Problematic sexual behaviors are very real and sexual addiction is one of those behaviors. It is a condition in which a person compulsively engages or participates in various sexual activities, including sex toys such as penis pumps and sexual intercourse. This is done in spite of the negative consequences of their actions.
Many proponents and advocates of the diagnostic model for sex addiction consider the condition a part of various sex-related disorders under a wider concept called hypersexual disorder.
People with sexual addiction are not able to control their sexual behavior, urges and thoughts. Well in that sense, aren’t we all preoccupied with sex, waiting for the opportunity to get laid, especially in our teenage years?
Sexual addiction is a contentious and complex subject. In fact, there is a lot of debate amongst psychologists, psychiatrists, sexologists, and various other experts over whether engagement in compulsive or obsessive sexual activity can constitute an addiction.
Sexual addiction, as of 2017, is not considered a clinical diagnosis according to both ICD and DSM medical classification of medical disorders and diseases. Well, it just means you are not crazy if you are obsessed with sex, at least not according to experts.
A majority of experts believe that the application of these concepts to sexual behavior can lead to problems such as more social stigma. They are also of the opinion that the use of medical models like addiction to a person’s sexuality is likely to pathologize human behavior and may even lead to physical and emotional harm.
The excessive preoccupation with sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors can cause a person distress. It is also likely to adversely impact his job, health, relationships and other aspects of life. Compulsive or obsessive sexual behaviors can involve a number of different enjoyable sexual experiences, which are otherwise considered normal.
There are a number of examples of these behaviors such as masturbation, multiple sex partners, cybersex, using pornography or paying others to engage in sexual activities.
However, once these types of behaviors become the main focus of your life, they become very difficult to control. And in addition to harming you, they can be harmful or disruptive to others around you, such as your friends, your partner, and your family.
Symptoms of Sexual Addiction
The following indications suggest that a person is struggling with sexual addiction or compulsive sexual behavior:
- You experience intense and recurrent sexual urges, fantasies or behaviors. They often consume a considerable amount of time and you feel like these behaviors are out of your control.
- You tend to feel driven to carry out specific sexual behaviors and feel relieved afterwards; however, you also feel guilty and remorseful.
- Although you have tried to control or reduce your sexual urges, fantasies, and behavior through medications or other means, you have not been successful.
- You tend to use your compulsive or deviant sexual behaviors as a means to escape from your other personal problems and issues, such as depression, loneliness, stress or anxiety.
- You persist with your compulsive sexual behavior despite being aware of the grave consequences. These consequences include the potential to get or give another person a sexually transmitted disease or infection, trouble at work, the loss or deterioration of vital relationships, legal problems or financial strain.
- You find it troubling or difficult to establish and maintain stable and healthy relationships. Do not worry as this can happen to the best of us!
Why Does It Happen?
With respect to any kind of addiction, it is important to bear in mind that there is considerable debate among various experts regarding their underlying causes or reasons. What can muddy the waters is the constant disagreement and debate over whether the relevant addiction is a habit or disease.
Although sexual addiction is not considered a true addiction, this idea is not immune to controversy. However, many experts do believe that people have the tendency to become addicted to sex, just like they can get addicted to alcohol, gambling, drugs, and even food.
A number of studies suggest that abused drugs, food, and sexual interests have a few things in common. One is that they share the common path within the human brain’s reward systems and survival. The path leads to a region of your brain that is responsible for rational thought, higher thinking, and judgment.
In most cases, the brain of a sex addict tells him that engaging in illicit sexual behavior is good just like it tells other people that eating food is good whenever they feel hungry. These changes in brain states trigger a person to get preoccupied with sexual activity. The sex addict gives up healthier interests and habits as a result.
These are some of the factors that can contribute to sexual addiction.
Compulsive sexual behaviors and sex addiction are often believed by experts to be linked with chemical imbalances in the brain. The chemicals responsible for this state are called neurotransmitters. A number of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine tend to help with your mood regulation and also play a major role in experiencing pleasure.
According to experts, sexual addiction in particular the extreme euphoria and ecstasy felt by sex addicts during the course of sexual activity can be partially triggered by a high level of these pleasure chemicals.
This point of view can also explain plenty of sex addicts tend to benefit from using antidepressants. These include SSRIs in particular, which affect serotonin levels in the brain. Mood stabilizing drugs like lithium are also beneficial.
In addition, some specific medications, like dopamine agonists, can also lead to sexual addiction. In case your sex drive is negatively affected by the use of these drugs, you can use medicines available to improve your confidence and last longer in bed.
The biochemical model can also help explain why a lot of competent, goal-directed and intelligent individuals can be easily derailed by sex and drugs. It can be hard to believe that, on a frequent basis, an accomplished and successful father, mother, businessperson or even doctor can forego everything just to think or fantasize about sex, identify sexual opportunities.
If you are wondering how this is possible, bear in mind that your brain tricks your body by generating intense biochemical rewards to promote these self-destructive behaviors.
There are a number of medical conditions that can damage specific regions of your brain, such as multiple sclerosis, dementia, and Huntington’s disease. This brain damage can play a part in causing sexual addiction that leads to compulsive sexual behaviors and urges. You can consider yourself lucky if you do not have these conditions.
Both women and men have sexual hormones called androgens. Androgens can have an impact on libido and can play an active role in triggering an individual’s addiction to sex. Plenty of medications that affect this sex hormone are often used to treat sex addicts.
These medications are called LHRH agonists (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormones) and anti-androgens. Anti-androgens can help reduce a person’s sexual urges. On the other hand, LHRH agonists tend to lower the production of testosterone and can help with a variety of sexual obsessions.
These obsessions usually accompany or are associated with sexual addiction. Both of these medications are also used in the treatment of male pedophiles and various other kinds of sex offenders.
Genes can also contribute to compulsive sexual behaviors and urges. In most cases, a specific genetic predisposition toward certain types of sexual addictions often involves a variety of genes. These genes are considered to play a significant role in the development of sexual addiction. This is one of the reasons why some individuals are more susceptible or prone to addictive behaviors compared to others.
Alteration of Neural Pathways
In some cases, the intricate wiring of your brain, known as the neural pathway, can get altered or change considerably because of compulsive or obsessive sexual activity. As a result of these neural changes, a person can experience enhanced or intense pleasure when he engages in sexual activity.
This abnormal state of the brain makes it quite difficult for the person to overcome his sexual addiction. This is because they feel unpleasant and react negatively whenever they try to disengage.
Family Dysfunction and Childhood Abuse
According to experts, people who come from families with a history of sexual addiction and substance abuse are more likely to become sex addicts. A number of dysfunctional family dynamics such as emotionally unavailable parents, or parents with rigid or uncaring parenting styles are also important contributing factors.
A number of studies have indicated that a high percentage of sex addicts usually come from broken homes and dysfunctional families and have been abused in their childhood often by their family members.
A research found that more than 80% of sex addicts were sexually abused in their childhood. A majority of sex addicts describe their legal guardians or parents as distant, rigid or uncaring.
However, the good news is that there are many treatments available for people who have a sexual addiction. The treatment options often use a combination of medication, psychotherapy (including family and group therapy), as well as support groups.
In addition, there are various residential treatment programs; these are more beneficial as they offer intensive treatment in structured settings.
As shame and guilt are two main factors, especially in the case of most sex addicts, many are afraid to admit it, and as a result, do not seek treatment.
In many cases, a majority of sex addicts usually receive court-mandated therapy or treatment after they are convicted of sex crimes. As with most addictions, the effectiveness of a treatment plan will depend on a number of different factors.
Sexual addiction, though not considered an illness, is a troubling issue for a lot of people. We have discussed the symptoms of sexual addiction along with some important reason which can trigger it. The condition has a social stigma attached to it which makes it difficult for addicts to speak out and seek help.