Despite what a few people may believe, sex addiction is actually quite a common condition that many people suffer from. In fact, the number of people in the United States living with a sex addiction is currently estimated at 12–30 million. What’s more, celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith, Russell Brand and Andra Day have revealed that they too have battled sex addiction in the past.
Now, while more and more people speak about their journey with sex addiction, others do still feel embarrassed or ashamed of speaking to a doctor or psychiatrist about it for fear of being judged. That said, a lot of these feelings come from a place of misinformation. With that said, experts from Delamere Health, a private, purpose-built addiction rehab clinic in Cheshire, UK, have set out to inform and refute any myths surrounding sex addiction.
But first, what is sex addiction?
Sex is fun. Sex is great – unfortunately, too much of a good thing – even sex – can be harmful to your health. According to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, sex addiction can be described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve a “fix”. This fix is similar to those battling alcohol use disorder or those abusing opioids.
What are the signs that you are addicted to sex?
Experts from Delamere Health suggest looking out for the following signs and symptoms:
Obsessively Thinking about sex
Persistent and overwhelming thoughts of sex to the extent that a sex addict will have difficulty concentrating on anything else. These obsessive thoughts are only relieved (albeit very temporary) by engaging in the sexual act they are obsessing over.
The compulsion to engage in sex
A sex addict’s brain compels them to engage in sex, even when there is a high probability of negative consequences. The compulsion to engage in sex will also disrupt other areas of a sex addict’s life.
Spending excessive time engaging in sex
A sex addict’s dependence on sex will disrupt relationships, work or education, finances, personal health, and mental wellbeing. They may miss necessary appointments, neglect their responsibilities and personal relationships to engage in sex.
Loss of control around sex
A sex addict’s behavior will often lead them to feel overwhelming feelings of shame, regret, powerlessness, anxiety, and depression. Often a sex addict will lead a double life and have an immense fear of being caught out.
Excluding other activities
A sex addict’s behavior will become all-consuming to the point that they will lose interest in hobbies or activities they once used to enjoy. They are likely to withdraw from family and loved one’s due to their preoccupation with sex and their feelings regarding their compulsive behavior.
Continuation despite negative consequences
A sex addict will suffer negative consequences as a result of their sexual behavior. Examples of common negative consequences that a sex addict may suffer include being found out as being unfaithful, contracting an STI or STD, unintentionally falling pregnant, losing a job or a relationship. Despite suffering negative consequences resulting from their sexual behavior, they will not be able to stop, even if they want to.
Progression in sexual behavior
Over time a sex addict will find that they need more sex to satisfy their needs or forms of more risky sex. What used to satisfy them will no longer suffice.
They may find themselves excessively watching or engaging in more extreme forms of pornography, having sex more often, committing criminal sexual offenses, paying for sex, prostitution, or engaging in forms of high-risk sex such as suffocation or strangulation.
Engaging in sex to the point of feeling pain
A sex addict may masturbate so frequently that it becomes painful or have so much sex or types of rough or sadistic sex that they suffer physical pain as a result. Yet this will not stop them from engaging excessively in sexual activity.
Could I become addicted to sex?
Having a healthy sex life and enjoying the act doesn’t mean that you’ll develop a sex addiction.
“Sex is a basic part of our nature and a human instinct but in sex addiction, it is taken to the extreme and overpowers everything worth in the person’s life.” explains the expert from Delamere Health, “Having a high sex drive, or having numerous partners, or regularly looking at porn does not make you a sex addict, although a high sex drive can be a contributing factor.“
The expert added that the causes and conditions of love and sex addiction can be diverse, and the disorder will affect each individual differently.
Do men cheat because of sex addiction?
No, men (and women as well as non-binary individuals) cheat because they think they can get away with it.
“Not all sex addicts cheat on a partner they are with. However, many can feel ashamed or embarrassed of how often they feel the need to have sex.” explains the experts, “Not knowing how to bring this up with a partner, or a partner having a lower sex drive, may, in turn, lead to some people looking elsewhere to hide their addiction.”
It’s best to be as honest as possible with a partner if you think you have a sex addiction. You can also reach out to a professional who will be able to guide you on how to bring up this conversation as it can be difficult.
How can sex addiction affect me?
According to experts, sex addicts tend to struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and loneliness and can find it hard to talk about how their sexual compulsions affect their mental health.
“Like any addiction, the consequences of sex addiction can be physical, emotional, financial, or even legal. It can have a huge effect on relationships, causing loss of self-esteem, loss of trust, and stress.”
Additionally, sex addicts can sadly have significant health consequences, including the risk of HIV, STI /STDs, genital injury, and side effects from the use of sex aids.
How can we curb the addiction?
It’s always recommended to get in touch with your GP or a professional as certain methods/ distractions may work short-term or at the moment but are not necessarily a long-term fix.
“Both sex and love addiction are complex behavioral disorders that often only respond to professional treatment. In order for a sex or love addict to recover, the issues underpinning their addiction must be treated comprehensively.“
“Physical activity can help to pre-occupy the mind, so it can serve as a short-term distraction. What works for some may not work for others, but overall, sex addicts will need cognitive-behavioral therapy rather than reliance on short-term distractions.“
At Delamere, they recommend activities such as yoga, music therapy, and art – but this is alongside counseling, therapy, and support.
Can sex addicts find love with each other?
This could be a difficult scenario. Often it can be a partner that points out signs they have seen. However, if one person notices behavior in themselves then they should hopefully feel as though they can speak to their partner – and perhaps seek help together.
“All addictions have a strong element of the individual chasing a euphoric high, either from a substance or activity. Over time, the euphoric high becomes less common as the brain develops a tolerance.“
The main issue that sex and love addiction present is that they prevent the person from developing healthy relationships and true intimacy, not only with others but with themselves.
How can I manage excessive thoughts about sex?
The first step in managing excessive thoughts is to speak out to someone about it. Many people will feel a huge weight lifted by telling someone they trust, so they feel less alone. Whether this is a trusted friend, family member, or professional.
About Delamere Health
Delamere represents a clear vision to take residential addiction care to a new level. Their environment and programmes have been designed to provide pioneering, inspiring, and effective treatment experiences. They bring together the latest, best therapeutic, somatic, and healing practices delivered by some of the most experienced and revered professionals in the sector. They insist on providing a welcoming, nurturing environment, and we believe passionately that recovery can be fun.