Sex Addiction Recovery Timeline Explained

Like all behavioral addictions, sex addiction is something that sufferers have to deal with daily. The difficulty in controlling negative and harmful impulses is one of the most challenging aspects of the condition. When sexual addicts reach this stage, professional help is necessary.

The good news is that recovering from sex addiction is possible. Many sexual addicts who have struggled with the condition for years have recovered enough to live happy and rewarding lives.

That being said, recovery from sex addiction will take considerable time and effort, as well as support from loved ones. Addicts also have to go through a lengthy recovery process, the stages of which are outlined below.

Stages of Sex Addiction Recovery

The length and nature of the recovery process often vary from person to person, sometimes by a considerable degree. Not everyone goes through the same stages of recovery. In the same way, different people may have different definitions of what constitutes “recovery”.

Even so, studies involving people with compulsive sexual behaviors revealed similar recovery patterns. One study identified general stages that patients underwent during recovery and treatment and how long it took to go through each. Here are some of the most common stages that sex addicts go through during the recovery process:


The development stage can last two years or more. But rather than developing healthy habits, this stage is characterized by a gradual descent into sex addiction and an increase in the problems associated with it. It is during this period that the individual realizes that there is a problem.

Some addicts may take tentative steps toward finding a solution during this stage, such as beginning therapy. However, most are unable to commit to a lasting recovery.


The crisis stage is usually much shorter, typically lasting one to three months. In this brief period, the problems associated with sexual addiction reaches a crisis point. One of the few positive things that come from this period is the sex addict’s decision to make a lasting change in his or her life.

The actual ‘crisis’ could vary from person to person. For some, it could be getting a sexually transmitted disease. For others, it may involve being arrested or a suicide attempt. In most cases, the crisis is the push that the addict needs to commit to change.


The shock stage typically lasts from six to eight months. During this period, the addict may acknowledge the problem’s existence but still struggle with shock and disbelief. There are usually feelings of anger and hopelessness, but many feel some measure of relief resulting from admitting that sexual addiction is the cause of many of their problems.


Grief often follows on the heels of the shock stage. This period lasts around six months for most, during which time they feel sadness and remorse about the damage that sexual addiction has caused.

Sex addicts often also grieve the loss of the addictive actions they’ve relied on for years. During this time, the underlying issues at the root of the addiction may begin to emerge.


The repair stage is when most of the work of recovery takes place. For most people, this period lasts from one to three years. The repair process often involves intensive therapy, during which addicts gradually learn to take responsibility for their destructive actions. They may also reestablish relationships with loved ones and develop healthier habits and attitudes toward sex.


The final stage is growth, which could last for two years or more. This is when sex addicts go through the final steps toward fully recovering from sexual addiction. Many addicts begin deriving more enjoyment from life and develop the confidence that comes from engaging in healthy sexual relationships.

Recovery and Sobriety From Sexual Addiction

It may be helpful to think of recovery as separate from sobriety. Although some may feel that total sobriety should be the ultimate goal of recovery, the process itself brings about many positive benefits.

For many people, recovery provides the opportunity to set new boundaries and establish new patterns of behavior. It also gives sex addicts the chance to form new relationships and restore previously damaged relationships with friends and loved ones.

For others, recovery may provide the opportunity to develop essential skills and strategies, including time management, productivity, and creativity. Some may also use this period to learn how to resist temptation and deal with factors that trigger unwanted sexual behavior.

For many sex addicts, recovery is when the foundation is laid for a new life. Hopefully, the lessons learned and the patterns established during recovery will carry the individual over throughout their lives.