What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction can be just as powerful and harmful as any drug or alcohol addiction. Essentially sex addiction is parallel to drug addiction. The obsessive and compulsive behaviors to obtaining the high that is achieved by engaging in sex and the effects that the addiction has on personal, emotional, and physical aspects of their life.
Sex addiction occurs when a normal sex drive has become an obsessive and overly active sex drive, to the point that sexual behavior is out of control. A firm resolution to change this behavior is too often not enough to stop. A sex addict lives a very confusing and painful life of a distorted understanding of what their needs are.
The cycle of Sex Addiction
The behavior of sex addicts is comparable to the behavior of alcoholics and addicts, where sex functions like a drug. Sexual acts or obsessively thinking about sex consume the sex addict’s life. The cycle of sex addiction starts with a fantasy, an obsession. Much like drug addiction, the thought or obsession drives the addict to need to act upon their desire.
Once the addict engages in sex, remorse, and sorrow follow. The only coping mechanism they know is starting the cycle all over again by needing to engage in sex. These obsessions can profoundly negatively impact an individual’s job performance, family, and social life.
Why is Sexual Addiction Referred as Behavioral?
Sexual addiction is referred to as a process or behavioral addiction, as opposed to a substance addiction like alcohol or drugs. In a behavioral addiction, the euphoric feeling or the “high” comes from chemicals released into the brain rather than from an external source like a drug. Sex addiction can seriously impact the life of the sex addict and the loved ones that witness its destruction.
The Secret Life of a Sex Addict
It is common that a sex addict lives a double life. Sex addiction is generally concealed due to the extreme guilt and remorse associated with the disease. Much like with drug and alcohol addiction, the sex addict becomes skilled in hiding this secret life from those closest to him. Sex addicts engage in distorted thinking, often rationalizing and justifying their behavior and blaming others for problems. A common thread in sex addicts and drug and alcohol addicts is denial.
Medicinenet.com outlines several behaviors observed in individuals with a sexual addiction below. Behaviors associated with sexual addiction can include:
- Compulsive masturbation
- Multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs)
- Multiple or anonymous sexual partners
- One-night stands
- Consistent use of pornography
- Unsafe sex practices
- Phone or computer sex (cybersex)
- Prostitution or use of prostitutes
- Obsessive dating through personal ads
- Voyeurism(watching others) and/or stalking
- Sexual harassment
Types Of Sexual Addiction
Sexual addiction can take on many forms:
- The compulsive use of pornography
- Repeated sexual affairs
- Using prostitutes
Sex addicts typically engage in high-risk behaviors. A sex addict may participate in various forms of sexual activity regardless of the negative consequences.
Signs & Symptoms Of Sexual Addiction
A few signs can indicate whether someone is sexually addicted. It can be emotional or physical.
If you or someone you love has a sex addiction, they may not have any health restrictions. If your spouse is addicted to pornography or sex, you may feel lonely, abandoned, sad, angry, or ashamed and need to treat yourself. According to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, if you’re a sex addict, you can easily engage in sexual feelings and activities with people, no matter how well you know them.
Because in most cases, sex addicts are afraid of abandonment, they can end up in unhealthy relationships or jumping from relationship to relationship. They may feel empty or incomplete on their own. They can also experience feelings such as guilt, loneliness, or fear.
Although addiction to sex or pornography can cause many physical side effects, there are some physical symptoms of this disease. However, the most common symptom of dependent sex you may notice due to sexual addiction is a feeling of insecurity due to sexual obsession.
Is Sexual Addiction Harmful?
In addition to damaging the addict’s relationships and interfering with his or her work and social life, sex addiction also puts the person at risk for emotional and physical harm. For some people, their sex addiction can escalate to voyeurism, obscene phone calls, and even molestation or rape.
However, it is important to note that not all sex addicts become sexual offenders. For many sex addicts, the damage is done to their lives and the lives of those closest to them quite similar to drug and alcohol addiction.
Sex Addiction and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
The health risks of sex addiction put the addict at a high risk of contracting and transmitting diseases such as genital herpes, genital warts, HIV, and AIDS. Additionally, the risk of an unplanned pregnancy can catapult the emotional turmoil of an already troubled lifestyle. Terminal diseases like HIV are a scary reality for sex addicts, and the probability of contracting this disease is relatively high when having unprotected sex at the level that a sex addict engages in.
The Thin Line between Love and Sex Addiction
Unlike an individual who is a love addict, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sex. They do not seek to form an emotional bond with their sex partners. Even so, sexual addiction causes profound feelings of guilt and shame. And like a drug addict or alcoholic, a sex addict also experiences a lack of control over the behavior, despite negative consequences to their life and repeated efforts to stop.
Is Sexual Addiction a Disorder?
Sexual addiction is not listed as a disorder in the DSM IV. It is considered a process or behavioral addiction and has come to mean an addiction where an individual obsessively and compulsively seeks out sexual gratification to the degree that various aspects of their lives become compromised and their behavior is impaired.
The prior third version of the DSM used to mention sexual addiction as “non-paraphilic sexual addiction” under Sexual Disorders not otherwise specified. Some clinicians put sexual addiction with Impulse Control Disorders not otherwise specified.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Sexual Addiction is typically treated by psychotherapy. Participating in 12 step groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous can implement support from peers that are on the same journey of recovery. Sometimes medication for accompanying anxiety or depression can aid in relieving the overwhelming psychological issues that may co-occur.
Like drug and alcohol addiction, denial is a component that must first be overcome so recovery can begin. Treatment centers are a growing resource for addicts of all nature; finding a sex addiction treatment center is possible.