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If you have come to terms with the reality that you have a sexual addiction then yes, you have a disease. Take a breath. It’s not as bad as you think, and taking the first steps to treat your disease will start you on a path of recovery.

Like any disease, addiction is progressive and will get worse without treatment. Addiction will also affect the addict’s quality of life and ability to function at home, at work, and in the community. Addiction doesn’t discriminate by population, gender, region, or socioeconomics. It knows no boundaries. Like cancer cells which reproduce and infect good cells, the rituals of addiction, specifically sexual addiction, create a dominant space for addictive behavior to grow. The more the addict engages in pornography, masturbation, phone sex, cruising, affairs, sexual fetishes, and other forms of sexual addiction, the more the need grows for the addict to make room in his life for addiction at the expense of other areas of his life.

Just as there are certain symptoms that characterize diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and asthma, the disease of addiction also has recognizable symptoms: denial, family and/or relationship chaos, isolation and secrecy, grandiosity, low self-esteem, ritualization or fine-tuning behaviors, etc. Sadly, unlike cancer and other medical diseases, one of the symptoms of the disease of addiction is the desire NOT to be cured. The addict will often go to great lengths to hide and deny the disease, refusing to acknowledge the existence of the disease and refusing to get help.

Untreated addiction, like other untreated diseases, gets progressively worse until the addict seeks treatment, bottoms out, ends up in jail or even dies.

Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. It is possible to stop the progression of the disease of sexual addiction. Interrupting the disease cycle with therapy and 12-step participation will help you to take back the space you have given to your addiction. Your addiction has robbed you of time. Your obsessive behavior has controlled your hours and days until you are defined by your compulsions. Filling that space with healthy behaviors will help you redefine who you are.

Viewing addiction through the disease model is also helpful to the family member, spouse, or significant other who has been affected by the addict’s behavior. It helps to define the addict as someone who is sick, not someone who is bad. This is a vitally important piece to healing, especially when healing from sex addiction which is fraught with shame and judgment. If a diabetic needs a healthier diet and insulin every day, so too does the addict need treatment and 12-Step group participation.

It can be upsetting to think of yourself as someone with a disease. Part of recovery, whether from addiction or cancer or diabetes, is accepting that something unhealthy has taken you over. Like treatments for other diseases, once treatment for sex addiction begins, most addicts will begin to see positive effects. Once accepted, your disease will diminish every time you participate in getting better.