Understanding Sexual Addiction Treatment

By Jerry L. Redd, Ph.D., Relationships360° Guest Expert

Cybersex is the third largest economic sector on the Web – only exceeded by software and computer sites. One Dr. Carnes has identified a host of physical and psychological problems associated with internet-enabled sexual behavior. Some of these problems include sexually transmitted diseases, compulsive masturbation, affairs, exhibitionism, sexual harassment, depression, suicide, sexual abuse, etc., and a high probability of other addictive behaviors like alcoholism, drug abuse, and pathologic gambling.

Diagnosing someone with a sexual addiction is complicated by the fact that the term “sexual addiction” does not appear in the, Mental Disorders manual, nor does the word “addiction.” This is how a clinician or therapist determines the difference between an addiction and a maladaptive behavior. Someone with a sexual addiction will experience each of the following symptoms:

(1) a loss of control;
(2) a continuation of the behavior even in the face of adverse consequences; and
(3) a great deal of preoccupation with the behavior.

If a man or woman indicates that they want to quit looking at pornography, but finds they continue looking at pornography every time they have an opportunity, even though they know it is damaging their relationship, the therapist might consider this behavior an addiction.

Visual pornography is a drug that permanently, yet unconsciously, restructures the brain, mind, memory, and conduct of the user. James Olds (1956), a pioneer in understanding addiction, explained that the Midbrain or Limbic System’s main function is survival. It doesn’t think or reason – it just creates strong cravings towards anything that will sustain survival.

This instinctive part of our brain operates separately and independent of the Pre-Frontal Lobe (the conscious, moral, reasoning part of our brain). Because the Limbic System views sexuality as part of our survival, pornography and other sexually stimulating activities can become unconscious cravings – and cut the addict off from their feelings, emotions, moral reasoning, and consequences with little apparent concern for long-term effects of certain behaviors.

There are seven key factors in the management of a successful recovery in a sexual addiction program. They include:

(1) addiction-oriented primary therapist for a three to five year period
(2) a 12-step group experience for sexual addiction.
(3) a 12-step group program for other addictions.
(4) a sponsor or mentor who has had experience with the recovery program.
(5) completion of work, assignments, and homework – not just attendance.
(6) early family involvement.
(7) spiritual support – and/or belief in a higher power.
(8) exercise, good nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle

InnerGold’s approach to treating sexual addiction is inclusive of many of these critical factors documented in this research. To listen to their “Help! I’m Addicted To Sex” interview on BlogTalkRadio’s Relationships360°, click here..


  1. It is not addiction but compulsive behavior. You have failed to correctly diagnose the source of the problem. According to Kinsey statistics, 72% of married women over thirty have their husbands on a starvation diet of sex once a week or less where the average guy needs relief 3-4 times a week. He uses porn as a masturbation aid. There would be whole lot less guys viewing porn if their wives took care of their sexual needs

  2. True compulsions are about anxiety reduction (ie straightening shoes or washing hands)….not pleasure. While anxiety can be temporarily reduced by sexual behaviors or addictions the dynamics are quite different. Check out the DSM manuals for more info of how ‘pleasure’ changes the diagnosis.

  3. Unfortunately, having a sexually active wife will not cause someone to stop viewing porn. We have several spouses in the office that say they are more than willing to do what ever the addicted spouse wants but they just go back to the porn. Porn is an addiction.

  4. The Bridge to Recovery specializes in programs designed to assist individuals and affected family members suffering from codependency, trauma, anxiety, anger, depression, compulsive behaviors and other negative behavior patterns.

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