For sex addicts, achieving their sexual needs can seem like an endless pursuit. Despite concerns about catching AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses, some male sex addicts, straight and gay, frequent prostitutes and look for anonymous relationships using dating apps. Some female sex addicts have a string of loveless experiences with males they meet in nightclubs and bars. Some people feel compelled to watch pornography for hours at a time, skipping family functions.

Active sex addicts can’t stop even when they know how their addiction is ruining their lives unless they start a recovery program, which may involve counseling, a stay in a rehab facility, and attendance at support group meetings, according to clinicians. Based to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a professional organization for marriage and family therapists, approximately 12 million Americans suffer from sex addiction, an intimacy disorder characterized by “persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite raising negative consequences to one’s self or others.”

A Chronic Illness

According to Stefanie Carnes, president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals in Carefree, Arizona, the chronic condition, which some clinicians refer to as a hypersexual or intimacy disorder, is characterized by compulsive behavior, unsuccessful attempts to stop the activity, risky actions, and an excessive amount of time spent seeking sexual gratification. She says that few sex addicts act out by engaging in unsafe and inappropriate internet activities, such as sending sexually suggestive texts and images, in addition to having obsessive sexual encounters and consuming pornography. According to Carnes, the illness affects people from all social strata, including the wealthy and well-known.

One of the well-known athletes in the world and professional golfer Tiger Woods are among the famous people who have reportedly grappled with sexual obsession. Woods issued an apology for his numerous extramarital affairs in 2010. At the time, Woods observed, “Buddhism teaches that a longing for things outside of ourselves generates an unpleasant and futile search for stability. “It helps me acquire restraint and quit acting on every whim. I forgot what I had been told.” At the time, few news organizations reported that Woods had entered a Mississippi clinic for sex addiction therapy.

“All addictions, including sex addiction, are diseases that do not make any distinctions. According to Holly Daniels, clinical outreach director at Sober College, a drug and alcohol treatment program for youth with treatment centers in San Diego and Woodland Hills, California, clinicians treat patients from various socioeconomic levels, races, religions, and cultures. According to Daniels, 8 to 10% of her clients who take drugs also struggle with intimate issues.

She claims that sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that enables addicts to self-medicate by engaging in compulsive sexual conduct to escape intense emotional anguish. “While men wish more than women to struggle with sex addiction, this may be because women are more likely to seek out various forms of self-medicating behaviors. For instance, women are far more likely than men to suffer from eating problems. According to clinicians, sex addictions affect people from all walks of life, including public figures, and are experienced by men three times more frequently than women.

More study is required.

According to Daniels, if there were more clinical studies on the disorder, therapists would likely be more aware of why sex addiction affects men more frequently than women. There isn’t extensive research on the condition, possibly because sex addiction isn’t listed as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s most recent consumer guide to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, “Knowing Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5.” According to Daniels, this might make it harder for researchers to get funding. She hopes the APA will eventually add sex addiction to the DSM-5.

Despite the lack of research in the field, clinicians are well-versed in sex addiction and the situations that can lead addicts to act on their compulsion. Here are some typical relapse triggers for recovering sex addicts as well as coping mechanisms:

Visual Stimulation

Anita Gahdia-Smith, a psychotherapist in Bethesda, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, claim that many sex addicts have “sexual templates” of the kinds of people that pique their interest. According to her, some of her patients with sexually compulsive behaviors may be encouraged to act out if they meet someone who fits their ideal partner when out and about, in a social situation, or even in a magazine photo. According to her, “this can cause a sexual impulse, and they want to act out sexually.” The addict could feel compelled to use a dating app to find a prostitute or a companion for a brief encounter.

Sex addicts can learn to “let such images starve and die” to prevent acting on such impulses, according to Gahdia-Smith. She advises avoiding dwelling on the vision; instead, turn your attention to something else. You can escape the illusion by making a phone call to a close friend, reading a book, or concentrating on a radio program. “If your mind is empty, you’ll probably indulge in these fancies if you’re wired to do so. You’re feeding the addiction more and more the more you think about it, “she claims. “Consider the risks you’re taking and the potential outcomes of a brief sexual encounter or using a prostitute.

Social Occasions

For some sex addicts, especially if a previous sexual partner is present, business-related events and parties with many attractive people can be risky. These individuals have the power to arouse powerful urges for sex that start a sex addict’s compulsive behavior. According to Carnes, an intelligent approach to use in these circumstances is “bookending.” This tactic entails a sex addict calling a friend who is a part of their network to chat before and after the event. The addict receives support and accountability via bookending. By attending meetings with organizations like Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and Sexaholics Anonymous—support groups that promote the 12-step model that has assisted millions of alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery—sex addicts can establish a network.

Taking a Solo Trip

Traveling, especially by themselves, might set off a compulsion in a sex addict, according to Gahdia-Smith. A sex addict who travels is separated from their support system and network of peers and, particularly when traveling on business, is surrounded by strangers who could serve as prospective anonymous sexual partners. Besides being surrounded by strangers, being alone in a hotel room might cause some sex addicts to relapse. This is so because many sex addicts utilize filters to prevent themselves from seeing pornography on their laptops and cell phones, even when they could do so on the hotel TV. Sexual addicts can stay in touch through texts, emails, and phone conversations when they are geographically separated from their network and can easily find support group meetings and other recovering sex addicts wherever they go, according to Gahdia-Smith. Travelers can also ask hotel staff to turn off pornographic channels if they have any in their rooms.