Many of those seeking to recover from addictions of all kinds struggle in dealing with shame. Sometimes, you experience shame due to feeling weak, admitting that you need help, or having guilt over past actions. For those with sexual addictions, shame is a common barrier to treatment and many people may never find a way to recover. Sexual behavior is a private and personal matter for most people. When sexual behavior is used to cope with other stressors in life, a person might become addicted to feelings of excitement and release, much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol. While anyone in recovery from compulsive sexual behavior or any other addiction has likely hurt others in the past, the key to recovery is separating your addictive behavior from your true self. During recovery, you have to accept responsibility for your actions and make amends. However, you do not need to burden yourself with holding onto shame for your past. Hope is possible and you can change for the better.  Read on to learn more on how to overcome sexual addiction and begin your journey to recovery.

Male sex addict with hands on his head while wife is upset concept image of how to overcome sex addiction.

What is Sexual Addiction

Although sex addiction has been excluded from the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” ( DSM-5 ), it is still studied in psychology and counseling circles. Sexual addiction is a type of behavioral addiction that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by compulsive and out-of-control sexual behavior, despite any negative consequences or feelings of guilt or shame associated with it. People who struggle with this disorder often find themselves feeling trapped in a cycle they cannot escape from, as their need to engage in sexual activities overrides their ability to control it.

Similarities Between Substance Abuse and Sexual Addiction

One way to overcome the shame of sexual addiction is to realize that the motivations for sexual addiction are similar to those of substance or alcohol addictions. When experiencing shame, you may feel that others in society will judge you harshly. You may feel like a criminal or that your actions are beyond redemption. Society has come to terms with viewing addictions to drugs or alcohol as a problem that people can recover from. While in the past, many of those addicted might have denied their issues or hidden them from others, brave individuals have come forward to pave the path in the form of a supportive community for others to heal from their addictions. While sexual addiction might be a somewhat taboo topic today, those who come forward now to face their addiction head-on will help to clear the pathway for others in the future through groups such as sex and love addicts anonymous and others too.

Sexual behavior can have similar effects as other substances, which is why some people are vulnerable to addiction. Sexual behavior, like drugs or alcohol, can make a person feel a “high” that they continue to chase their sexual fantasies. Some people might use sexual behavior to cope with stress or anxiety, just like others may use alcohol or other substances to achieve the same ends. A sign of addiction is when chasing this “high” comes ahead of all other things. When prioritizing sexual behavior above everything else in life, the person might have an addiction. You might also be addicted if sexual behavior is the only way that you cope with any stressors in your life. Many people are susceptible to addictive behaviors and are not alone in recovery. Although sexual addiction may be different from others, the motivations and emotions involved are similar and often the same.

Shame: A Barrier to Healing

Shame can get in the way of healing from all forms of addictive behaviors. For those addicted to sexual behaviors, feelings of shame may be the result of having victimized others or treating a romantic partner poorly. While you need to accept responsibility for your past and your behaviors, the cycle of shame only serves to prevent you from real change. Shame can be a negative coping skill for you; shame enables you to avoid dealing with your addiction. When experiencing shame, you may feel like punishing yourself or feel like your guilt justifies any pain you may have inflicted on others. Shame becomes a layer that separates you from dealing with your emotional pain. Feelings of guilt and shame only block you from dealing with the underlying causes of your addictive behaviors. Being vulnerable to sharing your experiences with others in recovery can help you begin the process of healing and growth. You will find that you are not alone in your experiences.

Your addictive behaviors are different than who you truly are. Many people with sexual addictions think that they are flawed on the inside and incapable of change. They may be unable to recognize that their behaviors were the result of poorly coping with stress or other underlying issues. To recover from sexual addiction, you must realize that your past behaviors do not define who you are today. You have other qualities and values that define you. While you cannot change your past or things that you might have done, you can change for the better. Recovery from sexual addictions—like all other addictive behaviors—is possible and there is hope for all those who are struggling. Let go of your shame and guilt; allow yourself to enjoy the gift of recovery.

Female and male sex addicts meeting at sex addicts anonymous for support groups that are lead by a mental health professional.

How to Overcome Sexual Addiction at Camelback Recovery

You are not alone in your addiction, whether you are addicted to substances—like drugs or alcohol—or addicted to behaviors, like sex or gambling. Other people are in recovery from their addictions and are learning new ways to cope with life. They have separated themselves from their addictive behaviors and have broken down the barrier of shame, which impedes many from true growth and change. You may feel guilt for your past behaviors, or you may feel that all hope is lost. However, you can recover from sexual addictions as others have in the past. At Camelback Recovery, the best mental health and addiction treatment center, we open our doors to those suffering from all kinds of addictive behaviors. Our home environment is a safe place for everyone to share their stories and experiences. Call us at (602) 466-9880 to begin your recovery today.