When we think of the word “addiction” most of us immediately think about drug and alcohol usage. However, there are many different types of addictions that people struggle with.
One type of addiction that is rarely focussed on is sex and love addiction. This issue can emerge in many different ways, showing numerous sex addiction symptoms and causing dangerous, risky behaviors.
Whether you have a loved one who you suspect is addicted to sex or you’re dealing with this challenge yourself, this guide is for you. Here’s what you need to know about the signs of sex addiction and how to move past them.
This online screening is not a diagnostic tool. Only a trained medical professional, like a doctor or behavioral health professional, can help you determine the best treatment for you.
Sex addiction can be thought of in several different ways. For one, someone with sex addiction is unable to control their behavior. They will engage in sexual behavior even if there are clear negative consequences that could happen or are likely to happen.
Unlike someone who has a healthy sex drive, sex addicts spend a disproportionate amount of time looking for or engaging in sex. They will also typically keep the activity secret from those around them.
In addition, individuals who have a sex addiction aren’t able to stop their behavior on their own. They need an intervening event in order to stop engaging in sexual activity, which can hurt and even destroy both professional and personal relationships.
Sex addiction also often leads to a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases. This includes HIV and serious, life-threatening illnesses. The reason for this is that individuals with addiction struggle to control their impulses.
Individuals who suffer from sex addiction usually use sex to escape from psychological or emotional problems. This can include anxiety, depression, stress, and social issues.
Although there is no exact known cause of sex addiction, there are a few theories as to why people struggle with this issue. One theory is that people with sex addiction have difficulty with impulse control, OCD, or relationship disorders.
Other theories state that individuals develop sexual addictions because of early trauma. This could be sexual trauma or a different type of trauma and is sometimes a coping mechanism for what they experienced.
Some forms of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, can also cause sex addiction. Hypersexuality is a known symptom of Bipolar Disorder, which can lead to sex addiction.
Other neurological disorders such as dementia, head injuries, and epilepsy can also cause hyper-sexual behaviors. Drugs or medications that affect dopamine levels can also sometimes cause this issue as well.
Now that you have a better understanding of what sex addiction is and what causes it, let’s take a look at a few sex addiction symptoms.
Here are some key symptoms that you should be aware of:
Individuals who are addicted to sex usually struggle to remain loyal to a single partner. They have insatiable appetites for sex, which can lead them to seek out additional partners so that they can engage in sexual behavior more often.
What often happens is that sex addicts cheat on their partners or engage in sexual acts with multiple individuals. The behavior is risky and puts them in danger of contracting serious STIs and life-threatening diseases.
Just like drug and alcohol addiction, sexual addiction can lead to neglecting responsibilities. That’s because sex addicts put their addiction ahead of job responsibilities, family commitments, and anything that’s not related to sex.
What ends up happening is that individuals can lose their jobs, run into financial difficulties, and damage relationships due to their addiction. Their need for sex can cause their lives to spiral out of control as they begin neglecting important responsibilities.
Individuals who struggle with sexual addiction are usually more than willing to trade money and time for sex. That’s especially true if they’re addicted to engaging in illicit sex.
Since their sexual cravings are extremely strong, individuals are willing to part with valuable time and money for sex. This can lead to financial difficulties or a loss of time for other important responsibilities.
Much like substance addiction, sex addiction is difficult to cut back on. Individuals who struggle with this type of addiction experience increasing urges over time, making it harder and harder to stop.
What ends up happening is that a sex addict can’t minimize how much time they spend engaging in sexually related activities. This could include a wide range of acts and activities and can isolate them from friends and family.
Talking to an addict about their issue is extremely difficult. They usually deny the problem or have an inability to open up and talk about the struggles that they’re dealing with.
Sex addicts usually are unwilling or unable to talk about their addictions. This can cause stress and worry for loved ones who want to get the sex addict the help they need.
One symptom of sex addiction that many people don’t consider is a loss of sexual functionality. This is especially problematic for young men who consume large amounts of pornography.
When sex addicts consume pornography, they experience a sexual high. That means that their dopamine levels rise to an extreme height, conditioning the body to desire those high levels of arousal in order to get turned on.
This artificial high can make real-life experiences feel unsatisfying to the addict, which can lead to erectile dysfunction. When they’re with a real-life partner, their body can’t respond correctly because they aren’t experiencing the same extreme levels of dopamine.
One of the more obvious symptoms of sex addiction is displaying disinterest in a sexual partner. What this means is that one person wants to have sex while the other partner doesn’t.
When one person in a couple begins to withdraw from sex, it usually means that there’s a deeper issue going on. That could be related to relationship issues, behavioral health struggles, or something else.
However, if an individual is withdrawing from sex and also exhibiting other red flags, sex addiction could be to blame. If you or your partner is showing sexual disinterest, it’s important to look at what other habits are at play.
One sign of sexual addiction is a constant engagement in sexual fantasies or in watching pornography. A person who is addicted to sex constantly feels the need to satisfy their cravings for pornography.
Constantly engaging with this material often leads to problems with real-life sex. The sexual acts that addicts view in pornography are often much more extreme than real sex, which can lead to more complications and relationship struggles.
As with most addictions, sexual addiction is usually accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt after engaging in an activity. The more a person engages in sex, the worse they feel after performing the act.
Even though the person feels good in the short term, they feel guilty or even struggle with regret afterward. The emotional hangover they experience leads to feelings of inadequacy and depression.
The worse a person feels, the more they’ll seek out their next fix. The result is a vicious cycle of engaging in risky sexual behavior.
When most of us engage in sex, we ask ourselves important questions. We consider whether or not we will get caught cheating or how likely we are to contract a sexual disease from a partner.
In contrast, sex addicts might think about these issues for a while, but in the end, they often put their addiction ahead of the risks. Even when they know the dangerous consequences, they may still engage in this type of behavior. Negative consequences don’t stop them from engaging in sexual acts.
Individuals who struggle with sex addiction are not without hope. There are several treatment options that have a good prognosis for individuals who suffer from this issue.
Inpatient programs are one of the most common ways to treat sex addiction. At these treatment centers, individuals suffering from sex addiction remain in a facility for a minimum of 30 days.
The idea is that inpatient programs remove individuals from their normal lives. In their new environment, they’ll have the chance to learn how to heal and control their impulses.
Inpatient programs make use of numerous different techniques for curing sex addiction. These typically include group and individual therapy.
Twelve-step programs are another common type of treatment for sexual addiction. Groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, or SAA, follow a twelve-step recovery method to help people overcome sex addiction.
In these programs, the members don’t have to give up sex. However, they do learn how to control destructive and compulsive sexual behavior.
What’s great about twelve-step programs is that they’re conducted in a group setting. This helps create a support group for those who are struggling with this issue.
One type of treatment that can help individuals with sex addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is important for helping suffering individuals recognize their triggers for sexual behavior.
It’s also useful for teaching individuals how to alter their behaviors. CBT takes place with the help of a licensed behavioral health professional through one-on-one sessions.
Sometimes, medication can help a person overcome sex addiction. Drug therapy for sex addiction involves antidepressants that are designed to reduce urges for sex.
Another unique type of therapy that is sometimes effective in treating sex addiction is EMDR therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.
This type of therapy is used to help combat the impulses and urges that are associated with sex addiction. They help individuals by teaching them to focus on a specific event while engaging in guided, rapid eye movements.
The purpose of this type of therapy is to rewrite the brain so that individuals are no longer harmed by past traumas and negative bad experiences. With EMDR therapy, individuals learn to release the negative feelings associated with past trauma.
Although beating a sex and love addiction is hard, it’s not impossible. With the right support and guidance, you can put sex and love addiction behind you once and for all.
If you’re ready to get help for sex addiction symptoms, we can help. Get in touch with our professionals and we’ll help you find treatment for your sex addiction struggles.
Deanna Crosby is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) with over 20 years of experience working with clients in recovery. Her expertise has catapulted her into the spotlight. Featured on several episodes of the Dr. Phil Show as a behavioral health expert, DeAnna is a routine contributor for NBC News, The Huffington Post, Elle Magazine, MSN, Fox News, Yahoo, Glamour, Today, and several other prominent media outlets.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of California in Irvine, Crosby did postgraduate work at Centaur University where she graduated at the top of her class with a CAADAC certification in Centaur’s chemical dependency program. Following her time at Centaur, Crosby received her Master of Counseling Psychology degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute, where she also attained a Doctoral Degree in Depth Psychology.
From all of us at New Method Wellness co-occurring treatment center, we wish you peace and serenity in knowing that you or your loved one will get the necessary help.