What Is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is defined as a destructive pattern of behavior where someone is extremely dependent on sex. The dependency can encourage someone to seek sex out in unhealthy ways, such as using it for an outlet for power and control or as a way to relieve depression and anxiety. Individuals who have a sex addiction often have compulsions that threaten their relationships, health, and lifestyle. An individual can be dependent on sex to fulfill biological, spiritual, or mood-related needs and can use sex addiction as a way to escape daily challenges. There is often a negative spiral where sex creates problems in the addicts life which they then seek to escape through sex. Often this leads to the sex addiction becoming worse over time with increasingly damaging consequences.
Is Sex Addiction Real?
A major debate among experts exists as to whether or not sex addiction is a real experience. Some experts claim that sex addiction is merely a combination of high sexual drive and low impulse control rather than a true addiction. However, others claim that sex addiction mirrors other addictions in many ways such as the continuation of dangerous behavior despite experiencing negative consequences. Sex addiction often comes with feelings of powerlessness and helplessness over one’s sex drive and how to control it.
Complications of sex addiction can also arise out of traumatic experiences, or from people who use sex to escape daily problems. To illustrate, a man or woman who was raped or molested as a child may cope with this abuse by compulsively seeking many sex partners. This act may help the abused victim accept the trauma. In this example, the traumatized individuals should consider treatment for possible emotional and mental health conditions that stem from sexual abuse.
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Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
The inability to control one’s urges often leaves little regard for others who are affected and can deeply strain relationships and endanger the life of the sex addict. In addition to difficulties dealing with compulsions, people battling sex addiction often exhibit other behaviors and traits such as:
- Inappropriate sexual relationships (such as sex with anonymous partners or unsafe sex)
- Spending significant time seeking sex
- Patterns of infidelity
- Inability to respect others’ sexual boundaries
- Partaking in sex-related activities
- Risky sexual activity (such as public sex or unprotected sex with strangers)
- Watching excess pornography
- Partaking in numerous affairs
- Failing to control one’s sexual urges and actions
- Phone sex or cyber sex
Types of Sex Addiction
Like other behavioral addictions and compulsions such as gambling addiction and porn addiction, sex addicts often admit feelings of being out of control and unable to tone down sexual urges. Similar to other addictions and disorders, sex addiction is expressed in many ways. One of the most common and well known forms of sex addiction is hypersexuality or nymphomania, whereby the individual has frequent sex with multiple partners, or at least attempts to. Other forms and manifestations of sex addiction include:
- Exploiting another’s sexual boundaries for pleasure
- Excessive cheating
- Obsessional sexual fantasies
- Distinct sexual practices (ie. sado-masochism)
- Using excessive sex for emotional or sexual fulfillment
- Pornography addiction
- Excessive masturbation
People with sex addiction can take on any number behaviors to deal with the psychological and physical effects of their condition. Additionally, there can be other forms of expression with sex addictions that cause various levels of damage to themselves or others.
Prostitution and Sex Addiction
Prostitution is difficult to link with sex addiction as prostitution occurs for many reasons. For example, prostitution can occur to finance substance use disorders. Prostitution can also occur if a victim of trafficking is forced into prostitution. In the case of sex addiction, a person can seek prostitution as a means to capitalize on sex addiction. Alternatively, the johns many also be the sex addicts who visit prostitutes as a means to fuel their sex addiction.
Sex Addiction and Broken Families
Sex addicts have behavioral tendencies that can affect both themselves and others. If someone battling sex addiction has sexual encounters that endanger their family or work life, there can be dire consequences. One of the major impacts of sex addiction on the family is the lack of connection a relative may feel. Emotional distance from the sex addict may make loved ones feel alone, anxious, and resentful.
Another major effect of sex addiction is affairs. The secrecy that goes into the affairs sex addicts have create mistrust within relationships. A suspecting spouse who discovers their husband or wife is having affairs likely will no longer trust them and leave. The result is a broken family and someone needing help regaining control over their life.
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Sex Addiction and Mental Health
Any sexual act committed by a sex addict may bring on guilt, shame, and a loss of control in sufferers. Feelings of powerlessness and frustration are emotional feelings of equal importance. These feelings can preoccupy the person’s mind, interfering with daily responsibilities. Emotions like guilt, frustration, pressure and shame can cause someone to drink or experiment with drugs for relief. Since sex releases endorphins similar to drugs someone with depression can self-medicate though sex for instant gratification. This is especially problematic as approximately 28% of male sex addicts struggle with depression.
Sex Addiction and Substance Use Disorders
People with sex addiction often battle with substance use disorders and addictions. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 80% of patients battling sex addiction also battle substance use disorders. The most common was alcohol abuse; however, many other substances were abused as well.
Substance abuse and sex addiction have a mutually causative relationship. Sex addiction often leads to negative consequences that those who are afflicted try to cope with by abusing substances. Also, substance abuse lowers inhibitions and boundaries and leads to the type of risky or negative sexual behavior that fuels a sex addiction. For example, substances like cocaine and other stimulants can accompany someone with sex addiction who prefers to heighten their experience with drugs. Treatment for those who have both sex addiction and a substance use disorder is especially important, because this particular combination is especially likely to cause severely damaging consequences for not only the addict, but also their loved ones.
Get Treatment for Sex Addiction Today
Sex addiction is a condition which affects many who are both directly and indirectly involved. The key is finding treatment. In particular, seeking treatment that focuses on healing underlying conditions like alcoholism or trauma helps encourage a healthy recovery. Any mental health conditions the individual may not be aware of are treated. Rehabs offer counseling and therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, couples counseling, and group therapy. There are also Sex Addicts Anonymous groups offering 12-Step programs for accepting and committing to overcoming sex addiction. Contact a treatment expert today, and discover ways to recover.
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