Dr. Alexandra Katehakis is a pioneer in the area of sex addiction, and healthy sexual behavior. In this episode we talk about what sex addiction is, where it stems from, how to treat it, and how to know if you need help. It’s a provocative conversation on one of the most stigmatized addictions we face.
Dr. Katehakis is a Marriage Family Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist/Supervisor and Certified Sex Therapist/Supervisor, and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles. Dr. Katehakis has extensive experience in working with a full spectrum of sexuality; from sexual addiction to sex therapy, as well as and problems of sexual desire and sexual dysfunction for individuals and couples. She has successfully facilitated the recovery of many sexually addicted individuals and assisted couples in revitalizing their sex lives.
She has written numerous books on the topics of sex addiction, erotic intelligence, the neurobiology of sex addiction, intimacy, and other topics related to this space.
SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- We spent some time in our conversation talking about what exactly addiction is more broadly. Dr. Katehakis explains that addiction generally is a strong predilection for something. It doesn’t really matter what that thing is.
- We discuss the “history” of sex addiction including when people started talking about sex as an addiction, the early research as well as current research and how society views the topic of sex addiction.
- Dr. Katehakis talks about some of her work with Dr. Patrick Carnes on the topic of sex addiction as well as some of the discoveries he has pioneered since he began studying the topic in the 1980s.
- Dr. Katehakis explains that shame is the driving force behind a lot of our unhealthy sexual practices including sex addiction. She says that, “Shame is built into the autonomic nervous system. It’s in the gut. It’s in the enteric nervous system.” And that “Human beings are biologically coded for shame.” Shame is a pro-social function that drives a lot of how we develop as humans.
- We discussed what a sex addict is, when they become one and how to know if someone needs help. Some of the criteria she mentioned for judging whether you may need to seek help include:
a) Spending more time than you intended on a sexual behavior
b) Privileging sexual behavior over other obligations
c) Continuing behavior despite negative consequences
d) Preoccupation with sex
There are assessments people can take, one of which is located on her website here: https://centerforhealthysex.com/sex-therapy-resources/sex-addiction-test/
There is a section on her website dedicated to figure out if someone is a sex addict or not and you can find that content here: http://centerforhealthysex.com/sex-addiction/
- We talked about the history of sex addiction treatment and the work of Dr. Patrick Carnes. His model is one of abstinence, not forever, but for a period of time so you can get a read on what’s happening with your mood when you take that break from whatever you are addicted to. This helps you figure out what is driving “this thing” that may be addiction (could be a mood disorder, or something else). Sometimes someone has a mood disorder, then they get on medication, and their extreme sexual behavior becomes less common.
- We talked about what recovery from sex addiction looks like. Dr. Katehakis explained that not all sex addicts are alike. She explains how in her workbook called, “Sexual Reflections,” people can create a sexual health plan as part of a recovery process. She explained that anything can go on that plan as long as you don’t feel shame about it, and it is not secretive.
- We talked about how men are in an identity crisis of sorts today. Men are socialized from an early age to be in competition with each other, to measure everything and this translates into unhealthy behaviors early in life as well as later in life. We also discussed how in the recovery community, you see the opposite, where people are helpful to one another and it radically changes how we get along both as individuals and collectively with society.
- How do you recover from sex addiction? We talked about 12-step recovery programs, websites, resources, etc. Some of those resources are listed here for both porn and sex addiction:
Dr. Katehakis explains that, “People change their attachment styles when they attend 12-step meetings over time.” She goes on to explain that attachment issues have to do with “regulation” of the nervous system. In a 12-step program you start to realize you can get your needs met from other people (as opposed to only getting them met from yourself, through destructive behavior). During this process, another human is helping to regulate your nervous system. Sex addicts have been doing this through unhealthy sexual behavior. Eventually you start to learn to trust other people, and then your nervous system starts to seek other people when it needs help rather than engage in unhealthy sexual behavior.