Is There Really Such A Thing As Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is a very real issue that can occur in both men and women. Like all types of addiction it occurs because of a change in the brain that creates a compulsion or impulse to engage in an activity even though it is clearly a negative behaviour.
Sex addiction is often portrayed on the television or in the movies as a biological response or an inability to control one's libido. In reality, sex addiction is an attempt to use sex as a way to fill a deep rooted need. Somehow and in some way, the feelings that occurred during sex, at some time in the person's life, addressed that need. As a result, the individual then gets stuck in the behaviour in an attempt to recreate that positive feeling and address the deficit in their life.
Most often, sex addicts have a history, either diagnosed or undiagnosed, of depression, anxiety and high levels of unmanaged stress. When they engage in the sexual behaviour they immediately feel that the underlying issue is resolved, but then guilt and shame take over. As they feel more guilt and shame, they sink deeper into depression, anxiety or self-loathing until they simply cannot handle the pressure and act out sexually again.
What Does Sex Addiction Look Like?
Sex addiction is not just the need to have sexual intercourse on a frequent basis. In fact more and more, sexual addiction is related to viewing online materials on porn sites. Other sex addicts may choose to have sex with high risk individuals such as prostitutes or have sex in public locations. Excessive or uncontrolled masturbation, usually in inappropriate places, multiple partners and multiple affairs while being in a committed relationship may also indicate a sex addition.
What makes sexual addiction an addiction has to do with its impact on the person. To be an addiction the behaviour must occur despite the very real and understood danger to the individual. For example, a sex addict may use a work computer to view porn even though he or she knows that this will result in termination. A sex addict may have an affair with a co-worker despite the fact that the spouse has indicated that he or she will leave if it happens again. In other words, the addict is risking his or her own future by engaging in the activity.
Some people with sexual additions also have an associated paraphilia. This can be diagnosed if the source of the arousal is an action or an object that is atypical. These can be fetishes, which involve sexual arousal by specific body parts or specific objects, exhibitionism or voyeurism.
Most people with sexual addiction are in denial about the negative impact of their behaviour. They typically do not seek treatment until something causes the behaviour to be made public or to become significant enough for the individual to desire change.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, group counselling and individual counselling for the addicted person and the impacted spouse, partner or family can be very successful. Determining the underlying cause of the addiction is essential to prevent a relapse or simply moving the addiction to another aspect of life.