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- Sexual addiction facts
- What is sexual addiction, and what are the types of sexual addiction?
- What are causes and risk factors for sexual addiction?
- What are sexual addiction symptoms and signs?
- How is sexual addiction diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for sexual addiction?
- What is the prognosis of sexual addiction?
- Can sexual addiction be prevented?
- What are complications of sexual addiction?
- Are support groups available for sex addicts?
- What research is being done on sexual addiction?
What is the treatment for sexual addiction?
Many people with a sexual addiction benefit from the support and structure of recovery groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous. Professionals often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help individuals with sex addiction learn their individual triggers for sexually destructive (acting out) behaviors, reevaluating distortions in their thoughts that contribute to their acting out behaviors, and ultimately controlling those behaviors. When sexual compulsions become severe, the sufferer may require inpatient treatment centers or intensive outpatient programs.
Seroetoninergic (SSRI) medications that are often used to treat depressive and anxiety disorders and mood stabilizers that are used to treat bipolar disorder have been found to decrease the compulsive urges associated with sexual addictions for some sufferers. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and escitalopram (Lexapro).
SSRIs are generally well tolerated, and side effects are usually mild. The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, agitation, insomnia, and headache. However, these side effects generally go away within the first month of SSRI use. Some patients experience sexual side effects, such as decreased sexual desire (decreased libido), delayed orgasm, or an inability to have an orgasm. Some patients experience tremors with SSRIs. The so-called serotonergic (meaning caused by serotonin) syndrome is a serious neurologic condition associated with the use of SSRIs. It is characterized by high fevers, seizures, and heart-rhythm disturbances. This condition is very rare and has been reported only in very ill psychiatric patients taking multiple psychiatric medications.
Mood stabilizers like carbamazepine (Tegretol), divalproex sodium (Depakote), and lamotrigine (Lamictal) are sometimes used to treat OCD, particularly in individuals who also suffer from bipolar disorder. They may also be helpful in decreasing the impulsive behaviors suffered by some sex addicts. The side effects that professionals look for tend to vary depending on which medication is being prescribed. Health-care professionals tend to watch for mild side effects like sleepiness when using Depakote or Tegretol or stomach upset when using one of those medications or Lamictal. Health-care professionals also monitor patients for serious side effects like severely low white blood cell count in people taking Tegretol or severe autoimmune symptoms like Steven Johnson's syndrome in those taking Depakote and Lamictal.
Naltrexone, a medication that is often used to decrease the effects of narcotic medications, may be useful for decreasing the sexual compulsions, sex drive, or arousal of some sex offenders. That may be particularly important for people who have a sexual addiction and seek celibacy to abstain from their sexual compulsions. That has also been found for medications that decrease male hormones, called anti-androgens. One example of an anti-androgenic medication is medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), also known by its trade name of Depo-Provera.