Overview, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Sex addiction can be difficult to gauge because every individual has a different idea of how much sex is too much or enough for them and how sex makes them feel. It is important to remember that, in a possible case of sex addiction, it should be considered seriously how much harm the individual is experiencing and creating as a result of their sexual behavior and whether or not the person feels in control of their own sexual behavior. Sex addiction does exist and can be treated with many of the same methods used to treat other types of addictions.
Sex Addiction Overview
The USDA states, “The idea that sex can be an addiction is new to many people.” Sex can become an addiction for those who experience extreme issues as a result of their sexual behavior but feel unable to stop themselves from having more risky, harmful, or problematic sex. Elaborated on by the USDA, sex addiction “involves frequent self-destructive or high risk activity that is not emotionally fulfilling, that one is ashamed of, and that one is unable to stop despite it causing repeated problems in the areas of marriage, social relationships, health, employment, finances, or the law.”
A study from the NCBI states, “Between 3% and 6% of the adult population (> or =18 years) would have the characteristics of sexual addiction, disorder prevalent in the male population.” Though men do have a stronger disposition toward experiencing this disorder, women can become sex addicts as well. The treatment methods for sex addiction, as well as the diagnosing methods, are also being evaluated in order to help more individuals with their disorders.
Sex Addiction Signs
What are the signs of sex addiction? For an individual who becomes addicted to sex, according to the NCBI, there are several signs:
- Meaning strong and frequent sexual urges or activities that are more intense than the average individual’s
- “Impaired regulation of sexual desire and sexual compulsivity”
- Meaning the inability to abstain from sex or sexual behavior when necessary (during work/school hours, etc.) and a lack of control over these feelings, desires, and behaviors
- Having sex “with uncontrolled excessive frequency”
- This is described by the study as “5 to 15 sexual acts per day for more than 6 months, from 15 years old.”
Medically speaking, these signs are what health care professionals look for when trying to determine whether or not an individual is actually addicted to sex. There are other signs as well which can point to sex addiction. Someone who is addicted to sex will
- Spend large amounts of time on their sexual behaviors, which does not include merely having sex with other people but also looking at pornographic websites, buying pornographic books and magazines, and finding any chance or excuse to engage in any activities that are sexual in nature
- Become consistently angry, irritable, or upset if they are unable to engage in sex or sexual behavior at any given time
- Speak of sex as a “pain reliever,” “tension reliever,” or the only means they have of dealing with their problems
- According to the USDA, “The sex addict uses sex as a quick fix, or as a form of medication for anxiety, pain, loneliness, stress, or sleep.”
- Neglect work, school, family, and other obligations in order to engage in sexual activities
- “Experience severe consequences due to sexual behavior, and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences” (RUPSC)
- Only want to discuss sex or sexual activities and will be uncomfortable when unable to think about or talk about sex
- Experience exhaustion, injuries, or other problematic physical issues after most instances of sexual behavior
For many individuals worrying about the sexual behavior their partner, family member, friend, or loved one, sex addiction may seem like a possibility. But it can be difficult to be sure whether or not someone is actually addicted to sex without knowing how much of a problem it is causing in a specific individual’s life and whether or not they are capable of stopping on their own. If you are concerned, talk to the individual and suggest that you work together to seek help for them.
Sex Addiction Symptoms
Sometimes, it is very important for the individual to be able to look inside themselves and decide whether or not they may be addicted to sex. Sexual addiction is not only harmful to you but to your loved ones as well; the first step is admitting that your sexual behavior is not in your control at the moment and that you need help.
If you answer yes to many of the questions below, you are exhibiting a severe amount of behaviors that are linked to sex addiction. Consider these when you are next feeling a desire to have sex or engage in sexual behavior, and ask yourself if you may be addicted.
- Do you have sex or engage in sexual activity in increasingly higher amounts?
- Do you feel that your desires or interests in certain types of sex have changed to the point where you need different types of sexual experiences than you used to?
- Have these changes occurred in an amount of time that you can pinpoint, and do you feel that you are not able to stop intensifying the amount and type of your sexual situations?
- You are likely becoming tolerant to sex, something that also happens to drug abusers as they become addicted to a substance.
- Has sex become so common in your life that it is now more like a ritual to you that you must complete?
- Do you constantly tell yourself that you will cut back on the amount of sex you are having or the frequency of your sexual acts and are unable to do so?
- Do you feel ashamed, embarrassed, angry, or another negative emotion often after you complete a sexual act?
- Do you lose track of your sexual encounters or engage in more sex or sex with more people than you intended to in the first place?
- Are you unhappy unless you are having sex?
- According to CSUN, “Studies have linked a deficit in the neurochemistry of the limbic system in those patients that have been diagnosed as sexually addicted. Apparently these patients have sex to restore the dopamine levels in their bodies.”
- Do you constantly crave sex to the point where it is difficult for you to think about other things?
- Do you feel that your sexual behavior is above average or abnormal and, while this may make you uncomfortable or embarrassed, do you continue to engage in sexual behavior at the same frequency or a higher frequency than before?
- Does your frequent sexual behavior cause problems in your life but you continue to have sex just as much if not more?
Sex addicts consistently feel unhappy or ashamed and cause many problems for themselves and the other individuals in their lives with their frequent, risky, and compulsive sexual activities. If you are experiencing this issue or know someone who is, treatment may be able to help.