The idea that someone could have an addiction to sex isn’t widely accepted, even
among health professionals, some of whom say that it is more a matter of compulsive
behaviour than a true addiction.
What is it?
It’s estimated that 6 percent or more of the population experience sex addiction – and 1 in 5 are women.
Maybe if you look at the sheer physical damage that addictions such as heroin or cocaine can wreak on the body then sex addiction may indeed seem like a different sort of problem.
But sex addiction certainly meets some of the criteria for an addiction. Like other addictions, the person is driven by a compulsion to seek out and engage in the behaviour that brings them the benefits or a sort of intoxication that they seek, even though it may cause enormous disruption and even harm to their life.
If you’ve a sex addiction you may find you need a markedly increased amount of sex to feel sexually fulfilled. And you may have such a persistent desire that you’ll spend abnormal amounts of time involved in activities necessary to fulfil cravings, or recover from its effects.
As a result this addiction may interfere with work, hobbies and relationships with family and friends. You may struggle to cut down or control your behaviour, and continue despite being well aware of the psychological or even physical damage that it’s doing.
What are the symptoms?
Of course most people enjoy sex, get a buzz from it and welcome the chance to engage in it. So when does sex become addiction?
One clue comes from a definition often used by experts, who suggest that sexual addiction is any sexual behaviour that feels out of control. Another important feature is that, like other addictions, those affected find their emotions swing between intense highs and lows.
Following the gratification and sought–after high that the sexual behaviour brings, emotional lows follow. Typically you may feel:
1. Shame
2. Regret
2. Remorse
4. Anxiety about your behaviour
5. Trapped by your helpless need
The only way to relieve these feelings may be another sexual encounter, so you go in search of more sex.
Warning symptoms of a sex addiction might include:
Certain types of behaviour such as frequent casual sex, multiple affairs when you’re in a relationship or high risk sex.
1. Excessive use of pornography
2. Feeling worried about the possible behavior
3. Wanting to stop or change your sexual behaviour
4. Feeling unable to stop, despite wanting to
5. Using sex as a way to cope with other problems
6. Needing more sex to get the same fulfillment
7. Feeling very low or guilty after
8. Spending large amounts of time planning or engaging in sex
9. Missing important social events or even work in order to pursue sex
The debris of a sex addiction includes consequences such as breakdown of meaningful relationships, loss of job opportunities, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancy. Depression is common among sex addicts (it may even be a factor which leads to the addiction or aggravates the problem) and as many as one in five may have contemplated suicide.
It’s estimated that as many as 6 per cent of the population have, at some time in their life, a problem with sex addiction.
Getting help
It may be very difficult to admit to a sex addiction and seek help. Many of those addicted feel intense shame about their behaviour and are reluctant to talk about it. But few are able to change their behaviour without some professional help to explore why it has developed and how the behaviour can be changed.
So recognising that you have a problem is the first step. Then talk to your GP or local counseling service. There are also some support groups especially for sex addicts.
Whether sex addiction is a true addiction or a form of compulsive behaviour, the main approach to treatment is the same, and consists of psychological therapies, especially cognitive behavioural therapy, which involves learning about and understanding your condition, and how to make changes to your behaviour.
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