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Sex is posted everywhere in this world, on billboards, on television, online, in books and in everyday events. But what is it that makes some people crave sex more than others? And what is it that makes one’s cravings for sex considered an addiction while another’s just may be considered taboo?
Sexual addiction doesn’t affect everyone, but for those who are victim of this disorder, the reality is that relationships, emotions, health and an array of other elements in life are affected by the uncontrollable desire to take part in sexual activities that are otherwise considered off base, taboo or unhealthy.
What is Sexual Addiction?
According to California State University, “a sex addict is a man or a woman whose sexual behavior (use of pornography, masturbation, fantasy, sexual and/or emotion affairs, humiliating and demand sexual behavior) is harmful to their finances, intimate relationships, careers, self-esteem and probably that of the partner as well.” People who suffer from sexual addiction are more likely to have troubles with their own relationships, with their own emotions, with their self-esteem and with their health as a result of their overcome compulsive desire to take part in sexual activities that are beyond the “norm.”
There are a number of activities that may be characterized as being that of a sexual addiction including:
- Excessively watching pornography or masturbating to pornographic material either online, on the television or in other forms of media.
- Being preoccupied with sexual interest or thoughts that interfere with regular thought processes or daily routines.
- Masturbating excessively on a regular basis to a point in which such activity interferes with regular routines or responsibilities.
- Taking part in risky or promiscuous behavior that may evolve to include serious consequences or dangers for the individual.
Generally speaking, sexual addiction will cause great interference with the individual’s life, will make relationships difficult to maintain and to keep, and often results in health problems such as STDs as a result of promiscuous sexual activity with multiple partners.
How Much of a Problem is Sex Addiction?
Many people mistakenly downplay the risks and dangers associated with being a sex addict, but for the individual who is actually suffering from the chronic and progressive condition, downplaying quickly can come to a halt as relationships are ruined, emotions are scarred and consequences are endured on a regular and forthcoming basis. According to Sexual Addiction Questions and Answers, sex addiction affects about 5% of the population. While this number may seem minute or small, the reality is that sexual addiction and related problems are growing in scope and continue to plague the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Signs of Sexual Addiction
While clinicians have yet to list a definitive set of conditions or actions that make an individual a sex addict, there are some signs that signify unhealthy habits which could be considered dangerous or otherwise compulsive. Sex addiction can affect both men and women of virtually any age so it’s important to recognize that anyone and everyone is at risk of potentially being addicted to sex.
According to Wright State University, the following behaviors may be signs of a sexual addiction:
- Using sex as a quick fix for problems or to mask emotions such as to cover up loneliness or anxiety or to reduce pain.
- Using sex to relieve tension and stress.
- Being obsessed with sex to a point in which it is dominant over the individual’s life and takes control over their actions and behaviors.
- Devoting excessive amounts of time and energy to sex including the planning or fantasizing about sexual encounters.
- Feeling powerless or unable to control one’s desire to have sex.
- Feeling as if you cannot commit to your relationship with a single partner due to a desire to have multiple sex partners.
- Feeling guilty or unhappy about your sexual encounters but continuing to take part in such encounters.
- Having little or no satisfaction gained from sexual activities but taking part in these activities regardless of such.
Am I a Sex Addict?
There are some questions that you should ask yourself if you even think that you may possibly be a sex addict. If you answer yes to any or all of the following questions, consider seeking help for sexual addiction as you may be suffering from a legitimate impulse control disorder:
- Do you often have more sexual partners than you intend, cheat on your spouse or loved one or engage in sexual activities with more than one partner?
- Do you use sex as a way of coping with your emotions, often taking part in sexual activities to cope with stress, sadness, guilt or anger?
- Do you wish that you could stop the erratic sexual behavior that you are a part of but despite your wish to discontinue such behavior you find yourself consistently engaging in the same level of heightened sexual activity?
- Are you upset, guilty or otherwise disgusted with your sexual behaviors and can’t figure out why you do the things that you do?
- Do you have sex under risky conditions such as when you are high, when you know you shouldn’t be with a particular person, while drinking or otherwise?
- Has sex interfered with your responsibilities, have you missed work to have sex, lost a job as a result of your sexual behavior or otherwise suffered serious consequences as a result of your sex life?
- Are you consumed with sex, is it on your mind all the time and you just can’t seem to think about anything else?
- Is sex interrupting your social life, your relationships, your family life or other elements of your life?
- Do you have continuous cravings for sex even in situations in which you know that you shouldn’t be focused on sex?
- Do you have an STD, but despite the disease you still participate in unsafe sex which places others at risk?
- Have you even been treated for sexual addiction in the past and relapsed back into old habits or ways?
Sex Addiction Treatment
If you think that you may be suffering from sexual addiction, the best chance you have at taking back control of your life is to seek professional counseling and help. Medications such as Naltrexone have been found to help people who suffer from sexual addiction by controlling the anxiety and persistent cravings for the euphoria involved with sexual activity. Likewise, many methods of counseling and behavioral therapy are proven effective at treating sexual addictions.
The most common types of counseling and therapy that have been proven to help those who are addicted to sex include:
- Twelve-step groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family counseling
- Couples counseling
If you’re suffering from a sexual addiction, you’re not alone! Remember that studies estimate as many as 3-6% of all adults suffer from a sexual addiction which may include sexual fantasies, uncontrollable sexual desires, promiscuous or unsafe sex or other erratic sexual behaviors such as excessive masturbation or uncontrollable cravings for sex. Treatment that works for one may not be effective for the next person so you may find that you need to try out more than one method of treatment, or take part in combined methods of treatment in order to fully recover from this condition and get your life back on track.
Sexual Addiction Recovery
The amount of time that you must receive counseling and therapy, the type of counseling and therapy that works best for you and the challenges that you face in treatment for sexual addiction will all vary depending on your condition, your involvement and commitment to recovery, your individual health and various other factors. If you don’t make a full recovery from sexual addiction right away or if you are on the road to recovery and then you later relapse, it’s important to get back on track and do the best you can—do not get discouraged or feel as if you cannot get through these difficult times.
Sexual addiction recovery takes time and often requires years of psychotherapy and counseling in order to learn how to develop healthy relationships and to avoid triggers that may otherwise lead to relapse. The emotional journey that ensues as you heal from the trauma and many social, emotional and sometimes even financial consequences of sexual addiction can be trying but the end result is most always very rewarding.
If you or someone you know may be suffering from sexual addiction, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. With time, support, medical care, and counseling you can make a full recovery from this condition and take back control of your life, your relationships, and your sex life. Many methods of treatment, help and care are available to make the process of recovering from sexual addiction much easier and attainable for those in need.