Sex, Love & Pornography Addiction

What is Sex, Love and Pornography Addiction?

Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD) refers to the pattern of failure to control intense, sexual impulses, and resulting repetitive sexual behaviour which is manifested over an extended period of time (e.g 6 months or more).

This condition causes marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. However, distress that is entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges, or behaviours is not sufficient to meet the requirements from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Sexual activity, an otherwise normal healthy human experience, can become a compulsion. If caught in an addictive cycle, the individual will be unable to function normally, and pursue sexual activity at high costs to other domains of his/her life.

What contributes to the rise of Sex, Love and Pornography Addiction?

  • The rise of the cybersex industry. This has exponentially increased the incidences of sex, love, and porn addiction. With technological advancements, anybody (including minors) can easily access sexually graphic material on multiple devices. Sex chat rooms, dating and hook-up apps enable people to find willing partners for sexual encounters. Instant and constant gratification feed into addictive habits. The increasing level of objectification of persons in porn further changes the way we perceive sex, relationships, and intimacy.
  • Online anonymity. With features like incognito mode, the internet can provide a shield of anonymity for persons indulging in unusual, harmful, or illegal sexual behaviours.
  • Social stigma and cultural norms that hinder one from seeking treatment. Such sexual behaviours can cause a sense of shame and embarrassment, as well as the (false) public view that sex addiction is a prelude to sex-offending. Therefore, these may deter them from seeking help. It is important to keep in mind that sex addicts are not synonymous with sex offenders, and sex offenders may or may not have sex addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sex, Love and Pornography Addiction
(‘Sex’ here includes any activity done to achieve an orgasm or sexual pleasure)

  • Finding it difficult to stop even if your sexual behaviour was irresponsible or reckless
  • Unable to reduce the amount of sex you engage in
  • Inability to control your sexual cravings and desires
  • Having your sexual pre-occupation/activities interfere with your work and/or education
  • Having your sexual pre-occupation/activities interfere with your ability to experience healthy sex
  • Neglecting important tasks/relationships due to your sexual behaviour
  • When you are able to have sex, everything else becomes irrelevant
  • Sex has become the most important thing in your life
  • Your sexual urges and impulses have changed you for the worse
  • Having sex even when you do not enjoy it
  • Being upset because of your sexual behaviour
  • Often finding yourself in an embarrassing/risky situation due to your sexual behaviour

Indicators of additional risk

  • Depression/isolation
  • Self-harming
  • Other addictions – alcohol, substance use or porn
  • Illegal activities/sex offending activities

Treatment Process

Treatment typically starts with an intake assessment, 6 individual sessions for respective parties to the relationship, as well as 3 couple sessions in the first stage of recovery.

The Intake Assessment (Usually a 1 hour session)

The clinician will take a thorough history of the presenting issues and relevant relationship history. Depending on the state of condition, the individual and significant partner may be interviewed separately or together. At the end of the assessment, the therapist will discuss with the individual/couple on the next steps, with referrals if needed.

First Stage of Recovery (First 2 months)

At this stage, the therapist will work with the individual to work through a detailed formal assessment to confirm and identify the gravity of the addiction. Therapy will then address underlying factors that have led to, are sustaining, and aggravating the condition. If additional risk factors are present, the therapist will work with the individual to address these risk factors with referrals as appropriate.

The discovery of sex, love and porn addiction often cause highly-charged emotional trauma. Thus, the partner of the addict is also strongly encouraged to receive individual therapy to reinforce the necessary coping skills. While the partner is not the person with the disease, the intimate nature of this addiction often means that the partner plays an important role in the addict’s recovery process.

Goals for this stage of recovery include stabilising the individual, the partner and where relevant, the children, as well as to prepare for the next stage of the couple treatment process.

Second Stage of Recovery (3rd month)

The couple will be supported through a structured 3-step recovery process which is intended to mark the end of the secretive, active addiction stage. A recovery plan will also be addressed.

Both the individual and the partner will discuss with their respective therapists to prepare for potential slips and relapses in the future, learn coping skills and build the necessary support systems to support them in the long run.

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