This page was medically reviewed by Stephanie Chick (FDAP), Senior ATP (Addiction Treatment Programme) Therapist at Priory Hospital North London, in July 2020.
As humans, we crave intimacy and close relationships. It’s normal for us to feel this way and it’s actually integral to our humanity. However, with the rise of accessible sexual materials, dating apps, and media surround sex and love, the culture of sex and love is constantly evolving. These changes can result in intimacy disorders, such as sex addiction and love addiction.
If your craving for sex and love has taken over your life and no matter what you do, your needs are not being met, you may be suffering from a sex and love addiction and would benefit from sex and love addiction treatment.
How is Sex and Love Addiction Treated?
The ultimate goal for any sex and love addiction treatment isn’t to deprive you of any form of intimate relationship. It’s about managing your sex and love addiction symptoms, helping you control your urges, and cope with any withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
Treatment for co-dependency addictions shares much the same approach as with treatment methods for other forms of addiction such as compulsive gambling and substance abuse problems. This means focusing on a change in your thoughts and behaviours in order to achieve a desired level of abstinence, which can be defined differently from person-to-person.
Treatment for sex and love addictions doesn’t involve ignoring all relationships, but the therapy involved is designed to help you reach a stage where sexual and romantic activity is engaged only in moderation and does not interfere with your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Despite no clear criteria being robustly defined for when sexual interest becomes excessive, the sexual addiction screening test (SAST) is a useful tool in helping to diagnose this mental health condition.
SAST was developed in co-operation with hospitals, treatment programmes, therapists, and community groups to provide a profile of responses which help to discriminate between addictive and non-addictive behaviour.
Treatment Options for Sex and Love Addiction
When seeking treatment for sex and love addiction, your treatment plan will be made up of various therapy and acceptance techniques. These include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- A 12-step programme
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meetings
Initially, a free and confidential addiction assessment with a highly experienced sex addiction therapist at your nearest Priory hospital gives you the opportunity to further understand the condition and how severely it is affecting your life.
This may involve you detailing elements of your sexual and relationship history in order for your therapist to devise the most effective treatment programme aimed at challenging existing habits
Individual therapy often revolves around cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of talking therapy, which is a good starting point for tackling the compulsive behaviours and obsessions associated with sex and love addiction. Individual therapy can also include dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which teaches mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation.
Your treatment plan may also include psychodynamic therapy, which is used if you are experiencing deep-rooted problems with self-esteem. Longer-term psychodynamic psychotherapy may be helpful if uncovering any unconscious memories and issues developed from childhood that may be a factor in co-dependent behaviour and attitudes towards intimacy.
With the therapy focusing on how your thoughts and emotions are linked, your experienced sex and love addiction therapist will help turn negative thoughts into more positive views on intimacy and relationships. Individual therapy is a very effective sex addiction therapy method and is most commonly used to help treat the addiction.
Recovery from sex and love addiction can be improved with shared discussion during group therapy sessions with other people suffering from addiction.
The realisation that your situation isn’t unique helps ease any feelings of guilt or remorse you may feel after a series of failed relationships or sexual experiences devoid of meaning, and can put into perspective the extent to which your behaviour may be hurting yourself and others.
A 12-Step programme, such as Priory's Addiction Treatment Programme, is a good starting point in receiving sex or love addiction therapy.
While the programme is based on abstinence for substance misuse disorders, in sex and love addiction it will help you to develop healthy patterns of loving and relating. Old habits are hard to break, so establishing a period of abstinence from the harmful behaviour is usually required.
Completing the Addiction Treatment Programme can lead on to engagement with a 12-Step recovery programme such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA). These are recurring conditions and engagement with such a programme is important to remaining in recovery.
SLAA meetings are formatted similarly to AA meetings, where a group of people suffering from sex and love addiction come together and support each other through recovery. These meetings are something that can be continued after a treatment plan has been finished and provide extra support to those who desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction.
The meetings follow the 12-step model that would have been learnt in the 12-step programme taught at Priory.
Recovering from Sex and Love Addiction
If you have recognised that you have an addiction to sex and are ready to begin your journey to becoming well again, there are some suggested steps to take in order to stop:
Accept your problem and confide in others - once you feel ready to talk about your addiction to sex, try to confide in someone that you trust. It may be difficult to accept that you need help, but once you have shared the secret that you may have been trying to hide, it is a huge relief and weight off your shoulders.
Avoid triggers - as many addicts use sex addiction to cope with difficult and intense emotional pain or other dependencies, it is important to recognise in yourself which feelings drive you towards being addicted to sex, be it feelings of loneliness, sadness or anxiety.
Learn new coping methods - when you have recognised a trigger for your sex addiction, it is crucial to develop alternative methods of managing it. These might include exploring your creative side, exercising or talking to someone, be it a friend, partner, family member, therapist or on a relevant online forum.
Sex and love addiction can be incredible challenging, but with the right help, you can regain control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions and can once again live the healthy and satisfying life that you deserve.
Get in Touch Today
For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding sex and love addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here
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