By definition, a “sex addiction” is described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve a “fix”, much as a someone with a substance abuse disorder compulsively needs drugs or alcohol to achieve a sense of euphoria or a “high”. This addiction should not be confused with other disorders, such as pedophilia or bestiality, as these are all completely different disorders. Sex addiction can be extremely dangerous and result in difficulties in relationships or maintenance of daily life. It further has the potential to negatively affect a person’s mental and physical well-being, quality of life, and safety.
Although sex addiction alone is a dangerous disorder to be struggling with, many people couple sex addiction with other addictions, such as those with drugs or alcohol. As such, the shame, embarrassment, or feelings of powerlessness or isolation that can result from this addiction can be enough for one to feel the need to cope with other substances. Unfortunately, the consequences of turning to substances to fill that empty void can have devastating, even deathly, effects for the person suffering. It is, therefore, imperative that if someone is suffering from either, or both, addictions, that they receive a comprehensive, well-rounded treatment plan to treat their addictions. This can help them move forward from addiction and find healthier coping mechanisms in the future.
Signs and Symptoms of a Sex Addict & How To Find Help
The want and need for sexual connection is such a common desire for humans that often times the warning signs of becoming addicted can be overlooked. As such, an addiction to sex may not be diagnosed or even recognized in the person addicted. However, if one was to be honest with oneself, they might realize that their need for sex may seem to supersede what they find “normal” or “appropriate”. In order to figure out if one is addicted to sex, they might want to use some of the tell-tale signs and symptoms of an addiction to sex as a guide:
- Keeping sexual behaviors secret, even keeping the condition secret from spouses, partners, family members, or friends
- Lying about their activities or engaging in them in places where they won’t be found out
- Chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
- Having such preoccupation with sex that it starts interfering with daily life, productivity, work performance, etc.
- Feeling guilt or regret after engaging in such behavior
- Compulsively seeking out partners, including strangers
- Continuing behavior despite any apparent dangerous consequences to the behavior
Remember, while desiring sexual activity in and of itself is not a sign of an addiction, the difference between “normal” sexual behavior and an addiction lies in any compulsiveness that starts interfering with daily life activities.
Side Effects and Symptoms that Increase Chances of an Addiction to Sex
Just as an addiction to drugs or alcohol can massively impact one’s social, mental, and physical well-being, so can an addiction to sex. In fact, according to the Department Management of the USDA, about 38% of men and 45% of women with sex addictions contract a venereal disease as a result of their behavior. Furthermore, nearly 70% of women with sex addictions also report at least one unwanted preganancy with engaging in their addiction. Some additional side-effects that can result from a sex addiction can include:
- A decline in personal relationships, social, and family engagement
- Decreased productivity and concentration at work
- A sexually-transmitted disease (STD) or sexual dysfunction as a result from engaging in the behavior
- An increase risk of also engaging in other risky and dangerous behaviors, such as substance abuse with drugs or alcohol
- Less time engaging in hobbies you once used to enjoy
- Financial strain due to overspending to satisfy one’s addiction
- Loss of employment due to unproductivity or absences of work
Furthermore, it is common to feel psychological effects from an addiction to sex. This can include:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Feelings of: being abnormal, guilt, shame, hollowness, emptiness, being numb, regretful
Some factors that may increase one’s chance of developing a sexual addiction may include:
- Being male: although many females struggle with this, as well, it is most common in men
- Being in late adolescence to mid-20’s: an increase in adolescent hormones and engagement in sexual behavior is deemed “normal” during this time period
- Having low levels of serotonin: neurotransmitter chemical imbalances can play a large role in engaging in “euphoric” behavior
- Experiencing childhood sexual abuse
- Family history of addiction: having one or more parents addicted to sex or substances increases one’s chance of continuing the trend
- Having pre-existing mental health conditions, such as: impulse control disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder
- Having medical conditions that increase hyper-sexuality, including: injuries to the brain like, tumors, lesions, seizure disorders, dementia, as all contribute to reduced inhibitions.
Finding Recovery for Sex Addiction Symptoms
While wanting sex often is not deemed an addiction, it is imperative that if you sense that you have any abnormalities or compulsiveness to wanting and acting out in sexual behavior, that you seek treatment immediately. As sex addiction mirrors many of the same characteristic behaviors of a drug or alcohol addiction, it is quite common that one engaging in one addiction will eventually turn to another addiction to satisfy the “void”. This is quite often because the shame and guilt of one addiction causes someone to find more coping mechanisms to avoid feeling the painful emotions resulting from addiction.
Furthermore, since chemical imbalances can cause impulsive behavior, one might feel drawn to engage in more risky behavior in order to increase the once “extreme high” they once felt when they first started their addiction. Therefore, it is imperative that if one struggles with either or both of these addictions that they get help under the guidance of a medical professional that specializes in addiction. Additionally, seeing a counselor to get to the root of why one is coping with unhealthy behavior can help to prevent a relapse in behavior in the future.
Please do not delay seeking help for an addiction to sex. There is no shame in asking for help, in fact, it is a strength. There dedicated and compassionate people waiting to help you on your path of recovery today.