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What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction is often discussed as if it is a joke, but for those who suffer from it, their partners and families, it is a real and serious condition. Unfortunately, this form of addiction is not very well understood by the wider population, which is why we’d like to briefly outline what sex addiction is and its general symptoms.

Sex addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterised by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts, where as with any addiction the addict has to increase their addictive behaviour over time in order to fulfil their needs.

Typical sex addict behaviour

Usually, sex addicts confine their compulsive behaviour to masturbation and extensive use of pornography, phone or computer sex services. The diagnostic manual DSM IV puts sex addiction under ‘Sexual Disorders’ and defines it as “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used.” According to the manual, sex addiction also involves “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”

However, for some, their addictive behaviour is more serious and can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape. It is important to point out that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders, and sex offenders are not typically sex addicts. They are different conditions.

The problems of addiction

A sex addict noticeably continues to engage in certain sexual behaviours despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships or even arrest. In this respect, one can see the similarity with other addictions.

What causes sex addiction?

The cause or causes of sex addiction are poorly understood. It may be that a biochemical abnormality or specific brain behaviour increases the risk, and the fact that antidepressants and psychotropic medicines can often help addicts seems to support this view. Research also shows that sex addicts often come from dysfunctional families and are more likely than non-sex addicts to have been abused.

Treatment is always on an individual basis when it comes to establishing the root causes of a person’s sex addiction and deciding on the best treatment approach. Sex addiction deserves to be taken seriously – it is certainly no joke for those who have to live with it.