According to most scientists, sexual intercourse is usually considered good for your health because it reduces anxiety, promotes a healthy cardiovascular system, and can help you to live a longer life. However, it is still possible to engage in sexual behaviors that end up causing problems to your overall quality of life. While there is still much debate about whether you can truly be addicted to sex, many agree that certain factors can drive you to start engaging in risky, excessive, and uncontrollable sexual behaviors. Here is everything you need to know about sex addiction.
What is sex addiction and hypersexual disorders?
While sex addiction is not in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), it is still a real problem when you engage in sexual behaviors that are harmful to you and to the people around you. Since some believe that sex addiction is not a real diagnoses, many prefer to use the term hypersexual disorders. When you have a hypersexual disorder, it usually means you compulsively behave in a sexual manner that is excessive, uncontrollable, detrimental to your health, and problematic for your relationships. You will likely be unable to stop it and it can also get worse and more prevalent over time.
What are the signs and symptoms of sex addiction?
There are a number of common signs that you are not managing to maintain a happy and healthy sex life. Compulsive pornography use, compulsive masturbation, and multiple affairs can all be signs that you have lost control of how often you engage in sexual activities. If you are experiencing impairment in your social life, work like, and family life, then you should definitely consider seeking help. You also might experience anxieties, depression, and shame related to your addiction. If you try to stop, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, fatigue, sweating, nausea, and depression.
What are some of the negative effects of sex addiction?
People who are addicted to sex are more likely to get a sexually transmitted infection. You are also more likely to die of erotic asphyxiation, which occurs when you choke to death due to certain sadomasochist sexual behaviors. Being addicted to sex can also lead to countless psychological conditions that are in the DSM V. You can develop voyeuristic disorders, when you feel compelled to observe others who are engaged in sexual activity, and you can develop fetishistic disorders, which is when you need certain non-living objects for sexual arousal. Additionally, people who are addicted to sex are more likely to engage in sexual acts that might be illegal, like rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, and public displays of genitals.
How is it diagnosed?
Since sex addiction is not in the DSM V, it is not officially considered an addiction. However, people are still seeking help for hypersexual behaviors, which means it is still something that needs to be treated in some way. The DSM V could not include sex addiction because it is difficult to define how much sex is too much. Acceptable sex often depends on the community that you live it because different cultural expectations and religious values can dictate was is and is not considered normal. Additionally, it is possible that you cannot become addicted to sex in the same way you can be addicted to other substances.
Substance abuse usually involves feelings of reward and relief as a result using the substance. These feeling are related to certain neurological changes that occur when you experience an addiction. Hypersexual disorders, however, are usually not about the reward and relief that is a staple of addiction. Some studies show that love can be addicting and it can cause you to constantly seek out serious romantic partners, but sex does not always entail love, so sex addiction is usually considered different from a normal addiction. Instead, sex addiction involves behaviors that are more similar to compulsive disorders. Therefore, sex addiction is not an official diagnosis.
What are treatment options for sex addiction?
While diagnosis is complicated, resources are still completely available. You can still get explain your problem to a healthcare provider and you can receive treatments. Therapy, especially sex therapy, can definitely help you. Additionally, outpatient and inpatient programs exist for sex addicts. Traditionally, sex therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat sex addiction. CBT involves identifying sexual triggers and learning to cope with these triggers without engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviors. You also might benefit from couples or family therapy because sex addiction often has a negative impact on your relationships. To reverse some of these effects, family therapy can be extremely helpful. Sometimes, therapists will recognize a toxic and restricting community is causing you to feel ashamed of a perfectly healthy sex drive, which might mean that you have to address your shame and not your sex drive.
Is sex addiction and porn addiction the same thing?
Many people with hypersexual disorders definitely tend to turn to porn a lot more often than they should. Porn is extremely popular among men and over half the men in the United States have been exposed to it. About 9% of people who watch regular porn report being unable to stop watching it. However, being addicted to porn is actually different from being addicted to sex. People who engage in too much porn tend to prefer porn over sex with their partner, while people with sex addiction would usually prefer sex. Additionally, studies show too much porn is more likely to cause men to engage in aggressive and sexually violent behaviors against women. Therefore, porn addiction comes with a slightly different set of problems than sex addiction, so a porn addict is not normally considered a sex addict.
Sex addiction is definitely complicated and it may not be an addiction at all. However, it is definitely true that many people need help with managing certain compulsive sexual behaviors, which is why plenty treatment options are available. If you think you might be addicted to sex, do not be afraid of reaching out to a healthcare provider for help.