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What’s the Difference Between Sex Addiction and Love Addiction?


When it comes to sex and love addiction, it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other. While sex addiction and love addiction are types of intimacy disorders, they manifest themselves differently. The ‘acting out’ behaviors that characterize these addictions are dissimilar, sexual addiction involves the obsession and compulsion with sexual acts, whereas love addiction is classified by a pattern of unhealthy and fantasy-based relationships. Regardless of which category someone falls in, treatment and support are often required to recover from sex or love addiction.

Sex addiction is an obsessive/compulsive way of thinking about and engaging in sexual acts. People with sex addiction engage in these acts to an extreme, such that other parts of their lives are adversely affected. Sex addiction is strongly linked to risk-taking behaviors. Though the risk of ruining relationships, getting an STD, or being arrested may all be present, the individual will ignore these signs in order to indulge in his or her sexual fantasies or rituals (Nordqvist). These risks often become greater and greater as the addiction progresses, from chronic masturbation to engaging in violent sexual acts or frequenting prostitutes.

Love addiction, on the other hand, is an obsession with a person or relationship, even though it may be unhealthy and the obsession causes the individual great harm in his or her personal life. Love addicts often use relationships to satisfy their fantasy of being taken care of, unconditionally loved, and having their problems solved (Katehakis). The acting out that is associated with love addiction involves the inability to stop seeing someone who is destructive and engaging in relationships as a way to avoid or deal with life’s problems (Katehakis).

While the specifics vary between the ways sex and love addicts act out, they share a few key components. Both sex addicts and love addicts are unable to experience intimacy in healthy relationships and substitute intensity for emotional intimacy. Moreover, the chemicals that are released in the brain when people engage in these rituals or patterns (oxytocin, dopamine, and other endorphins) are the same in both sex addiction as well as love addiction (Recovery Ranch). There are also links between both of these addictions and dysfunctional families. Love addicts often have a history of abandonment from caregivers, and sex addicts are more likely to have been abused than the general population (Katehakis; Psych Central; Nordqvist).

For both sex addiction and love addiction, treatment and regular attendance of support groups is recommended. Many treatment centers offer sex and love addiction programs, where they teach individuals to understand and begin to heal the underlying causes of their destructive acting out. For both sex and love addicts, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) is an option. For sex addiction only, there is Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. For love addicts, Love Addicts Anonymous is available as a support group.

There are varying ways that sex and love addiction manifest themselves in people’s lives. The specific ways that people respond to events in their lives vary, but the underlying causes and chemical processes associated with these addictions are similar. More importantly, the treatment for these addictions is similar as well, offering hope to people who are sabotaging their lives and happiness – whether the destruction lies in love or sex.


Works Cited

Katehakis, Alexandra. “Sex and Love Addiction: What’s the Difference?” 28 June 2011. Psychology Today. Web. 20 June 2013.

—. “What is Love Addiction?” 26 May 2013. Psych Central. Web. 20 June 2013.

Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Sexual Addiction (Compulsive Sexual Behavior)? What Causes Sexual Addiction?” 16 March 2010. Medical News Today. Web. 20 June 2013.

“Sex Addiction Versus Love Addiction: Are They Fundamentally Different Or The Same?” n.d. Recovery Ranch. Web. 20 June 2013.


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A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Conditions and Disorders, Love and Relationships · Tags: Love Addiction, sex addiction

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