Sexual addiction has been described as a compulsion to actively seek sexual experiences. Sexual addiction goes from being a good time to being an addiction as soon as it involves compulsivity, continuation despite negative consequences, obsession, and tolerance. Just as with any other addiction, a sense of need and the cycle of guilt drives the addict to seek temporary gratification rather than a meaningful relationship. Sexual addiction involves factors such as dangerous, illegal, or sexual activities which interfere with daily or personal life, an inability to stop behaviors even after negative and detrimental consequences have arisen, and constantly trying but failing to control sexual behaviors such as moving, diving into religion, or sexual anorexia, which is when the addict attempts to disallow any form of sexual expression. Also, constant fantasizing which puts the addict into a constant state of arousal, a need to broaden and increase sexual experiences to achieve the same high, and suffering from harsh mood swings related to the shame and guilt felt about the addiction can signify a sexual addiction problem.
Just as any other kind of addict, sexual addicts spend part of their days initiated and involved in the addiction, and the other part dealing with the consequences of that addiction. Consequences include abandonment of important social, occupational, or recreational activities and can affect the family, the work, and the community of an addict.
Recovery involves recognizing the problem as a form of addiction and obtaining therapy and counseling. Outpatient programs that offer support and encouragement are numerous and effective. Inpatient programs exist right alongside alcohol and substance abuse programs for those who feel that they have completely lost control of their lives. There are even 12-step programs which can help. Also, aftercare programs can help patients make the transition from treatment back into everyday life. The treatment itself involves assisting the addict in developing a healthy sexuality with the use of education, individual counseling, and marital or family therapy. Medications that may be used, such as Prozac, treat the obsessive compulsive aspect of the addiction and can help. Restoration to a normal life is possible but the first step of recognition is the most difficult hurdle to overcome.