Most people find it hard to comprehend the fact that others can become addicted to sex. The very idea is laughable to some individuals and many of these fervently believe that it is merely an excuse to engage in extra-marital affairs. Indeed, sex addiction has been the butt of many jokes for decades.
However, sex addiction is a very real illness and for some people, it can be very damaging and extremely upsetting. The inability to control sexual activity or desires can leave some affected people struggling to live normal lives.
To better understand this illness, it is important to understand where sex meets addiction. Why do some individuals lose control over sexual behaviour, and what are the consequences of such an addiction? Read on as we try to explain these issues and more in the following paragraphs.
How Does Sex Addiction Develop?
If you have always pondered where or how normal sex turns to an addiction, you might be interested to learn more about the condition and how it develops. After all, sex is a normal and healthy part of life. So how can it become such a destructive force that can end up destroying someone’s life?
Most people engage in some form of sexual activity on a regular basis, so why do some individuals end up with a crippling addiction while others do not? This is something often asked by those who suffer from sex addiction.
It is important to know though that there is no single cause of sex addiction, but there are factors that might increase the risk. There has been some recent evidence indicating that it could be due to a biochemical abnormality.
Some people are more susceptible to feelings of pleasure and activities that stimulate these feelings; so, for example, having sex can hijack the brain’s reward systems. Sex is an activity that the brain naturally associates with pleasure and survival and because of this, most people feel the natural need to engage in it frequently. However, in some the feelings of pleasure they get from sexual activity is so intense that they become consumed by it.
They have an overwhelming desire to engage in a specific sexual activity and this need begins to take over. They eventually reach a point where their desire for sex crowds out everything else. It may begin to interfere with daily life and the ability to function normally.
Nevertheless, over time, they might start to perceive that they are getting less and less pleasure from sex. This is due to their brain adapting and toning down its production of the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. In this sense, it is similar to other types of addiction, where a tolerance to the effects of the substance occurs. Those with a sex addiction often feel the need to engage in sex or sexual activities more often or else engage in riskier sexual activities to get the same level of satisfaction. This is where sex meets addiction.
Is Sex Addiction Harmful?
Having a sex addiction is not the same as liking to have sex. In fact, those affected by sex addiction often find the entire process distressing and upsetting. Sex addiction can take over a person’s life and restrict his or her ability to enjoy this normal activity.
If a particular sexual activity spirals out of control, it can interfere with daily life and can prevent the affected person from doing the things he or she might want to do. Hours might be spent engaging in a sexual activity that might consequently cause many negative consequences.
If you happen to be a sufferer reading this article, you might already know that you find yourself in dangerous situations as you engage in riskier behaviours. Sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies are commonly associated with sex addiction, but other areas of life can also become affected.
For example, the ability to maintain healthy relationships with others will be severely impaired upon developing a sex addiction. There will be less time to spend with friends and loved ones if constantly engaging in sexual activity or thinking about doing so. Again, if it’s you that is suffering from the illness, you might, for example, find it difficult to be intimate with a partner, especially if you become consumed by, again as an example, graphic pornography or masturbation.
If you are constantly distracted by sexual activities and thoughts, then your production at work will likely suffer as well. This could then have an impact on your ability to earn an income. Your financial situation might also suffer if you are spending increasing amounts of money on your addiction. It might be the case that you are visiting prostitutes, spending money on sex chat lines, or paying for pornography – the possibilities are endless.
Your risk of substance abuse will increase as you seek ways of trying to mask the guilt and shame you are potentially feeling. You might find that your behaviour actually becomes more intense when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so you may feel the need to get intoxicated frequently as well; this would then leave you at risk of struggling with more than one type of addiction.
Why It Is Important to Seek Treatment for Sex Addiction
Overcoming sex addiction is obviously crucial as you will unlikely be able to get your life back under control without it. In fact, it is actually more likely that your situation will deteriorate, and you will struggle with further negative consequences unless you get help sooner rather than later.
You might be feeling ashamed or embarrassed about your sexual desires or behaviours, but you need to remember that if you do have a sex addiction then you have no control over your current situation. Feeling this way is entirely normal, but it should not stand in the way of you getting the help you need to recover.
The sooner you get help, the sooner you can get your life back in order. With the right programme of addiction treatment and support, you will learn how to develop a healthy attitude to sex and you can enjoy life without your thoughts and behaviours getting in the way.
What Is Treatment for Sex Addiction Like?
The first step on the road to recovery from sex addiction is admitting the problem exists. You can then partake in a programme of rehabilitation that will help you to make sense of your illness and why you were affected in the first place. Your treatment programme is likely to include various therapies, such as family therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
CBT will help you to learn more about the negative thoughts that have thus far driven your behaviour. There is a strong link between thoughts and actions, so learning to identify and challenge negative thought processes will enable you to adjust your behaviour accordingly.
Family therapy is important when it comes to getting your life back on track because this illness will affect more than just you. Your loved ones will also be affected by your addiction, particularly a spouse or partner. Family therapy will not only help you deal with any issues that might have contributed to the addiction developing but it will also help you and your loved ones come to terms with the illness and to overcome it together.
Once you have completed a rehab programme, aftercare will be necessary. This might mean joining a local support group where you can regularly meet with other recovering addicts. Joining a support group can be the difference between long-term success and relapse, so it is widely regarded as an essential part of the recovery process.
For more information on where sex meets addiction, or to find out about the different types of treatment programmes available in your area, please call UKAT today.