Sex Addiction – The Truth About this Disorder
Do not be surprised to know that there is an ongoing global debate about whether sex addiction is truly an addiction or not. Over the years, specialists including psychiatrists, psychologists and sexologists have been contentiously involved in this debate making it more complicated. Of course, other forms of addiction do not attract as much media attention as sexual addiction, probably due to its quite controversial nature which could be either real or perceived. No matter what sides of the divide you find yourself, sex addiction is a problem about people who keep engaging in sexual behaviors that are damaging them and/or their families and therefore should be understood and addressed.
WHAT IS SEX ADDICTION?
Sex addiction is the active using of a sexual behavior in a compulsive life-destroying pattern, whether it is masturbation, fetishes and/or behavior with self, pornographic addiction, or other means. It is an issue that is negatively impacting millions of individuals, marriages, and families globally. The impact is felt in the life of the addict, his or her close family members, spouses as well as friends. Sexual addicts usually have underlying problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, or and shame that drive their often appalling yet damaging behavior. Impacted people develop more of such similar problems.
Just like drug addicts who may have a problem with alcohol, but not marijuana, not all addicts display similar behavior. Also, not all behaviors indicate addiction, though if continued, can lead to that in some cases. Some behaviors just cause more problems for some people because individuals vary and the causes may also be peculiar.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF SEX ADDICTION?
Sex addiction, like other addiction, can develop due to factors that encompass all aspects of an individual’s personal and public life. Many suggestive causes have been adduced which can be grouped into biological, induced, psychological and social categories.
- Genes: One with a genetic predisposition to emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, or sensation-seeking behavior and other traits that is commonly associated with sexual addiction, like anxiety or depression.
- Hormones: People with higher levels of sex hormones like testosterone (male) or estrogen (female) can affect libido. Someone who is inclined towards impulsive behavior and has high levels of sex-related hormones may engage in excess sexual activities.
- Medical conditions – There are known several medical conditions that damage certain areas of the brain, such as dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Huntington’s disease. The damage may play a role in one’s compulsive sexual drive.
- Biochemical imbalances – Imbalances of certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters which help with mood regulation and play a role in the experience of pleasure. Alteration of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine may be caused by intake of high levels of these chemicals.
- Environmental influences: Certain environmental factors, including adverse events like abuse or exposure to sexual content during early stages of one’s life, can lead to some of the underlying characteristics that propel sexual addiction.
- Mental health: Anxiety, depression, personality disorders, poor impulse control, and performance anxiety might be simultaneous issues that one struggles with alongside sex addiction. Those that have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, or have a tendency toward “manic” states, have higher probability to engage in excessive or risky sexual behavior.
- Rejection in relationships and social circles can lead to other, unhealthy ways to find sexual gratification.
- Social isolation: Social isolation, not only increases one’s likelihood of seeking inappropriate ways of being sexually gratified but it also leads to a host of other problems such as depression and physical maladies that can contribute to sex addictions or unhealthy sex behaviors.
- Social learning: Experiencing others performing certain behavior, or “modeling,” is one way to learn something new, mostly especially when you “like”, “trust” or “identify” with such person. Having a friend, or a group of friends, who engage in excessive sexual activities or porn entertainment can subtly influence one in many ways. This also called peer pressure.
- Abuse during childhood – Great proportion of individuals who have sex addiction problems are known to also have a history of being abused during childhood, according to researches.
- Family dysfunction – One from a family with medical records of drug abuse and addiction has a high propensity to become sex addicts. Many dysfunctional family including parents who were emotionally unavailable, uncaring, or rigid in their parenting style is also a known causal factor.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SEX ADDICTION
There are numerous behaviors that have been depicted as sex addicts. They often exploit others for sex, their life is constantly in crisis, overtly preoccupied with sex and have sex without regard to potential consequences. They also develop a kink need to be fed more and more, frequent masturbation, messed up relationships, feeling of powerlessness, self-hate among others.
Several signs can serve as indication of someone been addicted to sex. These can be emotional or physical. Furthermore, it’s important to know the debilitating effects of sexual addiction.
Emotional Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Signs of one (or loved ones) who suffers from a sex addiction might be living in an unhealthy boundary. When a spouse is addicted to sex, further negative emotional problems like the feelings of alienation, abandonment, isolation, depression, anger or humiliation might set in. If one is addicted to sex, it becomes easy for such person to get involved with people sexually or emotionally regardless of how well they know them. When alone, they might feel empty or incomplete and also sexualize feelings like guilt, loneliness or fear. Often times, when most sex addicts fear being abandoned, they might remain in unhealthy relationships, or they may frequently jump from one relationship to another.
Physical Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Although a sex addiction like many other forms of addiction can create numerous physical side effects, only a few physical symptoms of this disorder exist. This is the reason that one with this form of addiction cannot be diagnosed by mere physical observation. However, the most common physical sex addict symptoms of having a sexual addiction is feeling immobilized due to sexual or emotional obsessions.
Effects of Sex Addiction
The effects of a sex addiction can be severe.
- Many individuals with sex addictions have had or currently have STDs as a result of their behavior.
- Pregnancy is also a common side effect that can occur due to risky behavior. In one survey, about two-third of women with sex addictions have been reported to experience at least one unwanted pregnancy as a result of their addiction.
- It can cause decreased concentration during study (for a student) and productivity at work.
- It can lead to decline in personal relationships, social, and family engagement.
- It may lead to negative physical consequences like sexual dysfunction or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- It can have profound psychological effects, like generating feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress.
- It can lead to, or caused by, comorbid psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, problems related to impulse control and emotion dysregulation and Obsessive-Compulsive type symptoms. This is often a vicious circle.
HOW TO OVERCOME SEX ADDICTION
One can recover from the damaging effects of any addiction including sexual one. Since shame is a huge factor for almost all sex addicts, many never seek treatment. Many sex addicts end up been caught and disgraced even more and also receiving court mandated treatment after being convicted of a sex crime. How effective one overcomes sexual addiction, as with any other addiction, depends on a variety of factors. Whether as an addict or a partner of an addict, there is high probability it can be overcomed through either or a combination of one-on-one (or couple’s) counselling, participating in support groups and medication. In all, that is, counseling, support groups and medications, having a well-thought out plan is key.
Before attempting to remediate the problem of one’s addiction to sex, there are some questions one can ask ‘patients’ to determine if a behavior might be problematic – Does it affect you? Do you feel as if you need to continue with behavior? Does it affect someone else? (physical, emotional, financial, etc.).
A combination of psychotherapy (including group and family therapy), and support groups. Challenging the thoughts that lead to their risky behavior has been known to help. It is more helpful to understand one is not alone in this problem and ready to address it during group discussions.
In some cases, medications used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder or impulse control disorders may be used to curb the compulsive nature of the sex addiction. Treatment may include Residential treatment programs, which provide intensive treatment in a structured setting, are available and can be very beneficial.
Hormones Solutions – Both men and women have sex hormones known as androgens. Androgens affect libido and may play a role in a person’s addiction to sex. Medications that affect hormones are sometimes used in the treatment of sex addicts. These include anti-androgens and LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone) agonists. Anti-androgens help decrease sexual urges. LHRH agonists lower testosterone production and may help with the sexual obsessions that often accompany this addiction. Both medications are often used to treat male pedophiles and other types of male sex offenders.
HOW TO LIVE FREE OF SEXUAL ADDICTION
Overcoming sexual addiction does not stop one from having sex forever. Instead, it means that one should not allow compulsive behaviors to control you. Maintaining certain principles as highlighted below can effective help in sustaining an addiction-free life;
- Write about the harmful effects of addiction.
- List positive changes you want to make
- Create a quitting mission statement
- Set timed goals
- Get rid of your trigger items
- Stay away from people and places that can trigger addictive behavior
- Delete contact details and information of sexual partners
- Replace addictive sex with healthy energy outlets
- Rely on your strongest relationships
- Work toward a healthy relationship with or without sex
- Stay focused on your goal
- Celebrate your accomplishments as you work your to a sexual-addiction free life.
If after reading this and you think you might be a sex addict, talk to someone you trust about it. If you do not have someone you trust then consult a professional. It is not easy to get help, unless you live in an urban area, may not be able to find someone that has any sort of specialization in it. But that is not cogent enough to keep acting this way.