Sex Addiction Versus Other Mental Health Concerns
With mental health disorders, there can be a great deal of overlap as some conditions share similar symptoms. You might think anyone with intense sexual behaviors is at risk for a sex addiction, but several other mental illnesses could be a better explanation.
Bipolar disorder is a condition marked by periods of depressive episodes, periods of manic episodes, and periods without mood episodes. During manic episodes, there will be an increase in behaviors focused on feeling good, which makes hypersexuality a cornerstone of bipolar disorder for many.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition where people experience intensely intrusive and unwanted thoughts and then feel the need to engage in behavioral compulsions to end the obsessions. Some people will have OCD symptoms that center around sex, sexuality, and masturbation, making it difficult to differentiate from sex addiction.
Personality disorders, including specific diagnoses like borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder, can influence the role of sex and sexuality in a person’s life. These conditions may encourage people to use sex as a way to form, maintain, or end relationships with others.
When looking at sex addiction versus these other mental health conditions, a proper diagnosis and understanding of the symptoms are essential. If a treatment provider misidentifies the cause or the condition affecting the sexual behaviors, they will pursue a misleading course of treatment that wastes time and resources.
How Is a Sex Addiction Evaluated?
Whether you have a suspected condition that is mental or physical in nature, you need a thorough evaluation from an expert in the field before you can truly know your state. Since sex addiction is often confused for other conditions or denied completely, an accurate assessment is paramount.
An evaluation will look at your relationship with sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation to better understand the interactions. The evaluator will investigate situations including:
- Early memories of sex
- Aspects of the relationship between your parents
- Your perceptions of societal, religious, and family pressures related to sex
- How often you have sex or masturbate and your thoughts and feelings before, during, and after the experience
- The types of sexual acts you participate in and the ones in which you fanaticize about participating
- The response of your loved ones to your sexual activities
- How much you lie and deceive others to maintain your sexual actions
- The presence of other physical or mental health conditions that may influence your sexual interests
Treatment for Sex Addiction
With the sex addiction evaluation completed, the professional will be able to identify your concern and recommend an appropriate level of care to treat the behaviors. Sex addiction treatment may occur in a number of inpatient or outpatient treatment settings.
Many of the headline-making sex addicts report going to a “rehabilitation” to receive their treatment. These rehabs are likely long-term inpatient treatment centers that offer a variety of mental health treatments.
In inpatient treatment centers, the individual will be completely surrounded by trained addiction staff and isolated from their home environment. Many times, they will not have any contact with work, family, or friends for the duration of treatment.
The other main segment of sex addiction treatment is called outpatient. In outpatient, the individual is allowed to live at home, work, go to school, and tend to other responsibilities while participating in some level of treatment on a weekly or daily basis.
Generally, inpatient treatments are more intensive and better suited for people with more significant addictions. Outpatient options can be great for someone with milder symptoms and strong support systems available to them.
Sex addiction treatment options are varied, so it is crucial you find one that frames sex in a realistic and helpful way. Seeking treatment from a facility that practices an “abstinence-only” model or one that sees any nontraditional relationship as deviant might not be very helpful for you.
Many people labeled as sex addicts may not really have a problem with sex. They, instead, might have issues with the judgment and belief systems of other people in their life.
These people would do better to have open discussions with their loved ones to establish expectations of sex moving forward that are mutually beneficial rather than being one-sided. With this understanding in place, there will be a lower risk of shame and doubt on the individual.
Other people will need to focus on ways to have better relationships with their sexual partners. By approaching the relationship from a standpoint of trust, honesty, and respect, there is a lower chance of exploitation and hurt feelings.
Some treatments for sex addiction might seem counterintuitive or just plain wrong, so an open mind will help the process.
Consider a type of sexual interest that is almost universally maligned like pedophilia. Very little success has been had when treating this condition with an “abstinence only” approach, so new research is being done using modern technological achievements like virtual reality and lifelike sex dolls to produce better results and lower risk to real-life children.
Remember, the state and understanding of sex addiction is still in its infancy. Stay openminded and find resources focused on pushing the field forward rather than being stuck in faulty thinking patterns of the past.