Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, sex is considered a basic human need. Both men and women desire for it more than others, even though sex is normally seen as something natural. The excessive preoccupation with sex might be disruptive to one’s everyday life. A person with increased desire for sexual acts is said to have a sexual addiction.
Sexual addiction is described as constant and progressing sexual thoughts and acts. It also called as hypersexual disorder. Like any other addiction, the addicting substance or act becomes the central motivation for the addict despite the negative life consequence such as financial problems, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, legal woes, and a decline in emotional/physical health.
Usually, addicts feel shame and guilt after committing the act. They bargain with themselves that they would not engage in such deeds but couldn’t control themselves, eventually going back to doing the sexual activities that fuel the addiction. This is a cycle and sex addicts don’t have the ability to curb it even to the point of going against one’s values and beliefs. Therefore, many sex addicts lead double lives and compartmentalize their addictive life and home life.
The driving force for sexual addiction is not the mere enjoyment of the sexual thoughts and acts. Rather, sex addicts utilize their addiction as a form of escape from their discomfort, stress and underlying issues such as early life trauma, anxiety, phobias, depression, and abuses. While a normal individual would turn to friends and family members in problematic times, people with sexual addiction rely on sex as a self-soothing measure.
Similar to other forms of addiction, sexual behavior and thoughts activate neural reaction in the brain that addicts find pleasurable. The response is fueled by the release of various neurotransmitter and biochemical like endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Eventually, they learn to exploit these gratifying neurochemical responses similar to drug addicts and alcoholics.
According to studies, both men and women are susceptible to developing a sex addiction, however, it is fairly common to men than women. Sex addiction is more prevalent in individuals with these characteristics:
- Comorbid psychiatric disorder like bipolar disorder, depression and personality disorder
- Substance abuse or other types of addiction
- History of sexual and/or physical abuse.
These are the signs and symptoms that are commonly presented by sex addicts:
- Unsafe sex. They are very impulsive enough not to think about protection;
- Multiple affairs or illicit relationships – other than the known partner, they tend to seek sexual escapades with other persons;
- Compulsive masturbation – with or without the use of visual stimuli like pornographic scenes or pictures;
- Anonymous sex – also known as one night stand or casual sex, and at times getting more and more prevalent;
- Voyeurism – gaining sexual pleasure by watching others naked or engage in sexual activity;
- Exhibitionism – mental disorder that involves publicly showing of one’s genitals;
- Use of prostitution – hiring prostitutes to perform sexual acts and fantasies;
- Obsessive dating – that eventually ends up in having sex with the partner.
Cautionary signs to watch out for in sexual addiction
Some say it is obvious to tell if the person is causing sexual habits more frequent. The following are suggested situations that may lead you to discover about the hidden addiction.
- Hiding sexual activity
- Engaging in intercourse with disregard of the possible consequences
- Career or legal woes due to sexual behaviors
- The feeling of sex entitlement
- Feeling of discomfort with regards to the frequency, fantasies and sexual props used during masturbation
- Threat to serious relationship due to the addiction
- Unaware of flirting with someone
- Having sex with someone you find undesirable sexually
- Belief that sex will make life easier
- Using sex as an escape of life’s problem
- A need for greater variety and energy in sexual activities
- Unable to stop troublesome sexual behavior
- Unable to concentrate on other areas of life
- Fixation on a specific sexual act
- Feeling of loss of dignity and wholeness
Treatment of Sex Addiction
Sex Addicts Anonymous formulated a recovery program adapted from that of Alcoholics Anonymous. This support group functions similar to that of Alcoholic Anonymous. They provide a safe and nonjudgmental environment for sexual addicts can explore their possible root causes, triggers and behaviors. Here are the 12 recovery steps for sex addicts given by Sex Addicts Anonymous:
- Recognizing the program and accepting the inability to overcome the addiction
- Believing that a higher authority can aid in restoration of normal sexual behavior
- Allowing the entry of a higher power into the addict’s life
- Assessing the depth and extent of the addiction
- Disclosing to all sexual addiction that is relevant to his case
- Being ready for the higher authority to intervene
- Asking for help in recovery
- Enumerating everyone who was affected negatively by the behaviors
- Asking for forgiveness to those who were affected by the addiction
- Continuing self-assessment
- Improving relationship and carry on with life
- Experiencing awakening and assisting others in their own recovery
Also, there are numerous treatment centers all over the country that will allow the addict to be removed from their environment and usual routines and triggers. They will be placed in an environment where 24-hour support is available. The aim of these treatment centers program usually includes: stress management, development of healthy sexuality, short term commitment to abstinence and rebuilding relationships