Many people suffer from a behavioral addiction without knowing it. Just like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, behavioral addictions create serious issues in the lives of the addicts and their loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone understands what a behavioral addiction entails, which can keep people from seeking the help they need.
While there are many types of behavioral addictions, sex addiction is one of the most common. But how do you know if you have a sex addiction? If you or someone you love is struggling with issues that may be related to this disorder, it is not only important to understand this issue but also to seek treatment in a professional recovery program.
What Is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is a disorder characterized by a person’s desire to take part in certain sexual activities. This desire is compulsive, constant, and intense to the point where it causes the individual to experience problems in their personal and professional lives. This is the strongest indicator of a sex addiction.
These individuals usually take part in sexual activities obsessively and excessively and sometimes without emotion. This may include activities like masturbating, reading or watching pornography, and thinking about sex. While these activities usually aren’t harmful in mild doses, those who are suffering from a sex addiction will engage in them to the point where it affects their entire life.
As stated by a 2012 study from the International Journal of Preventative Medicine behavioral science experts agree that any activity that is capable of stimulating an individual could, in fact, become addictive. Because sex or sexual behavior is one such activity, this can potentially evolve into a serious addiction for which an individual will require treatment.
What Are the Different Types of Sex Addiction?
Like with drug addiction, there are different types of sex addiction that are likely to make different individuals act in different ways. Some types of sex addiction may be more acutely dangerous than others, or illegal, but all can become problematic for the individual and their loved ones, and all should be considered serious.
- Pornography Addiction
- An addiction to pornography can classify as a sexual addiction. While many people like to watch porn for a number of reasons, those who watch it compulsively or obsessively might be suffering from a serious disorder.
- Individuals who engage in voyeurism compulsively watch others without their knowing. Usually, they will watch another person during an intimate activity, such as showering, having sex, or going to the bathroom, and will masturbate while doing so.
- Exhibitionists who suffer from a sexual addiction will often compulsively flash or show their genitals to others.
- Paying for Sex
- Some individuals pay for sex, which is already illegal, but they may also do so to the point where they use all their money for this purpose, continue to do so after getting caught, etc.
- Sex for Trade
- When an individual compulsively offers sex for trade to others, they may potentially have a sex addiction. If this is the case, they may accept money or other payments, and usually, they will do so even when not necessary.
- Fetishists or Sadomasochists
- Individuals who are involved in sadomasochism or fetishes will usually become aroused from specific experiences or by using certain objects. While this can also sometimes be perfectly healthy, it can potentially be a sign of a serious disorder if a person forces it upon others or lets it take over their life.
- Intrusive Sex
- This is a sexual addiction that involves touching someone without their consent in order to bring about sexual arousal.
- Exploitive Sex
- This addiction is associated with gaining sexual pleasure from forcing others into a sexual situation.
Some of these acts are not always harmful, and when engaged in safely, are not considered to be addictive. However, any of these behaviors that cause repeated problems for a person and those around them or that become compulsive can be considered addictive, and therefore, dangerous.
The Link Between Sex Addiction and Mental Health
Many have found that there is a strong link between sex addiction and mental health issues. People who suffer from a mental illness are twice as likely to struggle with a substance use disorder, including behavioral disorders like sex addiction.
Many people experience a number of risk factors that could increase their likelihood of addiction. The NIDA lists these as biological factors, environmental factors, and developmental factors. These are some of the same risk factors associated with mental disorders; so many people who are high-risk can experience both.
In addition, stress in a person’s life can play a big part in helping to create or intensify mental health issues, which can potentially lead to a substance or behavioral addiction. Eventually, the addiction itself will also begin to cause more stress, which can only be ameliorated by the addictive activity, creating a dangerous cycle.
Individuals suffering from both a mental disorder and an addiction will need treatment for both issues. This is called dual-diagnosis. Many doctors agree that most behavioral addictions, especially those related to sex, are rooted in another serious mental disorder, which will require simultaneous treatment with the individual’s sex addiction. In many cases, those who become addicted to sexual behaviors or activities are looking for a point of connection that they cannot find due to a mental disorder, which is why they become addicted to these behaviors.
What Are the Signs of a Sexual Addiction?
Being able to recognize the warning signs of a sex addiction is very important, especially if you believe you or someone you know is suffering from this issue. It is necessary to remember that a sexual addiction consists of compulsive behavior and that this behavior is usually dangerous or unhealthy for the individual or those around them.
What are the signs of a sexual addiction? The individual…
- Watches porn compulsively and obsessively, often at times where this is inappropriate, like during work or school
- Spends unnecessary amounts of money (or money they don’t have) on pornography or other sexually explicit material
- Spends inappropriate amounts of time or money on calling sex lines or cybersex.
- Has sex with many partners and is unable to stop, despite wanting to or being asked to by someone else
- Pays others for sex or will accept payment for sex compulsively
- Engages in sexual behavior that is dangerous or risky, including unprotected sex
- Constantly thinks about or talks about sex
- Craves sex or sexual gratification to the point where it interferes with their daily life
- Will demand sex from others and will not understand when their partner isn’t in the mood
- Will lie or become manipulative in order to get their sexual gratification
- Has no control over their desire for sex or their sexual acts
This behavioral addiction is characterized by a desire for sex that goes beyond the realm of normalcy and by a compulsive need to carry out sexual behaviors, whether alone or with others. Eventually, these issues will begin to cause problems in the individual’s life, which also illustrate the symptoms of a sexual addiction.
What Are the Potential Consequences of Sex Addiction?
Sexual addiction is one of the behavioral addictions with the most potential consequences. A survey of individuals being treated for sexual addiction found that 38 percent of the men and 45 percent of the women had contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
In addition, other consequences of sex addiction include:
- Unwanted pregnancies
- Risky sexual behavior could lead to unwanted pregnancies, and 70 percent of the women surveyed admitted to having risked this potential outcome at one time or another.
- Financial problems
- Many people lose their jobs as a result of their sexual addictions. Others may experience serious issues with their finances because they compulsively spend all their money on pornography, cybersex, paying for sex, etc.
- Physical problems
- Aside from the potential of contracting or transmitting disease, sex addicts are in danger of engaging in sexual activity to the point of physical exhaustion. In addition, sexual activity to this degree could require medical treatment beyond that associated with the individual’s mental state.
- Legal problems
- Many sex addicts are arrested as a result of the activities in which they engage. Whether it involves having sex with a prostitute or exposing one’s self, there are many laws meant to quell these behaviors, and because addicts act impulsively, they put themselves at a serious risk of legal consequences.
Compulsive, sexual behavior can cause many serious side effects, and these are just some of the most severe. Like any other addiction, sex addiction can cause serious problems that affect a person’s entire life.
Am I a Sex Addict?
How do you know if you have a sex addiction? You may not be able to see it in yourself, but others may have told you there is an issue with your behavior. You may also have experienced serious consequences of your actions. Whatever the reason you’re considering this issue, it is time to ask yourself the real questions and to determine if you may need help.
- Are you consistently preoccupied with sex?
- Do you constantly crave sex?
- Does your sex life or your desire for sex interfere with your responsibilities such as work, school, family, etc.?
- Have you put yourself or others in danger because of your sexual activities or desires?
- Do you avoid activities or choose to become involved in activities based on whether or not they will involve sex?
- Do you consistently engage in sexual activities with more than one partner?
- Do you often find yourself engaging in more sexual activities than you intended to and/or with more partners than you intended?
- Do you spend large amounts of time and/or money on sexual activities, including but not limited to watching pornography, engaging in cybersex, etc.?
- Has your level of sexual activity engaged in frequency over time?
- Do you become angry, anxious, or irritable when not engaging in sexual activity?
- Do you consistently lie to others about your sexual activities?
- Do you still engage in sexual activity despite having a dangerous or transmittable disease?
- Has your sexual activity ever caused problems for you or your loved ones?
- Despite these issues, do you feel you will be unable to put an end to these behaviors on your own?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, it is very likely you are dealing with a sexual addiction. You will need treatment in order to recover safely and to begin changing your behaviors to start living a healthier life.
What Is the Treatment for Sex Addiction?
You may be wondering how sex addiction is treated or if the issue can even be treated. Many sex addicts fear the stigma associated with this issue and therefore do not see help. In general, though, recovery is much easier with professional care, and treatment for sex addiction is extremely similar to the treatment programs for other addictions, including substance abuse.
Patients often receive care in a rehab center similar to those used for substance abuse recovery. They attend frequent therapy sessions, both individual and group, and work on understanding the reasons why they started engaging in dangerous sexual behaviors in the first place. Recovery usually also involves the diagnosis and treatment of any comorbid disorders, such as those discussed above.
While it can take time and considerable effort to overcome a sex addiction, it is important to understand that it can be done and that treatment can make recovery much easier. Many individuals who seek help are able to put an end to their dangerous and toxic sexual behaviors and live healthily and happily post-treatment.