Recovery from sex addiction requires both letting go of the bad and embracing the good. Too often sex addicts feel that they must “give up sex” or else they will be caught up again in their self-destructive acting out cycle. The addict can develop sexual anorexia in which it actually feels safer to avoid all thoughts and feelings about sex. The sexual anorexia prevents the couple from developing a healthy sexuality together, robbing the relationship of a crucial element of intimacy and deep bonding.
Alexandra Katehakis writes in her book, Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot, Healthy Sex While in Recovery from Sex Addiction, “Sex addicts are not addicted to sex as much as they’re addicted to the rush they get from the dopamine released from their brains. This means that sex is not the problem; it’s the abuse of sex to get high that’s at fault. They’ve seen that the more novel and exciting the situation, the more dopamine gets released, and thus, the greater the rush.”
Early in recovery a period of complete sexual abstinence can be a help to the addict to create a space between the sexual acting out behavior and his/her sexual experience in the coupleship. This period of abstinence can also be helpful to the partner who is healing from feelings of betrayal and beginning to rebuild trust in the relationship. But an effective recovery should create a safe place to develop and express feelings of sexuality within the relationship. As sex is not the problem, a healthy sexuality can be an important part of the solution.