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Sex Addiction

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction involves sex but isn’t normally about sex.

 

Typical behaviours such as sex online or sex outside of relationships are for many people only problems when they become a problem, and they become a problem because of their adverse impact on the people we are with (our partners, our families) and some unintended outcomes (financial or health concerns).

 

But who are we to judge?  And if we did, how would we make that judgment?  Would it be based on the likely harm to our self or others?  Would it be because of health concerns?  Would it be through a moral and ethical lens?

 

Sex addiction isn’t about sex because it’s about relationships.  The relationship you have with yourself and how easy or difficult you find relating to others.

 

To date, there is no scientific consensus regarding sexually compulsive behaviour – the labels of sexual compulsivity, sexual impulsivity, or sexual addiction are often interchangeable and the approaches towards treatment remain varied.

 

 

This can make it hard for the person seeking the help to know what is available, what is valuable or even what the problem is in the first place!

 

It is also difficult to make a decision about the right kind of help because we have an idea about what therapy and counselling is and don’t like what that idea says about us.

 

Support For Sex Addiction

 

It is incredibly important to draw upon the right type of support; this is one that allows us to feel both challenged and supported.

 

We are making judgements about expertise, curiosity, personality, rapport and communication skills  – they all matter in probably equal measure as we need to get along in order to make meaningful change.

 

Here’s a simple approach to listen out for when assessing the range of help and different types of help.  Back in the 1970s a leading psychologist called Gerard Egan introduced the skilled helper model.  The book of the same name was written as a way for therapists to help people manage their problems in living more effectively and to become better at helping themselves.

 

At the heart of this approach is a 3 stage process:

1) Find out what is going on for the client

2) Work out what they want instead

3) Work through ways in which they might get it

 

 

sex addiction

 

 

Whilst this is a straightforward approach it does require skill and resourcefulness on the part of the therapist.

 

It demands genuineness, respect and empathy to be successful. When sex addiction is the issue, there are probably some extra unique demands upon the therapist to be versatile.  This is because sexually compulsive behaviour has multiple potential sources and therefore multiple approaches to its understanding and treatment.

 

 

Stage 1 – Determining What’s Going On? There are some recurring patterns that indicate successful routes for treatment of sex addiction.  For example, there are potential environmental factors or underlying issues based on previous trauma.  A leading expert in the field, Paula Hall uses the Opportunity, Attachment and Trauma (OAT)  framework to reflect a client’s experience.

 

A founding figures of UK approaches to sex addiction is Dr Thaddeus Birchard.  In one study, Dr. Birchard attributed causes of sex addiction to some major factors:

 

  • the human condition,
  • personal problems,
  • role ambiguity,
  • organisational factors,
  • societal and ‘outside’ factors.

 

Such factors are wide ranging in impact and may not all have a pathological status (it doesn’t mean someone is “sick’).

 

Dr Birchard recommends treatment strategies with four essential tasks:

 

 

  1. Psycho-education (knowing what and why sex addiction is an addiction)
  2. Group work (feeling supported by others and reducing the shame)
  3. Family of origin exploration (knowing how this got set up in the first place)
  4. Facilitating access to the components of a good quality of life (enjoying a new version of yourself)

 

Stage 2 – Identifying what clients want instead.

 

In Plato’s Republic, Sophocles describes a period of his life when his preoccupation with sex stopped.  It was “like escaping from bondage to a raging madman”.

 

Sex addiction can be seen as a response to living a life that has little personal meaning. Making changes to our lives is complicated because many of us struggle to overcome negative thoughts and feelings.

 

By recognising and changing thought processes we can develop a healthy attitude to life and achieve new goals.

 

By finding life more personally meaningful we start to become happier.  Adjusting our thoughts and behaviour towards improved well being  – learning to be happier – means spending a lot of time re-addressing both how we thinking and how we act.

 

Stage 3 – how might the client take action? The process by which people intentionally change their addictive behaviours – with or without treatment – is not understood well enough.  It might be because setting goals and sticking to them is important but difficult.   It might be because addictive disorders are difficult to treat when the client is ambivalent or simply resistant to change.

What we do know is that modifying addictive behaviours involves progressing through five stages:

  1. pre-contemplation – not thinking about it
  2. contemplation – thinking about it
  3. preparation – moving from thinking to doing
  4. action- doing
  5. maintenance – keeping on doing

 

This approach provides us with a common set of change processes that we typically recycle through before finishing with the addiction.

 

Sustainable change is also related to performance capacity: our ability to improve relationships, create new ones and achieve our personal goals

 

The human brain is a social organ that is directly shaped by the interactions we have with others.  There are five social qualities that directly impact our threat and reward responses:

 

 

Five Social Qualities

  1. status (how significant we think we are)
  2. certainty (how much we can anticipate about what’s next)
  3. autonomy (how much control we think we have)
  4. relatedness (how we feel about our relationships with other people)
  5. fairness (the extent to which we feel life works against us)

 

The skilled helper supports change by helping clients address their everyday concerns, reducing their addictive process and providing them with a greater sense of wellbeing.

 

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.