There’s nothing wrong with liking or wanting sex. It’s a normal part of being a human being. But sometimes this desire can get out of hand, leading to sex addiction, or hypersexuality.
Being a sex addict isn’t just about wanting to have a lot of sex. Like other addictions, it can interfere with a healthy lifestyle and can damage relationships, too. Here’s what it means to be a sex addict and how to overcome sex addiction.
What is sex addiction?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, sex addiction is categorized as a “sexual disorder”. Therefore, a sex addict isn’t just a sex-obsessed individual who needs to get over it. He or she is actually someone who struggles with a psychiatric disorder.
The manual goes on to describe sexual addiction as “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”
Sex addicts are more interested in the sexual act than with the person they’re having sex with. The individual is reduced to an object and a means to an end, in a compulsive search for more and more sex.
Like other addictions, individuals can develop a tolerance and seek more and more sexual outlets to satisfy their desires.
The damage caused by sex addiction
Perhaps sexual addiction doesn’t sound quite as destructive as say a drug or alcohol addiction. And there is a debate about whether a hypersexual disorder should be described as an addiction, or to be discussed using addiction language.
This discussion arises from the fact that categorizing hypersexuality as an addiction can be shaming, and place sex within a moral context.
However, whether it is classified as an addiction, disorder or hypersexuality, it can be incredibly damaging – not only for the person involved but also for the other people in his or her life.
For one thing, the addict has an insatiable appetite for his or her sexual desires and will spend countless hours and exorbitant amounts of money to obtain them.
It goes without saying that committed and exclusive relationships suffer, as do other friendships and relationships. Finally, the quality of life for a sex addict plummets, since former hobbies and interests are no longer appealing compared to the sex addiction.
Signs of a sex addiction
How can you tell if someone just has a healthy and high libido, or that they’re suffering from a sexual addiction?
For sex addicts, sex is no longer about love and intimacy, instead, it’s a way to feed their addiction, and this can be with normal sex, or by enacting extreme activities that are entirely centered around the sexual act and pay no attention to the other person involved.
According to Kathryn Cunningham, who is the director of the Center for Addiction Research at the University of Texas, there are five signs that may indicate sexual addiction. Here they are:
- Sex is at the center of the individual’s life and replaces other activities
- The individual uses various types of sex, including phone and computer sex, pornography, prostitutes and exhibitionism
- Masturbation is a regular habit
- Having multiple sexual partners and cheating
- Criminal activities, such as incest, rape, stalking and child molestation
Additional criteria for sexual addiction has been suggested for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, and if individual experiences the following six behaviors repeatedly over the course of six months, this can indicate a sexual addiction, too.
- Intense and recurring sexual fantasies, urges and behaviors
- Fantasies, urges, and behaviors interfere with daily life
- Sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors are a coping mechanism for stress and negative emotions
- The individual is unable to control or manage his or her urges and behaviors
- The individual pursues these desires without regard to how they may hurt other people involved
- Because these sexual acts and thoughts are so frequent and intense, they can start to cause distress and impairment
Is sex addiction a guy’s problem?
Some people mistakenly believe that sex addiction is a guy’s problem. And with international movements like #METOO and #NEVERAGAIN, it’s not hard to see why. After all, these movements are a platform for women to come forward and speak out against men, and their sexual harassment, abuse and assault.
However, both women and men can experience sex addiction. In fact, research shows that one-third of sex addicts are in fact, women. However, these numbers don’t necessarily mean that men and women experience hypersexuality in the same way.
Sex addiction is different for men and women
Men generally obsess about the sex and they objectify their partner. In short, there is very little, if any, emotional connection for male sex addicts. Women can do this too, but it seems that women develop an addiction to sex in order to have power and control in their lives.
Or, they seek out sex to get attention and praise through their sexual encounters. In fact, female sex addicts are sometimes described as having co-dependency issues and “love addiction.”
How to overcome sex addiction
Overcoming sex addiction requires patience, commitment, and most importantly, professional help. There are several ways to get support and assistance, and here are the top resources for people wanting to overcome sex addiction.
Counseling and therapy
Counseling therapy allows the sex addict to unpack emotional baggage, which may be behind the sexual addiction. It also provides an opportunity to deal with past trauma and relationship issues which may be contributing to the sex addiction.
The idea here is to heal the individual, who in turn, will no longer turn to sex to address deeper psychological problems.
Top treatment programs aim to separate the individual from the addictive behaviors. They do this by creating a controlled living space where you don’t face constant exposure and access to sexual triggers.
What’s more, treatment programs help the individuals deal with underlying issues, such as guilt, shame, and depression.
Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous helps addicts overcome sexual behaviors which are compulsive and destructive.
With the guidance of a healthcare professional, sex addicts meet together to encourage and support each other’s commitment to overcome sex addiction and to also learn from each other.
Living as a sex addict can be incredibly difficult and lonely. Not only do they lose their freedom, but they also lose pleasure in healthy, intimate sex. However, with professional help, love, and support, they can overcome sex addiction and heal.