Sex addiction is a type of addiction characterized by compulsive sexual behavior. This can include sex with multiple partners, sex in public places, and using sex to cope with stress.
People addicted to sex often feel like they cannot control their behavior, and they may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their actions. As they fabricate lies to hide their behavior, they inadvertently hide themselves, left feeling isolated and alone. Sex can become an overpowering force in their lives.
Despite the difficult urges and disastrous consequences, there is hope for anyone struggling with sex addiction to overcome it.
This article will discuss what sex addiction is, the symptoms and causes of sex addiction, and how to overcome it.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is defined as sexually motivated behavior, where a person lacks control over their thoughts, impulses, and urges to act out on them. Sometimes referred to as sexual dependency or sexual compulsion, sex addiction is characterized by a compulsive and excessive need for sexual stimulation.
This can be problematic for someone living with sex addiction as they act on their urges despite negative consequences. The impact of their behaviors can span their physical health, social life, and emotional wellbeing.
It’s estimated that between 12 and 30 million Americans experience some form of sexual compulsion. The only effective way to treat this is through sex addiction counseling or therapy, which can help improve one’s relationship with intimacy and sex overall.
What Causes Sex Addiction?
A person can develop sex addiction due to various individual and environmental factors – typically a complex interplay of both.
For instance, some individuals with sex addiction were victimized as children. To cope with the emotional pain and stress of their overbearing sexual upbringing, they might experience sexual compulsions.
While there is no single known cause of sex addiction, there are a few common contributing factors.
Risk Factors of Sex Addiction
Certain moods are the most likely and understood contributing factor of sex addiction. Many people with sex addiction act on sexual compulsions to cope with low or difficult moods. Common mood triggers include depression, sadness, and loneliness. However, happiness can be a mood trigger as well.
History of Abuse
Sex addiction is common in individuals with a history of abuse – whether sexual, physical, or emotional.
Androgen is a sex hormone that impacts libido. When one’s body produces too much of this hormone, it puts them at a higher risk for developing sex addiction.
According to research, neurochemical differences in the reward center of a person’s brain can contribute to sex addiction or sexual behavior. It’s possible to become addicted to the pleasureful feelings of sex.
Like a chemical addiction, a person with sex addiction can receive a similar “high” that a person gets from alcohol or drugs. When chemicals including oxytocin and dopamine are released, it triggers the brain’s reward center to seek more sex to keep feeling this way.
What are the Signs of Sex Addiction?
While a mental health professional is needed for diagnosing someone with sex addiction, there are a few to look out for:
Obsessive sexual thoughts
Constant thoughts of sex often characterize sex addiction. This can include fantasies and sexual daydreams that may become excessive enough to interfere with daily life.
Excessive time spent on sex
Spending excessive time and energy on sex – whether seeking sexual partners or having sex – can indicate sex addiction.
Compulsive masturbation means expressing sexual drive to the point of physical discomfort or pain. It can also mean masturbating at inappropriate times.
Engaging in inappropriate or risky behaviors
Sex with prostitutes, public sex, exhibitionism, and sex without protection are all examples of risky sexual behaviors. This can put individuals with sex addiction at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
Sexual compulsion can also drive someone to seek one-night stands or sex with new partners frequently. They may do this despite having an affair or cheating on a partner.
Depression or shame
In addition to one’s sexual urges and trouble controlling them, someone with sex addiction may feel ashamed of this. Depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and regret are common conditions and feelings experienced with sex addiction. In some cases, a persons’ shame can contribute to thoughts of suicide.
Avoiding other activities
When a person prioritizes sex over relationships, activities, and responsibilities, it’s a strong indication of sex addiction. Fixating on sexual behaviors can make it hard for a person to maintain hobbies or social life. This is likely to lead to difficulty maintaining healthy relationships – whether partners, family members, or friends.
Overcoming Sex Addiction
Overcoming sex addiction is possible, and there are various ways to achieve this.
The best treatment for an individual will depend largely on how it affects their life. For instance, if sex addiction is present in a relationship or marriage, that couple may engage in couples counseling.
Couples or marriage counseling can help couples face the many possible harmful impacts of sex addiction in a relationship. For example, a partner may feel stressed if too much sex is requested. Or they may become susceptible to STDs because their partner is engaging in sexual behaviors with other people.
Couples or marriage counseling is a good place to turn if sex addiction sabotages your relationship. When both partners get involved in counseling or therapy, it is also helpful for addressing any underlying relationship problems.
Whether or not a person with sex addiction is in a relationship, there are also many options for one-on-one counseling to consider.
Therapy Types for Sex Addiction
In addition to traditional talk therapy, here are a few specific types that can help treat sex addiction:
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on a patient’s conflicts and suppressed memories to uncover underlying their sexual addiction and behaviors. This therapy type may be helpful for those who experienced past abuse or trauma and who may feel at fault for this. Psychodynamic therapy can help these individuals release feelings of shame or self-loathing attached to their past struggles.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The concept that one’s behaviors, emotions, and thoughts are interconnected underlies CBT. CBT focuses on the mental aspect of a patient’s sex addiction, helping them identify and change their triggers, understand and accept their feelings, and cultivate a more positive self-image.
12 Step Recovery
Similar to the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous is a 12-step, goal-focused program. Sex Addicts Anonymous (SSA) is a peer support group that hosts free meetings to help end addictive sexual behavior. This treatment plan is about working toward a clear objective, helping individuals accept the powerlessness behind their sex addiction,
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous are other 12-step programs for sex addiction.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Sex Addiction
While sex addiction is not considered a diagnosable condition according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that doesn’t make it any less serious. With the right therapy and support, individuals with sex addiction can recover.
For more information and support, contact Sex Addicts Anonymous: 1-800-477-8191.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with sex addiction, please seek or encourage help soon.