Shrouded in shame and silence, sex addiction is one of the least talked about of all the addictive disorders, and is characterized by a persistent and escalating pattern of sexual activity that is physically or emotionally harmful to the addict or to others. The Mayo clinic estimates that three to six percent of the U. S. population suffer from some kind of sexually compulsive behavior. Sexually compulsive people are those who seem to become addicted to their own neurochemical response to a sexual act, whether it is masturbation, viewing pornography, the use of prostitutes or multiple affairs that cause problems in a committed relationship.
The exact causes of sexual compulsivity remain unclear, but it is known that at least 60% of individuals who suffer from this disorder were sexually traumatized in childhood or early adolescence. Research suggests that this kind of premature sexualization can result in distortions in the trauma victim’s arousal template, leaving an emotional legacy in which, as an adult, the victim of the abuse can achieve peak sexual arousal only in situations that recreate the emotional tone of the trauma.
At Cottonwood, our sex addiction treatment focuses on helping patients retrain the neural pathways that are activated by their sexual behavior. Therapeutic activities, like yoga and meditation, help patients to build new and more adaptive brain circuitry that doesn’t rely on sexual acting out to obtain a state of ease and comfort. Through trauma counseling, EMDR, interpersonal therapy and process groups, patients are able to work through feelings of shame related to their sexuality and learn how to experience and enjoy true intimacy.
In our sex addiction rehab and other addiction programs, we have found that disorders like sex addiction often exist in tandem with co-occurring mood disorders like anxiety and depression, or with other addictions. Learn more about Cottonwood’s commitment to identifying co-occurring disorders.
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