Sexual addiction is a progressive intimacy disorder marked by compulsive sexual acts and thoughts. Like other types of addiction, the negative effect on the addict and the family increases as the disease progresses. With time, the addict intensifies the addictive behavior for achieving the same results.
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For a lot of sex addicts, behavior does not go beyond compulsive masturbation or excessive use of porn or computer or phone sex services . For others it can take shape of voyeurism, exhibitionism, child molestation or rape, obscene phone calls. Sex addicts may not be sex offenders and not every sex offender is a sex addict. About 55% of sex offenders are sex addicts. And 71% of people who have molested children are sex addicts. For many of the them, the problem is so grave that permanent imprisonment is the utmost solution for ensuring safety of society from them. It is believed that sex offenders do not act out of sexual gratification but it drives from a need to establish power, control, dominance or as an expression of anger. However recently, it is being believed that changes in brain and reward related with sexual behavior leads us to think that these sexual drives motivate these addicts and offenses.
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has termed sexual addiction as partaking or engaging in escalating and persistent patterns of sexual behavior performed despite negative consequences to self and others. What this means is that sex addict will continue to involve in sexual behaviors despite facing health issues, financial issues, broken relationships and even arrest.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders has described sex addiction as “Sexual Disorders Not Specified Otherwise” as distress about a pattern of frequent and repeated sexual relationships with a succession of lovers who are thought by individuals only as things to be used. Sex addiction also involves compulsive looking out for multiple partners, compulsive obsession about a partner who is unattainable, compulsive sexuality in relationship, compulsive masturbation, and compulsive love relationships.
Increasing sexual provocation has led to an increase in number of people taking part in illegal sexual practices like phone sex, use of escort services, pornography on Internet. These people along with their partners are seeking help.
The compulsive behaviors that mark addictions is true of sex addiction. But these other addictions like substance abuse, drugs, alcohol, involve substances that are not related to or necessary for our survival. What this means is that we can lead healthy and normal lives without taking illegal drugs, gambling, drinking alcohol. But sexual activities are different. Sex is as important as eating. It is important for our survival. Healthy humans have a strong urge to have sex. Lack of interest or low desire to have sex can indicate medical problems or mental illness.
Sexual addiction is a condition in which a person can’t manage his sexual behavior. Persistence in sexual thoughts impacts the ability to work, form relationships and take part in everyday activities. It is also known as sexual dependency, compulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality. The other names are satyriasis in men and nymphomania in women. Treatment is helpful and if you go without treatment things can worsen. Around 12 to 30 million have sexual addiction and it affects both men and women.
Facts on Sexual Addiction
- Sexual addiction results in people not being able to manage their sexual behavior. The reason for this is not clear.
- It has a dire impact on a person’s life. It has not been established as a diagnosable condition.
- The behaviors include extreme acts of lewd sex, frequent use of pornography, not being able to resist sexual impulses.
- Self-help groups and treatment centers can help with it.
A person with sexual addiction is obsessed with sex and a very high sex drive. The thoughts are so highly dominated with sexual activity that it becomes difficult for them to function in social situations. Sometimes a person with a good sex life may become obsessed with sex. They may get excited with fantasies that others may not find acceptable. In other cases, person may develop paraphilic disorder like pedophilia. This can be diagnosed.
Paraphilic disorder is arousal caused by triggers which are not acceptable to most people. It causes distress. Sexual addiction can affect families, lives and relationships. A difficulty with identifying sexual addiction is that different people have different levels of libido or sex drive. Just because a person has high sex drive, he/she may not be considered as a sex addict.
Sexual addiction shares the same reward systems in brain as substance addiction. People with sexual addiction may be having different types of sexual behavior. This is the reason why the condition cannot be described. When a person is sexually addicted, they make new rules to feel in control of the situation and then break those rules. Activities include unsafe sex, one-night stands, cyber-sex, prostitution etc.
Behaviors may include:
- Not being able to regulate sexual urges and violate the boundaries of the other person involved in the sexual act.
- Detached, leading to an activity which does not emotionally satisfy the individual.
- Obsessed about attracting others, starting new relationships, being in mushy love, no strings attached relationships
- Feelings of shame and guilt.
- Uncontrollable urges despite medical, financial or social consequences
- Being engaged in sexual activity for more than intended
- Attempting to control or stop behavior
- Spending too much of time and energy in thoughts about sex
- Giving up on recreational activities owing to sexual addictions
- Sexual rage disorder in which an individual becomes anxious, restless. Violent if not being able to participate in the addiction.
There is a strong link between sexual addiction and risk taking. Sexual addiction causes a person to engage in risks despite the fact that there may be health consequences like sexually transmitted diseases, emotional consequences and physical injury
If left untreated, compulsive sexual behavior can result in feelings of low self-esteem and guilt. Some people may even develop anxiety and depression. Other complications are financial complications, breakups, relationship issues, STDs, legal consequences if the act is illegal like exhibitionism
The causes of sexual addiction are not clear. Addiction is related to the reward center of the brain. It happens when certain regions of the brain mistake pleasure responses for survival mechanism. The brain may be responsible for creating the urge for sexual addiction, it has been found by researchers that sex addicts grow up in dysfunctional families and are abused as children. Among the other factors the possible causes are-
- Growing up with addiction: In about 80% of the cases it is believed that sex addicts belongs to a family of addicts be it alcohol or drug addiction.
- Getting exposed to sex early in life: It is thought that early exposure to sex may lead to changes in brain that can affect behavior later in life
- Trauma: Traumatic experience early in life can cause drug or alcohol abuse which may result in sex addiction. This is particularly true if the child does not get the support they need at the time of the trauma
- Domination of Parents: In households where parents exercise strict control over their children impairing their ability to deal with challenges of life, the children may resort to sex and become addicts.
- Poor Sex Education: If sex is considered as a taboo, something that should not be discussed as it is a shameful thing, the child may seek hidden sexual activity
- Poor role models: Dysfunctional families and parents who do not care can create an environment which is confusing for the child and child does not develop the skills to cope with emotional stress in later life. This manifests as sex addiction.
- Abnormal level of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and sex hormones (androgens)
- Abnormalities in brain caused by conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, dementia, epilepsy, medications for treating Parkinson’s disease
- Changes in nerves circuits in brain may cause abnormal physical reactions to sexual activity.
If you or someone close is suffering from sex addiction, it is but obvious that you would want to know if there is a cure for sexual addiction. Although we cannot say that a sure shot cure exists but addiction can be managed. If compulsive sexual behavior is not treated, the affected individual experiences guilt and develops low self-esteem. This can result in a vicious cycle of depression. People having sexual addiction may also have problems related to relationships and family. They may become infected with sexually transmitted infections and experience an uncalled-for pregnancy. There is therapy and you can always ask for help.
Therapies for Sex Addicts
Around 6% of the population is affected with sexual addiction. Although you may have to fight the battle on your own, but help is available. The aim of therapy is to control the urge to have sex. This is challenging as sex is an important aspect of life. The goal is to control the person from engaging in compulsive sex so that it doesn’t consume the person’s entire life.  The different types of therapies can help patients exercise control of sexual urge. These therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, education.
will learn how to avoid triggers and situations that could increase the desire to have sex. They will also learn how to control those urges. A goal is this therapy is also to teach them how to develop healthy and normal relationships.
Other methods can also be used for treating sexual addiction, like counseling. The aim of counseling is to know the underlying causes that lead to the development of sex addiction; and correct them. Many patients find counseling plays an important role in their path to recovery. One on one and group therapy sessions may be conducted, some people may feel family counseling is effective specially if the behaviors have resulted in affairs in the past.
When you are deciding the type of treatment, it may be required to find out of an outpatient or inpatient treatment facility is more suitable. Residential or inpatient sex addiction treatment is where you’ll stay in the facility during the course of the treatment. These treatment facilities are easily accessible and you can find the one close to y our location which will help you take away from situations that may have triggered your addiction in the past. Generally residential sexual treatment centers are considered better as here you will be able to focus on your recovery. Inpatient centers will also give the opportunity to interact with others facing similar issues. Also you have access to medical staff that has been trained to provide treatment of sexual addiction.
Outpatient Sexual Addiction Rehab and Treatment Programs
While residential treatment centers can give you the structure you require while going through the treatment but if you cannot take out time to attend treatment, outpatient treatment centers are also available. These are a suitable option if it is a case of relapse after you’ve had treatment in a residential center and you need to continue therapy.
Prescription and Over the Counter Medicines
These medical treatments are formulated to reduce the desire to engage in sex. These medications are generally used in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorders. Prozac is a one of such medicines. This drug is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) which acts on neurotransmitters. This medicine is commonly used in the treatment of depression. It can also be used in cases of panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treatment
CBT works by shifting the focus of the person’s behaviors and thoughts. Additionally, patients might be given tools and techniques for reducing the desire to have sex. These tools will help you control the symptoms of sexual addiction. Also aim of CBT is to reduce the likelihood of relapse. In this, the patient will learn how to avoid triggers and situations that could increase the desire to have sex. They will also learn how to control those urges. A goal is this therapy is also to teach them how to develop healthy and normal relationships.