Treatment for compulsive sexual behavior typically involves psychotherapy, medications and self-help groups. A primary goal of treatment is to help you manage urges and reduce excessive behaviors while maintaining healthy sexual activities.
If you have compulsive sexual behavior, you may also need treatment for another mental health condition. People with compulsive sexual behavior often have alcohol or drug abuse problems or other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, which need treatment.
People with other addictions or severe mental health problems or who pose a danger to others may benefit from inpatient treatment initially. Whether inpatient or outpatient, treatment may be intense at first. And you may find periodic, ongoing treatment through the years helpful to prevent relapses.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you learn how to manage your compulsive sexual behavior. Types of psychotherapy include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with more adaptive ways of coping. You learn strategies to make these behaviors less private and interfere with being able to access sexual content so easily.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy, which is a form of CBT that emphasizes acceptance of thoughts and urges and a commitment to strategies to choose actions that are more consistent with important values.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy, which is therapy that focuses on increasing your awareness of unconscious thoughts and behaviors, developing new insights into your motivations, and resolving conflicts.
These therapies can be provided in an individual, group, family or couples format.
In addition to psychotherapy, certain medications may help because they act on brain chemicals linked to obsessive thoughts and behaviors, reduce the chemical "rewards" these behaviors provide when you act on them, or reduce sexual urges. Which medication or medications are best for you depend on your situation and other mental health conditions you may have.
Medications used to treat compulsive sexual behavior are often prescribed primarily for other conditions. Examples include:
- Antidepressants. Certain types of antidepressants used to treat depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder may help with compulsive sexual behavior.
- Naltrexone. Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is generally used to treat alcohol and opiate dependence and blocks the part of your brain that feels pleasure with certain addictive behaviors. It may help with behavioral addictions such as compulsive sexual behavior or gambling disorder.
- Mood stabilizers. These medications are generally used to treat bipolar disorder, but may reduce compulsive sexual urges.
- Anti-androgens. These medications reduce the biological effects of sex hormones (androgens) in men. Because they reduce sexual urges, anti-androgens are often used in men whose compulsive sexual behavior is dangerous to others.
Self-help and support groups can be helpful for people with compulsive sexual behavior and for dealing with some of the issues it can cause. Many groups are modeled after the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
These groups can help you:
- Learn about your disorder
- Find support and understanding of your condition
- Identify additional treatment options, coping behaviors and resources
- Help with relapse prevention
These groups may be internet-based or have local in-person meetings, or both. If you're interested in a self-help group, look for one that has a good reputation and that makes you feel comfortable. Such groups don't suit everyone's taste. Ask your mental health professional for suggested groups or about alternatives to support groups.