What Is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction, also referred to as compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexuality, is an addiction characterized by an extreme and distracting focus on sexual urges, behaviors, and activities.

Though sex addiction is not officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder as an impulse disorder in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11).

As with other behavioral addictions, it is important to differentiate that a sexual addiction goes beyond what is considered a natural enjoyment of sex and leads to adverse and distracting thoughts and behaviors.

Signs that a person may have a sexual addiction include:

  • Partaking in high-risk sexual behaviors
  • Spending a disproportionate amount of time and money on sexual activities
  • Uncontrollable sexual thoughts that disrupt daily routines
  • Inability or disinterest in remaining faithful in relationships
  • Feelings of guilt and shame regarding sexual preferences and conduct

There are many consequences of a sex addiction that directly effect a person’s life and livelihood, such as:

  • Inability to prioritize relationships with a partner, family, and friends
  • Development of other substance-use disorders
  • Development of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unplanned pregnancy linked to high-risk sexual behavior

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Symptoms Of Sex Addiction

People suffering from sex addiction will struggle to control their impulses. Similar to how someone addicted to Heroin may be willing to go to great lengths to feed their addiction, people addicted to sex will do whatever it takes to fill their need. They may lie to people, cheat on their significant other, or even pay for sex. Symptoms that someone might be suffering from sex addiction include:

  • Engaging in sex with multiple partners
  • Craving sex to the point that it interferes with other engagements
  • Continuously engaging in excessive sexual activities despite wanting to stop
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on sexual activity
  • Spending time in activities related to or that could lead to sex
  • Neglecting other obligations in the pursuit of sex
  • Continuing to engage in sexual behavior despite detriments to relationships
  • Needing to escalate sexual activity to achieve the desired effect
  • Feeling withdrawals or negative feelings when unable to engage in sexual behavior

People who exhibit these symptoms may not necessarily suffer from an addiction, but they may still want to reach out and discuss what they are feeling.

Can Someone Actually Have A Sex Addiction?

The validity of sex addiction is a hotly debated topic among professionals. While some deny the validity of any non-substance addiction, others are trying to open the scope of what an addiction is. Of all the common behavioral addictions, sex addiction is possibly the most controversial.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM) is considered the standard in determining what is and what is not an addiction. In Volume Four, the DSM included sex addiction — but under the category of “Sexual Disorders” and not as an addiction. To this day, the only non-substance addiction that is recognized in the DSM is Gambling Addiction. Despite this, the DSM describes sex addiction as “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”

When one hears the word “compulsive” it implies that the person with those compulsions is in less control than the average person. And what are people afflicted with addiction, if not suffering from a biological compulsion to use a certain substance?

The Link Between Sex Offenders And Sex Addiction

It is unfortunate, but there is an association between people who suffer from sex addiction and sex offenders. Roughly half of convicted sex offenders can be diagnosed with a sex addiction. However, what is missing is a deviation between the two groups. It is commonly believed that people can become addicted to sex due to a chemical reaction in the brain. For sex offenders, it is accepted that they do not act for sexual gratification. They instead act out of a perverse need for power, dominance, control, revenge, or even anger. Not all sex offenders are addicted to sex, and not everyone who is addicted to sex will become a sex offender.

Finding Treatment For Sex Addiction

Seeking help for sex addiction can be a tricky thing. Due to misunderstandings about what sex addiction actually entails, many people don’t know if they have it or if they can actually recover. Just know that recovery is always an option. Discover your online therapy options for sex addiction here.

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