Sex addiction in Arabic countries exists, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, experiencing sexual desires is a natural feeling. In Western countries, sexual behaviour isn’t as stigmatised as it is in some countries in the Middle East, but taboos and feelings of shame associated with sex are still very real for many people.
As a clinic that deals extensively with clients from the Middle East, we know just how difficult it can be to acknowledge a problem and admit to needing help. Coming from a religious and cultural background where sex is hidden from view and not seen as socially acceptable (particularly outside marriage) can significantly impact the way someone perceives sex.
Many people find it challenging to reconcile sex addiction with an Arabic country – after all, Islamic law and social taboos are a lot stricter in the Middle East. But the truth is anyone can suffer from sex addiction. In countries with a lot of restriction and sexual repression, it’s often easier for people to fall into it.
What Is Sex Addiction?
Approximately 3-5% of the general population suffer from sex addiction. With such a large number of people suffering, it’s easy to presume that the condition would be better understood. However, there’s still a lot of misconception and a lack of understanding around the disorder. The term only really started to gain traction in the 1980s after Dr Patrick Carnes published his book “Out of the Shadows” to deal directly with the issue of sexual addiction.
Otherwise known as compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (CSBD), sex addiction is an addictive disorder. It’s classified as having repetitive and intrusive sexual thoughts and behaviours. Though it’s normal to have sexual desires and sexual urges, a sexual disorder like CSBD is invasive and can cause friction and damage to relationships. Sex addiction can also impact many people’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Sex addiction doesn’t just mean that someone has many sexual partners or engages in regular sexual activities. It’s actually not as clear-cut as that. Sex addiction can be anything from watching excessive amounts of online porn to being unable to control sexual thoughts or behaviours. It’s also worth noting that females are just as likely to experience a sex addiction as men, even though society has led many of us to believe that these kinds of problems affect men more than women.
Sex addiction can be harmful to those living with the disorder and those around them. Whilst exploitative sex addictions like paedophilia and rape are clearly damaging to others, everyday sexual addiction can be a little more difficult to understand. Whilst an individual might not physically harm other people, their behaviour can damage relationships and make it difficult for them to participate in everyday tasks, as noted above.
Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Sexual addiction is a complex condition that many people confuse with having a high libido or a healthy sex drive. For sex addiction to be considered a mental health condition, the person suffering from sex addiction has to have had long-standing and persistent thoughts, feelings, and sexual urges.
Some of the most common symptoms of sex addiction include:
- Having a porn addiction
- Watching porn excessively
- Compulsive sexual behaviour (having many sexual partners but engaging in risky sexual behaviours)
- Regular and intrusive sexual urges and thoughts that disrupt everyday life
- Taking part in repetitive sexual activities and sexual encounters to satisfy the addiction
- Experiencing an unusual amount of stress and worry in relationships, particularly around the topic of sex
What Causes Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction isn’t caused by one set factor. Often, the disorder develops because of a wide range of contributing problems. However, there are a few things that can increase the likelihood of developing sexual addiction, such as:
Those who have been exposed to sexual abuse, particularly at a young age, are more likely to develop sex addiction or other compulsive disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than most. This is because the compulsive and obsessive nature of sex addiction often crops up as a response to trauma. In other words, sex becomes a coping mechanism.
If a person comes from a cultural background with a lot of sexual taboos and stigmatisation around sexual expression, they’re actually at a higher risk of developing a sex addiction. It might seem counter-intuitive, but living in a society that represses sexual freedom and exploration can often push people over the edge. Alongside other Arabic nations, the Middle East is well known for its sexual taboos that can drive people to extremes.
Coming from a religious background that suppresses sexual exploration can also play a part in the reason someone develops a sex addiction. This is particularly true in strict Muslim societies in the Middle East, as Islamic law labels it a sin to have sex before marriage. Homosexual behaviour is also not accepted, which can lead to sexual repressions.
Over time, this repression can burst, causing an outpour of excessive sexual behaviours. In societies and religions with strict taboos, sex education itself is often limited – something that can help people feel ‘normal’ and accepting of their sexual desires and urges rather than sweeping them under the rug.
Mental Health Conditions
Those with underlying psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder are also more likely to be predisposed to excessive sexual activity and behaviours. This is because those with bipolar exhibit extreme hyperactivity, often leading them to pursue quick pleasures that can be found in sex.
Risks of Sex Addiction
On the face of it, sex addiction might not seem that big of a deal. After all, it’s not as physically damaging as alcohol or drug abuse. Although the latter is true, sexual addiction can significantly impact an individual’s day-to-day life.
Some of the risks include:
- Disrupting and damaging relationships, particularly romantic relationships due to pushing a partner to have more sex or cheating on them to satisfy the addiction.
- Increased mental health issues such as developing depression or anxiety due to destructive behaviours.
- Engaging in risk-taking behaviours and sexual activities, for example, having unprotected sex.
- Increased financial problems due to spending money watching porn, accessing chatrooms, or seeing prostitutes.
How Is Sex Addiction Diagnosed?
If a person suspects that they have a sex addiction, they should obtain a diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Having someone to benchmark sexual behaviour, sexual activity, and urges against can help many people understand whether they have a sexual addiction or have a healthy sex drive.
Some people, especially those from strict cultural or religious backgrounds in the Middle East, often feel ashamed for having regular sexual desires, urges, and being sexually active. Knowing what’s healthy and ‘normal’ and what’s excessive and intrusive is important.
Wanting or taking part in regular sexual intercourse is a normal human urge – it’s only once a person experiences intrusive and repetitive thoughts that they might have a problem. During a diagnosis, those in need of treatment will need to talk openly with their doctor about their addiction, fantasies, and sexual behaviour. This can be challenging, but questionnaires and assessments will help guide the conversation.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Treating sex addiction comes down to a combination of therapy and different treatment approaches. Sex addiction is a complex disorder; recovery takes time and effort. Therapy is only one side of the coin – those who complete addiction treatment also need to put what they’ve learned into action and start developing healthier coping mechanisms.
Some of the most popular treatment approaches for sex addiction include:
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of talk therapy. During sessions, those in recovery are prompted to acknowledge and talk openly about their sexual addiction. In addition to providing a safe environment to talk about any problems, CBT can help identify triggers and assist many people in understanding what they can do to overcome sexual urges.
A sex therapist may also be able to uncover any underlying mental health conditions during CBT, in which case an alternate treatment plan will be created.
If an individual with sex addiction is in a relationship, regular couples therapy with a sex therapist can help both partners understand the concept of sex addiction, comprehend each other’s sides, and learn how to deal with addiction on a daily basis via sexual education.
The 12-step programme isn’t just designed for alcohol addiction or drug abuse – it’s designed to help people overcome all types of addiction. The 12 steps can all be applied to different types of addictions.
When it comes to sex addictions, the 12-step programme can help people come to terms with their sexual addiction and help them acknowledge the harm that they’ve caused to themselves and others. It’s also a great way of letting go of shame and guilt.
Sexual Addiction Treatment at Addcounsel
At Addcounsel, we know just how difficult it can be for those living with sex addiction to acknowledge that they have a problem. With a large number of people coming from the Middle East, a lot of our clients walk through our doors with a sense of shame and guilt because of their addiction. We’re here to remind anyone suffering that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. With the right support and treatment, many people make a full recovery.
Our treatment approach combines a range of therapies to help those in need of treatment better understand their disorder and its root causes. All programmes are personalised to suit each person’s unique needs, and we’ll always take things at a gradual pace.
We also treat a wide range of mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as alcohol addiction and drug abuse.
To find out more about treating sex addiction, get in touch with our care team today. They’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you have and walk you through the admissions process.