Sex addiction, also known as sexual addiction, is a disorder characterized by a compulsive and uncontrollable participation in sexual behaviors (such as intercourse, seeking and watching pornography or masturbation), despite negative personal consequences.
Both addictive drugs and addictive behaviors activate neural pathways associated with reward perception. Current research confirms that sex addiction develops through the same biomolecular mechanisms that cause drug addiction and alcoholism.
Just like all other addictive disorders, the negative impact that sex addiction has on the sufferer and his or her loved ones will only increase as the symptoms worsen (which they inevitably will if left untreated). This specific disorder is also characterized by increased tolerance – over time, the addict will typically intensify the addictive behavior in order to achieve the same results.
For some sex addicts, behaviors do not escalate beyond compulsive masturbation, pornography viewing, or the use of online adult chatrooms. For others, sex addiction may involve illegal activities, such as voyeurism or exhibitionism.
Getting Help for Sex Addiction
In most other addictive disorders, such as alcoholism or gambling addiction, a person in recovery commits to total abstinence in order to begin healing on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. This is possible because these behaviors are not necessary for survival. We can live completely normal and fulfilled lives without drinking or betting on horse races. However, sexual activity is a different story – just like eating, engaging in sexual intimacy is a necessary part of the human experience. Some may choose celibacy for religious, cultural, or personal reasons, but most individuals have a strong and healthy desire for sex. In fact, a lack of interest in or consistent avoidance of sex may indicate another type of intimacy disorder – sexual anorexia.
Treatment will typically focus on uncovering underlying causes of addiction while simultaneously addressing the feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and self-loathing associated with acting out. Because many sex addicts struggle with co-occurring disorders, long-term therapeutic care is often necessary.
When to Seek Treatment for Sex Addiction
Even if you only suspect you may have an addiction, Next Chapter encourages you to seek help before the condition can intensify. Addictions do not go away on their own and will only worsen over time if left untreated.
- If you compulsively seek multiple sexual partners
- If you become fixated on an unattainable partner
- If you masturbate compulsively in inappropriate places
- If you compulsively fall in love in all relationships
- If you find yourself needing more intense or frequent sexual encounters to be satisfied
The desire to love and be loved is a very normal and important part of the human experience. The feeling of falling in love with someone has been described as “intoxicating,” and this “honeymoon phase” of love is often filled with excitement and joy.
While this initial feeling will eventually give way to more mature, stable, and fulfilling kind of love, individuals prone to addiction may experience the loss of that initial euphoria similar to the way a drug addict “crashes” as their high wears off. Craving that feeling again, they may find themselves searching for a new connection as soon as their current romance begins to progress or cool down. This is why someone experiencing love addiction typically hops from relationship to relationship, seemingly unable to settle down for any extended period of time.
As is the case with all other addictive disorders, a love addicted person will need to rely upon the pursuit of romance in order to function normally. When the object of their addiction becomes unavailable, or their pursuit is hindered for any reason, they experience the psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
Treating Love Addiction
It is important to note that love addiction has very little to do with real love. In fact, most love addicts are afraid of intimacy and vulnerability – both major components of authentic romantic relationships. Love addicts are often motivated by a combination of low self-esteem, deep-seated and unsatisfied emotional needs, and a fear of abandonment that stems back to childhood. They look to each new romantic pursuit as a source of security, worthiness, and purpose, and mistakenly believe that their new romantic partner will take away their pain and make them feel happy and whole.
Recovering from love addiction is typically a multifaceted process, involving psychotherapy, trauma recovery, 12-step involvement, and time spent in a therapeutic and residential facility. Because many love addicts simultaneously suffer from related disorders, inpatient treatment is often recommended.
When to Seek Treatment for Love Addiction
Again, Next Chapter strongly urges anyone experience any of these symptoms to seek help. Addiction is a very serious disorder and will only worsen over time.
- If you become preoccupied or obsessed with the object of your affection
- If you find yourself going to great lengths in order to satisfy your craving for love
- If you feel out of control or unable to act rationally when pursuing the object of your affection
- If you continue pursuit despite accumulating negative consequences
- If you feel overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, or insecurity when the object pulls away
The Next Chapter Approach
Next Chapter takes a highly-personalized approach to treatment for all of our clients, beginning with a thorough psychosocial assessment completed by patient’s therapist and a psychiatric evaluation completed by our medical director. Later in the process we often will include a psychological assessment to aid in the diagnosis of the condition or conditions each client is facing. These initial evaluations are followed up by weekly visits with our medical director and patient’s therapist and supported by our clinical team approach in which each client’s unique needs and treatment are addressed by the entire treatment team. The team meets daily to discuss in detail each of our client’s needs.
Together, our clinical team will prescribe a course of action that may evidence-based treatments practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, EMDR and other Trauma focused modalities. Individualized treatment plans also include therapeutic groups, individual sessions, family work, and 12-Step education groups.