Sex addiction is compulsive sexual behavior that continues in spite of snowballing negative consequences. Sex addicts risk sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and losing family, friends, jobs, etc. when they are unable to control sexual impulses. Sex addiction treatment helps sufferers examine and control these impulses.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is the inability to control sexual impulses, even when they become self-harming. A sex addict may try to curb sexual activity but fail, even in the face of public humiliation. Feelings of shame, sadness, and self-loathing can follow. Sex addicts often have other addictions such as eating disorders, or drug addiction and/or alcoholism as a result of trying to cope with these feelings. There is also a strong link between mental health disorders and an addiction to sex.
Sex addiction changes brain chemistry in a process much like drug or alcohol addiction. Neurotransmitter activity increases and the brain's reward center is stimulated with dopamine. Dopamine gives a sex addict a sense of euphoria that is quickly associated with finding sexual partners and having sex. The brain gets “rewired” to crave dopamine. Without the extra stimulation, the brain and body go into withdrawal. Sex cravings increase dramatically and become all consuming over time.
This all-consuming need to have sex puts addicts at risk for personal, health, financial, and legal problems. Sex addicts are more likely to:
- Get HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other STIs
- Experience sexual and other violence
- Think about and commit suicide
- Have financial and legal troubles
- Be involved in criminal activities
- Lose significant relationships
- Have a pornography addiction
Some risk factors for sex addiction are:
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Mental health disorders
- Sexual abuse or trauma
- Physical abuse
Sex Addiction Signs and Symptoms
- Compulsive masturbation
- Frequenting prostitutes and/or call girls
- Anonymous sex with multiple partners
- Repeated voyeurism or exhibitionism
- Inappropriate sexual touching
- Multiple affairs outside of a committed relationship
- Repeated unsafe sex
Look at our sex addiction quiz for more signs and symptoms of addiction. Or, better yet, print it out and talk about your concerns with a doctor or therapist.
Sex Addiction Treatment
Sex addiction treatment seeks to get to the root of the disorder. Quality treatment explores the underlying origins, mistaken beliefs, and destructive behaviors that contribute to compulsive sexual behavior. Treatment will also address other addictions such as drug addiction and alcoholism. Addiction and substance abuse education, 12-step meetings, and a variety of other therapies with trained addiction counselors will be included in the rehab program.
Sex Addiction Self-Test
Sex addiction is a compulsive need to have sexual contact despite negative consequences and frequent sexual obsessions. Even in the face of losing friends and family, or contracting sexual diseases, a sex addict may feel unable to take control. Often, sex addicts can have other addictions and/or mental health disorders that fuel the problem. Do you or a loved one have a sex addiction? Explore the questions in the sex addiction self test and honestly answer yes or no to the following:
- I have tried to control sexual impulses, but can’t.
- My sexual behavior has created problems for people close to me.
- I hide my sexual behavior from others.
- I have often felt depressed, guilty, and/or ashamed after sex.
- Sex is constantly on my mind.
- Sex (or romantic fantasies) is way to escape from problems.
- Sex has become the most important thing in life.
- I need prostitutes and/or escorts to satisfy my sexual needs.
- I have unsafe or “risky” sex despite the consequences.
- Emotional closeness is difficult.
- I use drugs or alcohol to cover my pain.
- I have felt suicidal.
If the answer to any of these questions was yes, then you or someone you love might have a sexual addiction.
Sex Addiction Help
If you are afraid that you might have a sex addiction or other addiction, help is available. A quality addiction treatment program will assess your treatment needs and provide the appropriate therapies.