How can you be addicted to sex?
Unlike booze or drugs, sex is a basic human need. But people, including HIVers, can use it like alcohol or drugs—in moderation or excess, with the right or wrong people, at the right or wrong time and for the right or wrong reasons.
Why sex addiction and HIV don’t mix:
Reckless sex has many consequences for HIVers, from the obvious risks of barebacking to the masking of depression or anxiety that needs real treatment. Michael Shernoff, MSW, an HIV positive New York psychotherapist who’s been treating both HIV positive and negative patients for 20 years, says HIVers are no more likely than neggies to be sex addicts. But being positive can compound the shame, making healthy sexuality feel out of reach and leading to further destructive behavior. Shernoff says it’s often hard to know where sex addiction leaves off and a substance addiction begins. “I have so many HIV positive clients whose sex addiction and crystal meth addiction are fueling each other, and doing terrible damage to their health,” Shernoff says.
Do you need help?
Only you can make the diagnosis. Try the 20-question quiz on the Sexual Compulsives Anonymous web site (www.sca-recovery.org). A sample:
- Do you frequently feel remorse, depression or guilt about your sexual activity?
- Do you feel your sexual drive or activity is out of control?
- Have you repeatedly tried to stop certain sexual behaviors, but couldn’t?
- Do you spend excessive time obsessing about sex or engaging in sexual activity?
- Bottom line: Is sex disrupting your life?
The Big Fix:
As sexual compulsivity has come to be recognized as a mainstream addiction, many support services have emerged, a great number HIVer-oriented or -friendly (see “Recovery Rooms” ). In addition to many 12-step groups based on the AA model, treatment centers are also addressing sex addiction. A therapist or HIVer support group may be the best place to start.