What is Sex Addiction?
Sexual addiction, also known as hypersexual disorder, refers to as a state where a person exhibits compulsive participation and/or engagement in activities sexual in nature, despite their negative consequences.
This person may have obsessive thoughts about sex and develop uncontrollable urges for sexual activity.
As with any addiction, the brain rewards the behavior. For example, someone struggling with this addiction may have illicit sex and, rather than feeling guilty, will feel intense pleasure at this self-destructive behavior. This becomes the driving compulsion for their lives.
Sexual addiction is often misunderstood, and can go unnoticed for long periods of time. It affects both men and women, and that person may feel extreme shame and attempt to cover up their behavior.
What Causes Sex Addiction?
A specific cause remains unclear. As with all addiction, sexual addiction may stem from a variety of factors from an individual’s life.
These include biological reasons, such as a genetic predisposition to sensation-seeking behavior or low impulse control. Another biological factor is hormones. Both estrogen and testosterone can impact the libido, especially in high amounts.
Psychological factors may play a role in sex addiction as well. For example, mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders (such as Bipolar disorder) often co-occur with sex addiction.
Those struggling with these mental health issues may be more likely to also struggle with impulse control and are more likely to engage in risky behavior.
Another component with sex addiction is environmental. Research has found that those struggling with sex addiction are more likely to have been abused as children and come from dysfunctional families.
Signs of Sex Addiction
It’s important to note that there is no official diagnosis for sexual addiction. However clinicians and researchers have used similar criteria for chemical dependency as signs for potential sexual addiction. They include compulsive behaviors such as:
- Anonymous sex
- Frequently engaging in more sex with more partners than intended
- Multiple affairs
- Neglecting obligations for sex (such as work, family or school)
- Engaging in risky or unsafe sex
- Spending large amounts of time on activities related to sex: cybersex, pornography, apps for finding sexual partners
- Being unable to limit this behavior
When Is An Intervention Necessary?
There are various types of treatment for sexual addiction. These include inpatient programs, family therapy and a range of cognitive and psychosocial therapy approaches.
Effective treatment is usually multi-faceted, addressing trauma, mental health disorders and all other co-occurring disorders as well as sexual addiction. The treatment can be extremely beneficial. The hurdle is getting the person struggling with the addiction to enter treatment.
With a trained professional guiding the process, an intervention is much more likely to bring steps toward recovery.
The pain, hurt, and embarrassment families feel in dealing with the behavior can make it tough to manage a successful intervention alone. Experience is needed in helping both the families and the identified individual find hope and help.
How Is A Sex Addiction Intervention Different?
All interventions are designed with one goal in mind: to help facilitate recovery.
Sex addictions, however, tend to be even more private in nature than other interventions. This is to protect both the person struggling with addiction, but also to protect anyone else involved. Partners are especially sensitive to this process.
Children and other family members are not often present for a sexual addiction intervention. This provides a safe environment with minimal embarrassment for all, as well as a special prevention of unnecessary exposure.
Due to the deeply personal and emotional nature of sex, it is highly recommended that a professional interventionist is involved. The third party objectivity is of utmost importance during this process.
Articles About Sex Addiction
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Creating a Culture of Awareness and Equality written by Louise Stanger ED.D, LCSW and Roger Porter “Do you wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” If you were in college in the 1980s, you’d remember this famous tagline from the fashion brand Calvin...
Below is an excerpt from an article on Yahoo that features a recent interview with Dr. Stanger. Ozzy Osbourne is the latest on a list of celebrities who have blamed their infidelities on sex addiction. The same week an interview with the Black Sabbath singer’s...
Additional Resources On Sex Addiction
Deceived: Facing Sexual Betrayal, Lies and Secrets
Out of the Shadows
Sex Addiction 101
Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence
Alexandra Katehakis & Tom Bliss
Marnie C. Ferree