal sexual relationship to be only a heterosexual marriage.
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) allows members to create their own definition of sobriety and incorporates not only sexual behaviors but also emotional problems. Achieving a healthy, committed relationship is a key part of the SLAA program. Behaviors that are treated in SLAA include extreme dependency on others, sexual compulsions, obsessions with romance or love and addiction to pornography.
In some cases, it is recommended that individuals who suffer from sex addiction seek professional therapy. Sex addiction counseling should always be conducted by a qualified professional who specializes in sex addiction. Sex addiction therapy usually takes a cognitive-behavioral approach and may include the use of medication. Medication can help with underlying disorders that may contribute to compulsive sexual behavior, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder.
Inpatient sex addiction treatment is a popular choice for sex addicts. The level of treatment that a person needs depends on the severity of their addiction. The removal from all sexual images and sexual partners has shown to be helpful for some sex addicts in early recovery.