A healthy sex life can actually become a sexual addiction without a person realizing it. One can find a fine line between sexual addiction and sexual gratification. A sex addict frequently crosses this line without realizing the dangers of doing so.
Sexual addiction can destroy not just the life of the addict, but also the lives of the people around him or her. This can disrupt various aspects of his or her life, like relationships, careers, finances, psychological health, and emotional well-being. The urges related to sexual addiction can spiral from being intense to becoming obsessive. Moreover, the sex addict’s pursuit for sex escalates from frequent to becoming excessive.
Sexual addiction cases are more persistent than many people realize. However, there isn’t any consensus yet in the medical society regarding what comprises such compulsion. Thus, the symptoms associated with sexual addiction remain in the shadow.
A Cruel Cycle
A lot of people relate sexual addiction with extra marital affairs and prostitution. However, there are other behaviors that can be associated with this type of sexual addiction, like the obsession with pornography, excessive masturbation, engaging in cybersex, and repeated visits to night and strip clubs. This type of addiction does not necessarily conform to the type of compulsion only, but the frequency of the practice and the means of how this is achieved.
There are several signs that can determine sexual addiction. Here are some of the warning signs that determine this type of addiction:
- Extreme Escapism – Sexual addiction is like drugs and alcohol. People drink alcoholic beverages to cope with anxiety and sadness and take drugs to feel good. In the same way, sexual addiction is often used as a coping mechanism. Sexual addicts tend to use sex as a means to avoid stressful events and problems. Some sexual addicts even find relief from boredom, discomfort, anxiety, and depression.
- Risk Taking – Sex addicts are typically determined to take it to the next level. They often engage in sexual practices that come with more serious effects. These practices may include indulging in unprotected sexual activities with multiple partners or prostitutes. The blatant disregard for the effects of their actions is considered as one of the major symptoms of sexual addiction. Sex addicts are actually fully aware of the risks that are associated with their actions, but they choose to ignore these risks. Sexual addicts do not only jeopardize their well-being, but are also jeopardizing their career, finances, and relationships with other people.
- Loss of Control – Most sexual addicts tend to lose control over the act. They may feel a temporary euphoria while doing the act; this never really provides them with what they are looking for. Their problem remains unsolved, and they will not be able to relax. Moreover, some of the feelings of discomfort will increase. Basically, when this happens, sexual addicts indulge some more until the time that they actually lose the capability to reasonably fight off the sexual urges.
- Escalating Problem – Sexual addiction is also considered an escalating problem. This does not stop at the time that the behavior becomes a bad habit to break. Sexual addicts are inclined to amplify the intensity, as well as the frequency of the activity that they engage in. For instance, those people who gravitate towards soliciting sex are likely to do the act more often. Those people who have multiple affairs will likely look for more sexual patterns. Basically, this upward spiral will happen during the first year of sexual addiction, and this will eventually plateau. During the plateau stage, the behavior will still continue but the intensity, frequency, and scope of the behavior will be maintained at a specific level.
- Recurring Behavior – The need to engage in sex becomes never ending and the behavior becomes repetitive. Typically, health care providers consider the occurrence from six months to one year. If the same issue persists within the period, the typical diagnosis would lean towards sexual addiction.
- Skewed Perspective – Once the sexual addiction cycle starts, everything can actually go downhill. During this phase, new problems will be created. Moreover, additional factors that cause anxiety and distress will appear. In fact, additional unpleasant feelings like guilt, isolation, and shame will arise. There will be emptiness and misery. However, sex addicts will not be able to see it this way. They will consider the situation as an indication that their current behaviors and actions are not as effective as it was before. They will decide instead to do more of the act for the purpose of bringing back the false sense of fulfillment and euphoria.
- Preoccupation – Sexual addicts are preoccupied with sex. They are consumed by the thoughts of sex. These people waste excessive time in playing out sexual fantasies in their minds. They deliberate on past experiences and plan new and more complex ways on how to indulge themselves in the act.
- Failure to Stop – Sexual addicts will reach a point where they actually realize the mess that they are stuck in. Most sexual addicts are stuck. Some try to stop or even reduce the compulsion, but they will fail. The intention to stop is real, but the effort comes up short. Thus, sexual addicts fail to stop.
Sex Addiction Statistics
Sexual addiction is a rampant problem not just in the US, but also worldwide. According to the National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity, there is an estimated six percent to eight percent of Americans who are sexual addicts. These sum up to around 18 million to 42 million people. Moreover, it has been estimated that one out of every six women struggles with porn addiction. In addition to this, more than 80 percent of the affected women take the addiction offline. It is also believed that women are likely to act out sexual addiction behaviors in real life. The behaviors will include casual sex, multiple partners, and extramarital affairs.
Sexual Addiction Recovery and Treatment
Sexual addiction recovery treatment will involve cognitive behavior therapies and/or medications. Medications are used to control the feelings that are associated with the sexual addiction. These medications may include serotonergic medications which are used to treat anxiety, depressive disorders, and mood stabilizers. These medications are effective in controlling the compulsive sexual urges associated with sexual addiction.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps sex addicts learn the factors that trigger the sexually destructive behaviors. In such therapies, they will also re-evaluate the distortions in their thoughts which contribute to the behaviors, and they will learn how to control their behavior. When sexual addiction becomes severe, they are typically required to attend intensive outpatient programs or perhaps inpatient treatment centers.