With celebrities, sports heroes, and politicians repeatedly getting caught in sexual indiscretions, marital infidelity, and repeated affairs, the public is becoming more and more aware of high-profile personalities publicly declaring their diagnosis of sex addiction. This is why is it’s important to discuss the connection between sex addiction and infidelity, especially when it comes to couples counseling in Orange County.
Sex addiction and infidelity are closely linked by the fact that it often affects people in relationships, leading them to cheat. In other cases, an unfaithful partner may claim sex addiction as an excuse. So what is sex addiction? Just an excuse for infidelity or a true addiction?
What is Sex Addiction?
The concept of “sex addiction” remains a very controversial designation. Some believe that it is simply a label used to justify bad behavior like promiscuity and infidelity. Although there isn’t a diagnosis for it in the DSM-V, it’s often referred to as hypersexual disorder, and it is very real. Sex addiction can destroy a person’s life just as much as alcohol or drugs.
Those that truly suffer from sex addiction are compelled by heightened emotional arousal from sex. This is similar to the feeling an alcoholic or drug addict gets from their substance of choice. A dependency starts to develop due to the dopamine emitted while engaging in sexual behaviors. The lives of these individuals become a never-ending chase of that emotional high, either through pornography, prostitution, or affairs. As a result, the stakes tend to be quite high – sex addicts often get sexually transmitted diseases and lose friendships, relationships, and even employment.
Currently, as many as 9 million people in the United States are thought to suffer from sex addiction. According to the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, there has been a tremendous increase in incidences of sex addiction over the last few decades. Many experts feel that this growth has been due, in part, to the advent of online pornography. While the majority of people who look at pornography will never develop a problem, for some it becomes like a drug. They simply cannot stop. For others, it becomes a “gateway drug”, spurring them to try “harder stuff”, like cheating, infidelity, or prostitution.
How Is It Treated?
As previously mentioned, there’s a strong link between sex addiction and infidelity. However, sexual addiction should not be used as an excuse for infidelity or other hurtful behaviors. An individual not choosing to honor their wedding vows does not give them the right to self-diagnose with “sex addiction”. An affair does not make one an addict. A person is only addicted if repeated, obsessive thoughts and actions are disrupting their work life, love life, and friendships.
Sexual addiction is often treated in groups and programs are modeled on 12 steps, like Alcoholics Anonymous. Rather than pushing sexual abstinence, however, the idea is to achieve “sexual sobriety”. This means people simply strive to no longer engage in unwanted sexual behavior, whether it’s watching pornography or infidelity.
For many individuals, however, sexual acting out or infidelity is simply masks feelings of depression and anxiety. Also, many individuals have difficulty trusting and forming meaningful attachments with others, and sex is the only way that they know how to connect to others. For many, therapy can be very helpful for working through these painful issues.
Get Help For Sex Addiction and Infidelity from a Professional in Orange County
Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker in Newport Beach, Orange County. If you are interested in couples counseling to deal with sex addiction and infidelity, please contact her at (949) 251-8797 or make an appointment online.