Sex addiction is the compulsive preoccupation with thoughts, people, and/or aspects that induce pleasurable feelings and arousal. It is a conceptual model that has recently been developed to explain sexual thoughts and urges of extreme and excessive nature. Such urges tend to take over a person’s psyche completely and the person starts behaving abnormally in absence of sexual activity.
Hypersexuality and nymphomania have been well documented conditions in medical literature and are logical predecessors to sex addiction. It is commonly associated with compulsive and obsessive personality types and some researchers consider it as just another form of obsessive compulsive disorder.
While it is a common practice to come across someone who enjoys sexual activity, it is quite rare to find someone medically addicted to sex. Sex addiction is a nascent medical term and the medical community is equally divided on whether this condition should be considered as a psychological condition or not.
Signs and Symptoms
- Constant preoccupation with thoughts of sexual activity
- Engaging in more sex frequently, often with more partners than normal
- Having a constant desire to cut down on sexual activity, but failing to do so
- Considering sexual activity as a deterrent to normal day to day activities
- Neglecting day to day activities in search for sex, sexual partners or new ways of making your sex life more interesting
- Continuously engaging in promiscuous sexual encounters in spite of having full knowledge of the negative effects of such behavior of your personal and professional life
- Trying to “increase” the effect of sexual encounters by engaging in sex with multiple partners
- Feeling restless and turning aggressive if you have not been able to draw the desired “pleasure” out of a sexual encounter
Causes and Risk Factors
Sexual addiction is defined as a chronic addiction, and monoamine secretion is considered to be one of the topmost reasons behind addiction. Most sex addicts experience an increased level of dopamine secretion while indulging in sexual activity.
An increase in dopamine secretion due to a particular activity usually “teaches” the brain to remember that activity for future reference. So, the next time the patient feels restless and “low”, his/her brain quickly reminds him/her about activities that give him/her pleasure. This circle continues until the patient becomes addicted to that activity and seeks pleasure by indulging in the activity subconsciously. In patients of this addiction, indulging in sexual activities is a way of seeking pleasure.
Individuals with this disorder are exposed to a number of risks such as:
- Troubled personal relationships
- Medical problems
- Exposure to sexually transmitted diseases
- Criminal ideation
- Depression due to broken relationships
- Suicidal ideation
Because sex addiction is not really a documented medical condition, treating it can be difficult. Most doctors treat this addiction in line with treating other non-substance addictions like gambling and work addiction. Patients may also need to be checked into treatment centers and rehab centers in order to mitigate the negative effects of de-addiction. Patients may also benefit from group therapy in order to learn from the experiences of others.
Cognitive behavior therapy and other targeted psychotherapies are employed to sensitize the patients towards the negative effects of sex addiction. The patients are administered anti-depressants and narcotics in order to ensure that they do not face negative withdrawal symptoms.
It is important for individuals to talk to therapists or physicians to ensure the proper treatment plan to recover from sex addiction.