Every type of addiction or mental health condition comes with a set of misconceptions from the public. This is especially true for sex addiction. The social taboos on both sex and addictive behaviors make this condition poorly understood since it is not often discussed openly.
As with other conditions, learning the facts about sex addiction is essential to dispel the many myths and misconceptions. Understanding the truth about sex addiction will also make it easier for people to determine if they or someone close to them has a sex addiction and if so, find the proper treatment.
Myth #1: Sex addiction isn’t real
Fact: Sex addiction is a real condition with real consequences.
There is no question that sex addiction is a major problem with devastating effects. When a person has an addiction to sex, it interferes significantly with their daily life. They often want to stop thinking about or seeking out sex, but find themselves unable to. Counselors can receive specialized training in sex addiction therapy to help patients who are struggling with it.
Psychology professionals are still debating whether sex addiction truly is a disease in its own right. Currently, sex addiction is not officially classified as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the primary guide for mental health diagnosis and treatment in the United States. It is, however, recognized by other medical organizations around the world. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized “compulsive sexual behavior disorder” in their International Classification of Diseases.
Myth #2: Sex addicts have sex all the time
Fact: Having a sex addiction does not always mean having more sex.
You may think sex addiction equates to spending as much time as possible having sex. This is simply untrue. Sex addiction can manifest in many different ways. While someone with this kind of addiction does spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about engaging in sexual behaviors, they don’t necessarily feed their addiction by having frequent sexual intercourse.
It is true that some people with sex addictions seek intercourse frequently with different partners or from sex workers, but they may also turn to different outlets for their sexual urges. Some sex addicts may spend more time viewing pornography or simply fantasizing about sexual encounters. In fact, many men who describe themselves as sex addicts actually engage in less sex than average.
Myth #3: All sex addicts have multiple partners
Fact: A person with a sex addiction may have multiple partners, only one, or none at all.
With sex addiction comes uncontrollable sexual urges, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into a large number of sexual partners. Many people with sex addictions are married or in another type of committed relationship and stay true to their partners. Others are single and don’t have any sexual partners.
Unfortunately, there are often consequences for the partners of sex addicts. The addicted partner may act out their compulsive behavior in several ways including:
- Extra pressure for sexual intercourse or sexual favors
- Demanding a higher frequency of sexual contact
- More assertive or aggressive behavior during sex
- Less emotional intimacy before or after sex, and in the relationship in general
- Spending excess time or money watching porn
- Manipulative behaviors
- Anger when confronted about porn use or sexual behaviors
Myth #4: Sex addiction only affects men
Fact: People of any gender, not just men, can become addicted to sex.
Men are often viewed as being more sexually aggressive or having greater sexual desires than women. While the majority of people with sex addictions are men, not all are. Research on female sex addiction is sparse, but both men and women can be addicted to sex.
Women with sex addictions often face less social acceptance. Hypersexuality in females often receives harsher judgment and characteristics like having multiple partners or watching porn are often seen as normal in males, but are frowned upon in females. For example, a man who has sex frequently and with many partners might be called a “ladies man,” while a woman with those same traits may be labeled a “slut” or a “whore.”
Myth #5: Sex addicts are inherently unfaithful
Fact: Many people with sex addicts remain faithful to their partner.
If you’re asking “can a sex addict be faithful?”, you’re not alone. Sex addiction and cheating may seem like they would go hand-in-hand, but that is not necessarily the case. While having multiple sexual partners is one characteristic of sex addiction, it is not the only one. People with sex addictions can seek a variety of outlets for their sexual urges, which may or may not include having sex with more than one person.
Many people with sex addictions married or in other types of committed relationships and may turn to other means to satisfy their desires, such as watching porn or simply fantasizing about sex. Someone who is married to a sex addict may feel increased pressure from their partner for more sex to meet their needs.
Myth #6: Sex addiction and porn addiction are the same thing
Fact: Sex addiction and porn addiction are two different disorders.
Sex addiction and porn addiction share a lot of similarities, but they are distinct conditions. Both involve uncontrollable desires to perform behaviors of a sexual nature, but there are some key differences in these behaviors.
The main difference between sex addiction and porn addiction lies in the specific behavior that is addictive. Sex addiction is an inability to control urges to perform sexual acts. Porn addiction, on the other hand, is an inability to control the urge to view pornographic material. Many people with sex addiction do view porn excessively. However, not everybody who compulsively watches porn has a sex addiction.
Myth #7: A 12-step program is the main method of sex addiction treatment
Fact: There are several methods for sex addiction treatment.
Most people are familiar with 12-step programs for treating addictions. For decades, they have been used to treat alcoholism, drug addiction, and even gambling addictions, along with other addictive behaviors. With not all psychologists or medical professionals recognizing sex addiction, 12-step programs were often used to help those who had trouble finding help elsewhere.
The 12-step model has been successful for sex addiction treatment but it may be insufficient on its own. This type of program certainly does help some people, but it is not effective for everybody. Other sex addiction treatment methods include psychotherapy, which is also called talk therapy or counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in particular, has been successful in helping patients learn to control their urges through healthy behaviors and adjust their lifestyle in a positive manner. Through these therapies, people with sex addictions learn coping mechanisms to deal with the underlying causes of their behaviors and learn better ways to manage their symptoms.
Sex addiction is often accompanied by other addictions, including substance use disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with a sex addiction and substance abuse, specialized help is available. Contact The Recovery Village today to learn what options are available to you.
American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy. “AASAT Certification & Training Programs.” Accessed June 4, 2019. American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” May 2013. Accessed April 20, 2019. Kraus SW, Krueger RB, Briken P, First MB, Stein DJ, Kaplan MS, Voon V, Abdo CHN, Grant JE, Atalla E, Reed GM. “Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder in the ICD-11.” World Psychiatry. January 19, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2019. World Health Organization. “International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision.” May 25, 2019. Accessed May 29, 2019. Schneider JP. “Compulsive and Addictive Sexual Disorders and the Family.” CNS Spectrums, October 2000. Accessed June 4, 2019. Murphy SN. “It’s not about sex.” Counseling Today, December 1, 2011. Accessed June 4, 2019. Weiss R. “Sexual Addiction, Hypersexual Disorder and the DSM-5: Myth or Legitimate Diagnosis?” Counselor, September-October 2012. Accessed June 11, 2019.
American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy. “AASAT Certification & Training Programs.” Accessed June 4, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” May 2013. Accessed April 20, 2019.
Kraus SW, Krueger RB, Briken P, First MB, Stein DJ, Kaplan MS, Voon V, Abdo CHN, Grant JE, Atalla E, Reed GM. “Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder in the ICD-11.” World Psychiatry. January 19, 2018. Accessed May 29, 2019.
World Health Organization. “International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision.” May 25, 2019. Accessed May 29, 2019.
Schneider JP. “Compulsive and Addictive Sexual Disorders and the Family.” CNS Spectrums, October 2000. Accessed June 4, 2019.
Murphy SN. “It’s not about sex.” Counseling Today, December 1, 2011. Accessed June 4, 2019.
Weiss R. “Sexual Addiction, Hypersexual Disorder and the DSM-5: Myth or Legitimate Diagnosis?” Counselor, September-October 2012. Accessed June 11, 2019.