The Rise of Sex Addiction

Until fairly recently, sex addiction was glibly considered a bit of a joke, or even an excuse for cheating on a partner. However, As science has begun to research it further and celebrities such as Tiger Woods have made the public more aware of the problem, it’s become clear that it is another form of behavioral addiction.

What is sex addiction?

Sexual addiction can cover a range of different things, for example:

  • Watching excessive pornography
  • Taking part in voyeurism (watching others) or exhibitionism (allowing others to watch you)
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Making use of sex chat lines
  • Visiting prostitutes or engaging in prostitution
  • Engaging in extreme forms of sex, such as sadism (hurting others) or masochism (hurting yourself)

Symptoms of sex addiction

In the process of taking part in these activities, sex addicts may:

  • Get sexually involved with strangers
  • Remain in an unhealthy relationship rather than leaving
  • Have multiple sexual relationships, either simultaneously or one after the other
  • Be preoccupied with getting sex, even in risky situations and at the expense of other activities or responsibilities
  • Develop an obsession with a particular sexual act, person or online porn’
  • Be secretive about their sexual partners or sexual activities

It’s important to note that many people experience all or some of the above at some time in their life. When it becomes a pattern though, or the behavior no longer feels like a choice, despite understanding the negative consequences, it’s time to consider the possibility of addiction.

Sexual addiction and porn

With the accessibility of porn these days, a generation of easily-influenced adolescent boys and girls have grown up believing that sex should be freely available at all times. The implicit nature of the porn also leads them to believe that it’s not abnormal for it to involve aggression or even violence.

Even adults who watch excessive amounts of porn may subconsciously begin to buy into this and develop a tolerance for it. After a while, normal sex with a partner is no longer so satisfying, triggering a search for something more exciting.

Unfortunately, it also requires far less effort to satisfy this basic human need with masturbation while watching pornography, than to interact with another human being in the hope of achieving the same thing. Added to that is the extra adrenal boost if watching porn is done in secret.

In short, for someone who is not happy with their life in general, and who has addictive tendencies, porn only exacerbates the problem.

Dangers of sex addiction

Some of the aspects involved here are fairly obvious, such as:

  • The possibility of unwanted pregnancy
  • The high risk of contracting (and then passing on) a sexually transmitted disease
  • The chance of developing some form of sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation or impotence

Others are less tangible, although equally destructive, for example:

  • Negative effects on personal relationships, including those with a partner, friends or family
  • Experiencing less satisfaction from “normal” sex
  • Reduced ability to deal with other areas of life, such as work or finances
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, self-hatred or other emotional distress

Why do people get addicted to sex?

Sex can serve as:

  • A way to escape from difficult feelings, such as depression, anxiety or loneliness
  • A distraction from a life that is less than ideal in other aspects
  • An alternative or co-addiction to substance abuse
  • An outlet for obsessive-compulsive behavior or a lack of impulse control
  • A way to feel connected to others and experience some form of intimacy, especially if the person is socially isolated or awkward
  • An extra feel-good “high” that comes from the dopamine and endorphins released as the brain’s reward centers are stimulated, especially during sex, creating a craving for more

You’ll notice that many of these are common to other addictions. As always with addictions, genetic and mental health factors, such as personality or mood disorders, may also play a role.

People who are specifically addicted to sex may also:

  • Lack healthy boundaries and therefore find it difficult to say no
  • Have high levels of hormones such as estrogen or testosterone
  • As a child, have experienced lack of nurturing or even some form of abuse, early exposure to unhealthy sexual content or an overly sexual environment
  • Experience little pleasure from the sexual act itself, despite the craving for it

How is sex addiction treated?

Treatment for sex addiction is based along the same lines as treatment for other types of addiction. With sexual addiction, however, additional joint counseling with a spouse or partner is also often recommended as partners of sex addicts can experience as much emotional distress, if not more.

A healthy enjoyment of sex enhances quality of life, and it’s well worth dealing with any addictive symptoms in order to reach that place of balance and satisfaction.

Author: Trevor Roberts

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