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Sexual Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Today’s modern, fast-paced, high-tech culture has brought with it a new acceptance of sex and sexual expression in general. Sexually explicit materials appear in movies, magazines and even television commercials on a regular basis with little to no retort from the consumer base.

addicted to sex

Sex addiction has to do with the brain’s reward system.

For people prone to compulsive sexual behavior, this widespread exposure to explicit materials can make it even more so difficult to rein in addictive urges. Considering these modern-day times, it’s no surprise that an estimated six percent of the population struggles with sexual addiction problems, according to the University of Florida. No doubt, accessibility has played a part in supporting this trend with rates expected to rise in light of ongoing developments in the online world.

Addiction, in and of itself, brings with it certain distinguishable characteristics that are present in all types of addiction, Likewise, signs and symptoms of sexual addiction closely resemble those associated with substance-based addictions

Sexual Addictions

Someone struggling with preoccupations or obsessions involving getting or having sex likely suffers from some form of sexual addiction. In general, two forms of sexual addiction exist –

  • Paraphilic
  • Non-paraphilic

Paraphilic sexual addictions involve unconventional behaviors, such as sex with nonhuman objects, sadomasochism, exhibitionism and pedophilia. These behaviors can take the form of fantasies, urges or actual acted-upon behaviors. Non-paraphilic sexual addictions entail conventional sexual acts that are taken the extreme in terms of the number of times a day a person engages in sex.

Symptoms of Sexual Addiction

As with all addictions, an overall disregard for negative consequences characterizes sex addicts. In effect, the loss of control over their behavior prevents them from viewing consequences as more important than the addiction itself.

According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, symptoms of sexual addiction all but mirror the symptoms that characterize substance-based addictions –

  • An increasing need or tolerance for more in terms of frequency and intensity
  • Withdrawal effects, in the form of agitation, depression and irritability, when unable to satisfy one’s urges
  • Inability to cut back or stop compulsive sexual behaviors
  • Disregard for other important areas of life, such as work, family and social activities
  • Dedicating more and more time to thinking about, planning for and engaging in sexual activities

Though no actual substance is involved, the physical and psychological effects from engaging in sex triggers the same brain chemical reactions as drugs and alcohol addictions do.

Signs of Sexual Addiction

For the addict, sex becomes a means of escape from internal emotional conflict and daily life stressors in general. In the process, a person ends up creating a whole new set of problems.

Like the symptoms, signs of sexual addiction follow the same pattern as signs of a drug or alcohol addiction –

  • Relationship problems with significant others, friends and/or family
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems in the case of addictions involving illegal sexual activities
  • Risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases
  • Loss of a job

Without needed treatment, a sexual addiction will gradually tear a person’s life apart as the brain chemical processes driving these behaviors will only strengthen in their intensity and effects.