The pandemic has put a huge amount of pressure on us as individuals and those in relationships. As a psychotherapist specialising in sexually compulsive behaviour, I have seen a huge rise in the number of clients coming to me engaging with an increase in their activity with pornography, masturbation, sex workers and issues with intimacy and within their relationships.
Understanding Sexually Compulsive Behaviours
The key to compulsive sexual behaviour assessment is the loss of enjoyment. Clients often report that it has become routine and the fact that they can’t stop regardless of the consequences. The amount and frequency are not as important; it’s about whether they can stop themselves that is a true indicator.
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder has been included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) reporting that repetitive sexual behaviour over time dramatically affects a person’s life.
Who suffers from Sexually Compulsive Behaviours?
Anyone can suffer from sexually compulsive behaviours. There is a common assumption that sex addicts are predominately male, but whilst there are no firm statistics, there are female sex addicts too but reports suggest that females are much less likely to seek treatment.
There is a stronger taboo around sexually compulsive behaviour. People identify feeling ashamed and report wishing they had other addictions that are more acceptable in society and to others – such as alcohol or smoking.
Many people who suffer from sexually compulsive behaviours are from the LGBTQ community, with research suggesting the link between Chemsex (engaging in sexual activity whilst under the influence of drugs, usually methamphetamine), which is more commonly used in the homosexual male community and sex addiction.
Regardless of gender orientation, in order to overcome sexually compulsive behaviours, it requires individuals establishing a “healthy” sexuality that supports their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
It is essential to understand that people presenting with sexually compulsive behaviours may also fit the criteria for other behaviours such as chemical addictions, sexual and mental health issues and offending behaviours. In such cases, it may be suitable for individuals to be referred to a specialist worker, for example a psychiatrist or health worker. It has been found that sexual behaviours can mask mental health disorders such as compulsive disorders as bipolar.
The impact of the pandemic
During the pandemic, the levels of anxiety have increased. This peculiar time has clients living in uncertain times and fear is present for their jobs, health and daily routine. Clients with long term mental health conditions have had these even worsened by the turbulence of the current conditions. Relapse and suicide rates have increased. People are socially distancing and may be deprived of relationships, are isolating and, in turn, looking to alleviate the symptoms of loneliness. This can cause an increase in sexually compulsive behaviours such as viewing pornography, compulsive masturbation, chat rooms, sex workers or viewing illegal material.
Overcoming these behaviours
12 Step Fellowships, which support the recovery from addictions, say that sex addicts in recovery are not bad people trying to be good, but sick people trying to get well. The stigma attached to sex addicts can be that people assume they like to have a lot of sex. However, what can start as an enjoyable behaviour can end up completely destroying lives – of the addict and those closest to them. There can be negative connotations associated with sexually compulsive behaviours including sexually transmitted infections, promiscuity, the breakdown in trust and paedophilia.
For many people, mindfulness is very effective in addiction treatment, providing relapse prevention skills and having a positive effect on an individual’s character. It has been found to reduce sleep problems, feelings of guilt, hopelessness about the future and the desire to be violent. It also helps people to be accountable for their actions and raise awareness for them.
The world we live in is highly sexualised and promotes sexual diversity and freedom of choice. Sex can be feared from a moral, ethical and religious viewpoint. From a social context it can define morality and values and for some, creates a physical environment, predictions to form and develop.
Reaching out is often the hardest part for people with sexually compulsive behaviours but the first step in their process to finding help in their journey. Help is available – you need not be alone. ATSAC.org.uk (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity) is a first point of call, before reaching out to a psychotherapist who specialises in the sex addiction.
About Samantha Tipples
Samantha Tipples is a qualified and accredited psychotherapist based in London. She specialises is relationship issues and sexually compulsive behaviours, helping those living with anxiety, depression, trauma, intimacy issues and addictive disorders – including addictions to pornography, masturbation, sex workers, alcohol and substances.
Samantha works with dual diagnosis – for example, managing addiction alongside the diagnosis of bipolar, ADHD, depression or anxiety. She is an expert in a number of different treatment methods, including EMDR, experiential therapy, interpersonal group therapy and meditation and mindfulness. She creates a bespoke therapy plan for each individual and provides completely confidential, supportive and non-judgemental sessions within a calm and secure environment.
An experienced, supportive and highly qualified therapist, Samantha provides treatment in hospitals and in her own private practice in Mayfair and Knightsbridge, and online. She has experienced a huge rise in the number of clients requesting help since the pandemic.