The term ‘addict’ in our culture is heavily laden with the connotation that one is ‘weak-willed’, engaging in behaviors that are completely involuntary, and likely doomed to repeat them over and over again. Despite the many high-profile stars who proclaim themselves addicts and check in to rehab to receive ‘redemption’ from their fans, there is still strong stigma and shame when first being labeled an addict.
As a result, when using the word ‘addict’ to describe yourself, not only are you likely to feel shame but you also reinforce the implied notion that your behaviors are involuntary and that you are forever doomed to repeat them.
Nothing could be further from the truth; while you may feel powerless over your behaviors, you are not and never will be powerless over the problem.
So how much is too much? The field of ‘sex addiction’ treatment is currently dominated by Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT). As the name implies, they view compulsive sexual behavior through the lens of addiction and work very closely with 12-step groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). I believe however, that mixing our views on addiction in combination with our generally conservative cultural sexual mores can easily lead to the over-diagnosing of sex addiction, even when none is present. Futhermore, entering this type of treatment entails heaping your shame (of addiction) upon your shame (of sexual behaviors) which, while perhaps initially changing some behaviors, can also serve to re-injure you and is likely not a helpful way to begin treatment.
I prefer to use the term sexual compulsivity, thus removing the addiction label, and to offer treatment options for those who are looking for non-shaming alternatives to that which is generally available.
So how do we treat it? Treatment of sexual compulsivity involves working to stop (or reduce) the compulsive behaviors, exploring and alleviating the underlying causes (which are almost always related to anxiety caused by trauma and/or shame), and when working with someone in a relationship, helping them to rebuild trust with their partner, if possible.
If you are comfortable being labeled an addict and prefer that model, I can recommend some excellent CSATs to you.
However, if you are more interested in treating your problem in a sensitive, non-shaming way where you are seen as an individual with unique needs who will be treated with a program designed specifically for you, then you’ve come to the right place.