Sex Addiction

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is a term used to refer to people who suffer from a constant need to have sex. It may also be referred to as hypersexuality. People who struggle with sex addiction struggle with constant preoccupation with sex. They seek out sexual encounters with others. They also struggle to achieve sexual gratification, even if they are able to climax during a sexual encounter.

Mental health professionals define sex addiction as the compulsive need for sex. People who suffer from sex addiction have constant or repeating urges to perform sexual acts. The goal of these sexual acts is to achieve sexual gratification. As an addiction worsens, an affected person will have a more difficult time reaching the point of gratification.

Sex addiction is not considered a form of sexual dysfunction. It is its own condition. The term “sex addiction” does not relate to other sexual dysfunctions, although both may occur within one person. Examples of sexual dysfunctions that act separately from sex addiction include:

  • Fetishes
  • Pedophilia
  • Violent sexual assaulters
  • Arousal disorders
  • Orgasm disorders

People who suffer from sex addiction do not seek out unwilling partners or intend to inflict harm onto others. They have a hyperactive sex drive, but that does not necessarily mean an affected person would seek gratification by violent means.

Sex addiction is a controversial disorder. Currently the condition is not considered as a diagnosable disorder. Mental health professionals argue that it is a legitimate disorder. It has been proposed to include sex addiction as a diagnosable disorder in the next edition of the DSM.

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

Symptoms of sex addiction have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life. They can cause troubles in different parts of a person’s lifestyle. Things like relationships, occupation, focus on academics and overall can all be affected by sex addiction. The compulsive need for sex can cause people to suffer from:

  • Strained relationships
  • Career and academic issues
  • Financial issues
  • Trouble keeping up with responsibilities

Symptoms of sex addiction include distracting thoughts. They also include distressing urges to seek sexual gratification. When a sex addict does achieve sexual gratification they will feel relief- but the relief is temporary. The need for instant sexual gratification will result in impulsive behavior.

Sex addiction will cause the following symptoms:

  • Compulsive sexual acts
  • Obsessive thoughts about sex
  • Compulsive or excessive masturbation
  • Compulsive need for sexual stimulation
  • Insatiable need for sexual gratification
  • Excessive watching of pornography
  • Relationships affected by compulsive need for sex
  • Career or educational issues as a result of the need for sex
  • Ignoring other basic needs (food, safety, etc.) for sex
  • Using sex as a means to distract from stressful life issues
  • Using sex to cope with feelings
  • Practicing unsafe sex

A person who suffers from sex addiction will likely feel a level of shame for their addiction. This can cause them to pull away from loved ones. They may be deceitful and act dishonestly. They may also jeopardize their romantic and family relationships by having secret encounters with others.

Causes of Sex Addiction

Sexual addiction can occur as a result of a number of factors. Causal factors for sex addiction can be based on biology, brain chemistry, or life stress. It can also be the result of mental health issues, traumatic life experiences or struggles with self-image.

The following are common causal factors for people who suffer from sex addiction:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Failure to learn coping skills for stress, emotions and life issues
  • History of sexual abuse as children
  • Feeling rejected by parents as a child
  • Having disciplinarian parents

The underlying cause of sex addiction remains unclear. Despite the cause of sex addiction being unclear, there are treatment options that can be effective in the treatment of the condition.

Treatment of Sex Addiction

Untreated sex addiction can compromise the affected person’s safety. Their compulsive sexual needs cause them to engage in high-risk sexual situations. Such high risk situations include:

  • Exposure to STI
  • Sexual encounters with violent people
  • Sexual encounters that can be unsafe or life threatening
  • Sexual encounters that involve inflicting or receiving harm to reach gratification

Sex addiction can be a challenge to treat, but there are treatment options that can be effective with the right motivation. Such treatment options include:

Support Programs. Support programs aid in the treatment of sex addiction. 12-step programs like sex addicts anonymous have been effective in helping people learn how to cope their condition.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT has been helpful with teaching coping skills to manage sexual urges. It also helps the affected person understand the underlying causes of their sex addiction.

Long-Term Treatment Programs. Both residential and outpatient treatment programs have been effective in treating sex addiction. Treatment programs require long-term commitment to the program.

A mental health professional is able to recommend the most effective form of treatment.

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