Get Help Now

Whether you’re ready to start your journey with EHN Canada now or just want to learn more, our admissions counsellors can guide you through your options.

EHN Canada

1-416-644-6345

Not quite sure? Chat with a live consultant.

Sex Addiction: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Written by Munis Topcuoglu, Editor at EHN Canada.

A valid definition and diagnostic criteria for “sex addiction” have long eluded experts because, historically, definitions and diagnostic criteria have either represented sexually oppressive cultural norms, or they have been vague and imprecise, requiring too much subjective interpretation. Cultural norms, oppressive or otherwise, are not valid bases for diagnostic criteria, because they have no scientific justification. The definition of “too much sex” has varied widely throughout history and currently varies widely throughout the world, and none of the definitions are supported by scientific evidence.

The following excerpt from the book Nymphomania: A History describes a historical example of the problem of diagnosing sex addiction based on cultural norms:

In the Victorian period, both doctors and patients who sought medical help believed that strong sexual desire in a woman was a symptom of disease. Self-control and moderation were central to the health of both men and women, but women’s presumably milder sexual appetite meant that any signs of excess might signal that she was dangerously close to the edge of sexual madness.

Another excerpt from Nymphomania: A History, illustrates the absurdity of Victorian doctors’ culturally biased understanding of the etiology of “nymphomania”:

Eating rich food, consuming too much chocolate, dwelling on impure thoughts, reading novels, or performing ‘secret pollutions’ [i.e. masturbation]… overstimulated women’s delicate nerve fibers and led to nymphomania.

Interesting to note, is that in the Victorian era, the male equivalent of nymphomania “satyriasis” existed in medical textbooks, but was almost never diagnosed in practice—because “a man wanting too much sex” was not really considered a thing. Fortunately, both science and culture have come a long way since then, and we are now able to understand sex addiction in more functional and less sexist terms.

Evidence-Based Definition and Diagnosis of Sex Addiction

If we make the effort, we can minimize cultural bias, and define and diagnose sex addiction based on evidence. The key element for deciding whether or not a person’s sexual behavior is problematic is determining whether or not their sexual behavior results in real negative outcomes. This is the most effective approach for identifying genuinely problematic sexual behaviors and it lays the groundwork for creating effective treatment programs for the people who have them.

Required criterion: negative consequences or endangerment

The necessary criterion for identifying sex addiction is that the person’s sexual behavior actually results in negative consequences or endangerment in one or more of the following ways:

Other signs of sex addiction: loss of control, frequency, consuming focus, and mood regulation

The following features can be signs of sex addiction when they result in negative consequences or endangerment:

The “other signs” by themselves are too subjective for diagnosis

The inability to control, reduce, or stop sexual behavior is only a sign of sex addiction when the person recognizes that the behavior has negative consequences or is unacceptably dangerous. Similarly, excessive frequency and repetition of sexual behaviors, or excessive focus on sex, can only be signs of sex addiction when the individual recognizes the negative consequences or dangers because, otherwise, “excessive” is merely cultural and subjective. It’s also important to note that, for similar reasons, engaging in sexual behaviors that others find offensive or disturbing does not, per se, indicate sex addiction.

What Is the Underlying Disorder?

Experts tend to agree that the problematic and uncontrollable sexual behaviors associated with sex addiction are usually the result of an underlying mental health disorder. They do not agree on which disorder is most often the cause, but the following is a list of possibilities:

Consequently, there does not exist an established standard process for how to treat sex addiction.

Understanding sex addiction as an attachment disorder

At EHN Canada, we find that nearly all of our sex addiction patients have underlying attachment disorders. Our experience has shown us that treating a patient’s attachment disorder is essential for helping the patient to overcome sex addiction, regain control of their sexual behavior, and have healthy and satisfying intimate relationships.

In adults, attachment disorders usually result in problems with intimate relationships that can include any of the following:

Hence, we understand that sex addiction is a relational and intimacy disorder and this understanding informs our approach to designing the most effective treatment programs to help patients overcome sex addiction.

Interactions with concurrent substance use disorders

Sex addiction and concurrent substance use disorders can interact in a number of different ways including the following:

At EHN Canada, we believe that it’s essential to understand how each patient’s sex addiction interacts with any substance use disorders that they may have. We address these interactions in the individualized treatment programs that we design for each patient. This approach allows us to create the most effective treatment programs according to each patient’s unique needs.

EHN Canada’s Sex Addiction Treatment Programs

Patients are admitted to our treatment programs based on screenings that evaluate the negative outcomes of their sexual behaviors and their persistence in engaging in those behaviors. Since we expect that problematic sexual behavior usually stems from an underlying attachment disorder, we analyze each new patient’s history of family relationships and family dynamics to learn about their attachment style. To allow us to further individualize our treatment programs to address each patient’s particular needs, we also screen for the following:

Ultimately, our goal is to develop a deep understanding of what the problematic sexual behaviors mean and signify personally for each patient, rather than try to understand the sexual behaviors in terms of any standard typology. We believe that this understanding allows us to design the most effective treatment program for each patient and reduces the influence of cultural bias.

Helping patients regain control of their sexual behaviors

EHN Canada treatment programs are designed to help patients regain control of their sexual behaviors. This begins with helping patients recognize and fully acknowledge the consequences of their problematic sexual behaviors. Next, we teach them how to identify and predict situations in which their sexual behaviors might have negative outcomes. We also teach patients how to identify triggers for their problematic sexual behaviors and how to address them in healthy ways. Throughout the process, we help patients with concurrent substance use disorders understand how their substance use disorders interact with their problematic sexual behaviors.

Whenever applicable, group education and therapy activities are conducted in small, intimate groups where patients can learn from each other in an environment free of shame and judgment. The following are some of the activities that help patients regain control of their sexual behaviors:

Teaching patients how to build healthy and satisfying relationships

Since we view sex addiction as a relational and intimacy disorder, our treatment programs include substantial education and therapy components focusing on interpersonal work such as effective communication, relationship building, and developing healthy attachments. Due to their interpersonal and experiential emphasis, our sex addiction programs involve more in-the-moment behavioral interventions compared to our other addiction and trauma programs.

Again, whenever applicable, group education and therapy activities are conducted in small, intimate groups where patients can learn from each other in an environment free of shame and judgment. The following are some of the activities that teach patients how to have healthier and more satisfying relationships:

Other elements of treatment programs

The following elements are included in some of our treatment programs or may be optional for patients:

Full recovery takes much longer than other addictions

A full recovery from sex addiction can take three-to-five years after completion of a treatment program. Therefore, long-term success depends on a patient’s commitment to participating in aftercare programs and to continue working on themselves after they complete one of our residential treatment programs.

EHN Canada Sex Addiction Treatment Programs

If you or someone you love needs help with sex addiction, please call us at one of our numbers below for more information or to enrol in one of our programs.

References

Groneman, C. (2000). Nymphomania: A History. New York, NY: Norton.

Krueger, R. B. (2016). Diagnosis of hypersexual or compulsive sexual behavior can be made using ICD‐10 and DSM‐5 despite rejection of this diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association. Addiction, 111(12), 2110-2111.

Ley, D.J. (2012). The Myth of Sex Addiction. London, England: Rowman & Littlefield.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_adults

Recovering from Sex Addiction: Getting out of the Storm and Back to My Life

Opinion by EHN Alumni
Written by Adam W, a recent graduate of the sex addiction program at Edgewood Treatment Centre.

Before I arrived at Edgewood to start working on my recovery from sex addiction, my life was like being in the eye of a tornado. That might be a tough analogy for someone to understand, but I was in the middle of a storm, with no way out. Everything around me was getting caught in the storm and I was simply waiting for it to take me away with it. I couldn’t find my own way out, and I certainly was trying to harm myself enough so that perhaps I wouldn’t wake up. I remember the feeling of despair and this heavy sadness.  When it was suggested I “go away” for a while, to take a break and heal—despite the tremendous arguments I had to not go—I simply gave up and said “okay.” 

I had lost my wife, been kicked out of my house, and had been removed from being a part of my kids’ lives. My family of origin stopped being involved with me, my business was crumbling, and my closest of friends had given up on trying to help. As typical of a pre-treatment story that is—it was and is my story. 

I quickly packed my personal belongings in Calgary and travelled to Edgewood, soon realizing that I was no longer alone in this storm. The men’s sex addiction group in my treatment program was a critical part of my recovery and healing. I could speak with men who could relate to the pain and shame associated with engaging in problematic sexual behaviours for many years. Although the group structure throughout the week was tremendous for unpacking a lot of stuff, the ability to really do the work in the confidence of men who were walking a similar path made me feel safe to express, accept, and move on from that part of my life. In previous treatments and therapy, I had never been able to explore my problematic sexual behaviours and the associated guilt, shame, and sadness that I held inside. If I had not addressed that pain, I would not have been able to grow and find my footing in recovery. 

Some of the highlights of the program at Edgewood include the sacredness of the room, the compassion from the other men, and the guidance from the sex addiction therapists. The ability to share my story, the unheard version of my life that I was unable to previously share in co-ed settings, with other men who were willing to do the same, was transformational in my healing and essential for my recovery.

I learned that the work, meetings, groups, walking with men in recovery, and service to others are all lifelong habits and commitments that I need to make daily to continue to enjoy the blessings of recovery and good mental and spiritual health. It’s not a destination but a journey of awakenings, blessings, and sharing and giving that allows me to enjoy my life today.

The opportunity to give back in some small way to this program, and to the men with whom I walked, is something I cherish and for which I am thankful.

With gratitude for being in recovery from sex addiction,

Adam W.

We Can Help You!

If you would like to learn more about the treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

More Information About Our Sex Addiction Programs

You can also find more information about our sex addiction programs on our website:

Four Things You Need to Know About Fentanyl to Stay Safe

Fentanyl has been a problem in Canada for several years now and the situation is not getting any better. It feels like every day brings a new report about an overdose, an arrest, or a large shipment seized on its way to a Canadian city. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically used to treat severe and chronic pain; for example, it is often prescribed for cancer patients. Understandably, digesting all the information from numerous news stories and constant buzz can be difficult, so here we are providing some quick facts about fentanyl in Canada.

(1) It’s Fast and Deadly

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine and 100 times stronger than heroin. It’s so potent that you can overdose on as little as two milligrams. When ingested, it can reach your brain within minutes and cause respiratory failure. Many of the reported deaths have happened this way: someone takes half a pill, falls asleep and never wakes up.

(2) It’s Highly Addictive

Just like any other opioid, fentanyl is extremely addictive. Many users report craving it after just one use. Also like other opioids, regular users build a tolerance: they need to use more and more to get the same high, which is very dangerous with such a toxic drug.

(3) It’s Often Cut into Other Drugs

Fentanyl has been found in many other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and oxycodone. Often, people who think they’re buying oxycodone will really be getting Fentanyl. It has no odour or taste, and it’s invisible, so using a testing kit is the only way you can tell if it’s in your drugs.

(4) A Lot of People Are Dying

Given that you can overdose on an amount the size of two grains of salt, it’s not surprising that people are dying. This is especially true because many people are consuming fentanyl unknowingly through other drugs that are laced with it. People who do consume it intentionally, usually consume non-pharmaceutical street fentanyl produced by an amateur chemist. This implies that impurities and toxicity can be even higher than pharmaceutical fentanyl. Also, dealers often combine it with caffeine, meth, or heroin which increase the probability of a negative reaction or overdose. Vancouver has the highest rate of deaths from overdose in Canada, most of which are likely from fentanyl and other similar opioids like carfentanil. So far, this year (as of the end of September, 2018) there have been over 260 deaths from suspected overdose in Vancouver.

Safety Resources

TestKitPlus Fentanyl Testing Kit
Bunk Police Fentanyl Testing Kit
DanceSafe Fentanyl Testing Kit
How to get a naloxone kit if you live in BC

We Can Help You

If you would like to learn more about the treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.