Sex addiction remains a perplexing and contentious subject, surrounded by debate and skepticism. However, advancements in neuroscience are shedding light on this complex mental illness, offering a deeper understanding and more effective treatments. Alexandra Katehakis’ groundbreaking book, ‘Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment,’ merges the latest neuroscientific insights with the foundational work of Patrick Carnes and other experts. This neurobiologically informed model unveils the intricate connections between early experiences, brain functioning, and the entanglement of sex addiction. Let’s delve into the tangled truths and complexities that neurobiology unveils about sex addiction.

Recovery from sex addiction neuro-biologically informed

Brain science is helping us to learn more effective ways of treating a devastating mental illness.. sex addiction.

Alexandra Kathehakis has written a brilliant new book, Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment (2016). This scholarly and clinically advanced model integrates the latest advances in neuroscience into the thinking of Patrick Carnes and others.

We no longer used the term “sex addiction” speculatively. Neuroscience is gradually ending the debate. Research is mapping the addictionology of neural pathways. While there is increasing evidence that sex addiction is real, it remains a controversial and somewhat unpopular idea.

Sex addiction and family-of-origin issues

Patrick Carnes is the dean of sex-addiction research. His research indicates that the family of origin for most sex addicts is characterized by secrecy, dysfunction, and addictions.

Sexual boundaries are typically on the extremes; either extremely rigid, or practically non-existent.

The sex addict’s father is most often remote and unapproachable and often modeled addictive behavior himself.

The mother typically over-compensated by being fussy, controlling and overly protective.

The sex addict’s childhood was one of extreme emotional containment, he learns that his feelings must be denied, and are of little interest to his parents.

An abiding emotional neediness steadily grows.

This neediness looks like a split. The sex-addict was often in a particular “role” as a child in his family of origin. These roles dutifully served the needs of one or both parents.

Sex-addicts were often the “Hero” child or the “Scapegoat” child. Because these roles are almost a sort of family “job” description, sex-addicts have a dutiful sense of family. Family is where you fulfill your duties. Marriage becomes joyless, passionless, and sexless, but supremely dutiful.

The sex-addict “splits off” his eroticism. His sexual acting out is where he deposits his passion, fun, and sexual energy. Acting out becomes an oasis away from duty and responsibility. Here he can explore, play, and most importantly, escape. But the addict learned about the satisfaction of secrets in his childhood.


Problems with sexuality are frequent in sex addict families of origin. Carnes reports that 40% of their fathers, 18% of their mothers, and 50% of their siblings have sexual problems. Addiction and sex are topics of non-discussion. Secrecy and denial are the family rules.

Sex addiction is challenging to treat because, according to Carnes, it captures three profound dimensions of addiction; fantasy, arousal, and satiation.

Critical treatment elements include:

  • The breaking down of denial.
  • Understanding addictive behavior in the context of the addicts family of origin.
  • Recognizing the addict’s particular addictive cycle and learning how to interrupt it.
  • Learning to recognize and express strong emotion, such as rage, fear, helplessness, and discomfort.
  • Identifying needs and developing skill in getting needs met.
  • Asking for help from family members and bringing them into support treatment.
  • Leverage. Sex addicts must acutely feel as sense of negative consequence 
    . Without consequences, the addict slips into denial.

Sex addiction recovery

Restructuring a brain network from sex addiction requires external support, inner resolve, and time.

Sex Addicts typically experience specific stages of recovery. Each one of these stages could take many months:

  • Admission of the addiction
  • Willingness to do battle
  • Processing the shock of discovering the cost in lost relationships, money, and time.
  • Reclaiming of the self “A Dark Night of the Soul.”
  • Owning sexuality instead of being owned by it.

Pre- recovery contemplation is a developmental stage that can last up to two years. Total sobriety is a fundamental absolute for entering treatment.

The crisis or decision stage can last from as little as a day to as long as three months. Once a working sobriety from sex addiction is achieved, the shock of living sober will take about eight months to process. This process overlaps, and sometimes followed by a 4 to 8 months grief stage.

Halfway through the grief stage, an 18 to 36 months repair phase begins. This stage often is often characterized by increasing stability and growth that becomes hopeful of stability after two years of recovery.

Sex addiction recovery over occurs over time. It may take from 3 to 5 years, because only consistent, daily recovery actions produce reliable psycho-neurobiological changes.


Recovering from sex addiction is a multistage journey that intertwines external support, internal resolve, and time. Each phase, from acknowledgment to restructuring brain networks, demands meticulous attention and commitment. Understanding the developmental trajectory of sex addiction recovery—ranging from admission to the eventual repair phase—highlights the intricate layers that envelop a person during their healing journey. With consistent daily efforts, psycho-neurobiological changes can gradually unfold, illustrating that true recovery from sex addiction is not a sprint but a steadfast marathon, taking anywhere from three to five years. This comprehensive understanding, informed by neuroscience, illuminates the challenging yet hopeful path toward liberation from the shackles of sex addiction.