Also known as hypersexuality, this disorder manifests as an excessive preoccupation with thoughts or behaviors that create a desired sexual effect. It can affect any person regardless of their gender, race, religion, or the region where they live. It is believed that over 30 million people are addicted to sex, including pornography – nearly 8% of men and 3% of women.
Sex addiction is characterized by a need for sexual stimulation, not necessarily the enjoyment of it. It can manifest itself in a number of ways, including but not limited to: numerous one-night stands or affairs, chronic masturbation, viewing or partaking in pornography, and/or constant contact with prostitutes. In extreme cases, sex addiction can involve fetishism (arousal by objects or certain body parts), voyeurism (arousal by watching sexual behaviors), exhibitionism (arousal by having others view his or her own sexual behaviors), or pedophilia (arousal by sexual contact with children). Those suffering have problems with relationships, overwhelming shame, feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.
The biological effect of sexual addiction is the same as that associated with substance abuse addiction. Pleasure from sexual activity floods the brain with dopamine, eventually creating a need for sex. In order to continue the feeling of pleasure, more and more sexual activity is needed, often in more radical forms. Consequences of sexual addiction are very dangerous. The addicted have an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis or HIV, and of spreading it to other individuals. Relationships with family, friends, husbands, wives and children are commonly destroyed. Other consequences include: loss of employment, a higher possibility of legal trouble and incarceration, and constant feelings of guilt and shame. Due to the increased stigma of the addiction (coupled with the intense feelings of guilt and shame experienced), the prevalence of suicide is much higher compared to that of other addictions – 19% compared to 4.6%. Almost 80% of those suffering also have another type of addiction, usually alcohol or drug.
Sex addiction usually begins in adolescence and the easy availability of pornography and sexual connections on the Internet contributes to its proliferation. Those most at risk are individuals with self-esteem issues, those with mental disorders, and those who were sexually abused as children.
It is important to note that currently, no test exists to perfectly diagnose sexual addiction and that not everyone who enjoys sex is addicted to it. Also important to add is that this addiction rarely turns out to be criminal in nature, and that only one in 100,000 people addicted to sex will be able to quit on their own.
Symptoms of Sex Addiction:
- Dominant and recurrent sexual urges or fantasies
- Time spent in engagement with urges or fantasies interferes with important obligations.
- Sexual behaviors occur due to anxiety, depression, boredom or stress.
- Engagement in behaviors regardless of harm to others or self
- Feelings of physical withdrawal when not allowed to engage in sexual behavior
- A desire but inability to stop
Sex addiction can be treated. Psychologists have found success with cognitive behavioral therapy to understand environmental triggers, providing the addicted with better control. Psychodynamic therapies often help a person deal with any sexual trauma that may have been experienced as a child, adolescent or adult. Some medications have also been found to decrease the compulsive urge to engage in sex or sexual experiences.
Tips to help begin the healing process include:
- Limit internet use.
- Screen out pornographic sites.
- Avoid seclusion.
- Maintain and stick to a busy schedule.
Due to the increased stigma of the addiction (coupled with the intense feelings of guilt and shame), the prevalence of suicide is much higher compared to that of other addictions – 19% compared to 4.6%.
Where To Get Help
If you or anyone you know may be suffering from sex addiction, help is out there. Please call the addiction hotline at 866.701.0102, or contact:
- Sexaholics Anonymous
P.O. Box 3565
Brentwood, TN 37024
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- Sexual Addiction Anonymous
Phone U.S./Canada: 800.477.8191
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
P.O. Box 1585
- Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10011
- Sexual Recovery Anonymous
General Service Board, Inc.
P.O. Box 178
New York, NY 10276
Addiction Experts. (2018). Sex addiction facts. Addiction Experts. Retrieved from addictionexperts.com/types-of-addiction/sex-addiction/sex-addiction-facts/
Dryden-Edwards, R. (2018). Sexual addiction. Medicine Net. Retrieved from medicinenet.com/sexual_addiction/article.htm#sexual_addiction_facts
Ekern, J. (2018). Sexual addiction causes, statistics, addiction signs, symptoms & side effects. Addiction Hope. Retrieved from addictionhope.com/sexual-addiction/
Psychology Today. (2018). Hypersexuality (sex addiction). Psychology Today. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/hypersexuality-sex-addiction