Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) is an organization made up of support groups with the mutual goal of helping people overcome sex addiction. It is modeled after the traditions and steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and based on the principle that sex addiction is an illness.1 The view is, although it can’t be cured, the negative behaviors and patterns it causes can be stopped or controlled.1
A sex addiction is usually present when a person loses sight of personal boundaries in terms of sexual behavior and no longer has the ability to control the urge to seek out sexual material or encounters.2 A sex addict may no longer enjoy lust or sex, but is unable to stop engaging in sex-related activities due to the physical, neurological, and biochemical effects sex causes.2
Sex Addiction TreatmentWhile the experts continue to deliberate over how to officially define sex addiction, they can agree that in many ways, sex addiction manifests like a substance use disorder. One analogous characteristic is engaging in sexual behaviors despite the negative consequences they bring. For example, you might continue seeking out sex despite having already lost your job for related reasons. Read More
What to Expect at a Sex Addicts Anonymous Meeting
Sex Addicts Anonymous support groups provide support and guidance to people suffering from an addiction to sex. Meetings are held anonymously, which helps members feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts, experiences, and struggles. Everything that is shared in a meeting is received without judgment and held in strict confidentiality. Members receive the support they need to address negative patterns of destructive behavior in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings may be held daily, weekly, or monthly, and members may attend as often as is necessary.
Sex Addicts Anonymous is based on the 12-step recovery model established by Alcoholics Anonymous. The only condition for membership is the desire to stop the destructive pattern of addiction. While all support groups and meetings are spiritually based, when Sex Addicts Anonymous refers to a higher power, it does not necessarily mean God. Each member’s definition of a higher power may take any form, as long as it is comfortable and meaningful to them.
The first time you attend a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, you are usually given an opportunity to introduce yourself and share your experiences. While sharing the details of your addiction is not mandatory for newcomers, it is encouraged. Those struggling with an addiction to sex will find a community that understands what they are going through. Those struggling with an addiction to sex will find a community that understands what they are going through. What makes Sex Addicts Anonymous different than substance abuse programs (or programs dealing with other addictions such as gambling or internet) is the extremely personal nature of the behaviors associated with this addiction. For this reason, there are several types of Sex Addicts Anonymous support groups available.
Some meetings are held in real time online via an internet connection. Both online and in-person meetings may be gender-specific or they may be mixed gender and open to all people. Meetings that are for men or women only are ideal for members who only feel safe attending single-gender meetings.
Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings may be closed or open: closed meetings are only open to those with addictive sexual behavior, while open meetings are open to anyone seeking information about Sex Addicts Anonymous. People attending an open meeting may not have admitted or accepted that their sexual behavior is a problem. They may also be friends or family members of someone who they suspect has a sex addiction.
There are no fees associated with membership because the organization is self-supporting, relying solely on voluntary member contributions. The organization and its support groups are not associated or allied with any religious sect, denomination, political group, organization, or institution, and its members do not endorse or oppose any controversies or causes.
How does this Addiction Develop?
Currently sex addiction is not recognized as a diagnosable condition by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, many mental health and behavioral health experts believe it should be considered and are pushing for more research on the condition. There are also many treatment programs around the country that specialize in treating sex addiction.
According to existing research and many behavioral health professionals, sex addiction can take many forms, which vary for each person. Some of the common forms of a sex addiction include:3
- Obsessive need or desire for sex or pornography.
- Chronic preoccupation with sex or pornography.
- A pattern of obsessive-compulsive behavior that is sexual in nature.
- Sexual activity that becomes increasingly high-risk or destructive.
Sex addiction is similar to other behavioral or process addictions. A person suffering from a behavioral addiction feels compelled to engage in a particular behavior in order to release tension, relieve anxiety or depression, and experience relief or gratification.3 People suffering from behavioral addictions engage in the behavior repeatedly to the detriment of their health and relationships.3 Though there are many different behaviors that can become addictions, the process is similar for each.2People suffering from behavioral addictions engage in the behavior repeatedly to the detriment of their health and relationships.
Signs of Sex Addiction
Sex addiction can present in many different ways, including:3
- Attending strip clubs excessively.
- Excessive use of pornography.
- Compulsive or excessive masturbation.
- Multiple extramarital affairs.
- Engaging in prostitution, either as a client or as a prostitute.
- Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about, talking about, or planning sexual activity.
- Suffering serious social, occupational, or health consequences as a result of sexual behavior.
Negative Effects of Sex Addiction
There are serious medical and social risks associated with sex addiction, including:3
- Increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
- Physical injury to the genitals.
- Unwanted pregnancy.
- Loss of time and productivity.
- Loss of important relationships and trust.
- Financial difficulties due to spending funds on pornography or prostitution.
Sex addiction is a serious behavioral health concern that is often accompanied by substance abuse problems. Due to the stigma and shame associated with sex addiction, many people feel the need to get high or drunk before engaging in sexual intercourse. Studies have found that as many as 50% of people with sex addiction are also addicted to drugs or alcohol.4 Individuals who suffer from gambling addiction are also at increased risk of experiencing sex addiction.3
Many people who suffer from sex addiction also experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. When two or more behavioral health or mental health conditions exist within the same person, this is referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Dual diagnoses often require specialized treatment, and there are facilities equipped to help you overcome both sex addiction and co-occurring disorders.
The Role of 12-Step Groups in Recovery
Twelve-step recovery programs are powerful tools in overcoming sex addiction. The group setting allows for many people to come together and share their experiences while reassuring one another that they are not alone. Many sex addicts feel shame regarding their behavior due to the intimate and sometimes taboo attitudes some cultures or people have toward sex. However, 12-step groups ensure that everyone is treated with respect and understanding so they can work the program and achieve recovery.
While many people turn to 12-step recovery groups as their initial form of treatment, 12-step groups are also extremely beneficial in maintaining recovery as part of a healthy aftercare plan. An aftercare plan is a set of behaviors a recovering addict turns to in order to strengthen their sobriety or abstinence and protect against relapse. Support groups are an excellent option to help you:
- Keep your recovery goals in the forefront of your mind.
- Check in with people who are going through the same daily struggles.
- Serve a purpose to the community that helped you by acting as a sponsor to a new 12-step member.
Many 12-step members join for life and find that the program is one of the strongest tools available for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Sex Addicts Anonymous allows people suffering from a unique and often misunderstood condition to come together for support, guidance, and recovery. If you or someone you care about may be suffering from sex addiction, find a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting near you. If you are ready to change and embark on a path of recovery from sex addiction, then you will be welcomed and given as much support as you need.
- Sex Addicts Anonymous. (2016). An Invitation to Recovery.
- United States Department of Commerce. (2001). Sexual Addiction.
- Fong, T. W. (2006). Understanding and managing compulsive sexual behaviors. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 3(11), 51–58.
- Sussman, S., Lisha, N. & Griffiths, M. (2011). Prevalence of the Addictions: A problem of the majority or the minority? Evaluation & The Health Professions, 34(1), 3–56.