Love and sex are two of life’s great pleasures. Love is the intangible feeling that, at its best, can fill your every waking moment with joy and happiness. Sex can be love’s most powerful expression, moving up the pleasure scale to full blown ecstasy. Without them, life would be impossible.
So for many people, the idea of sex or love addiction seems implausible. Addiction, they say, is what happens to alcohol or drug abusers – if love and sex can be addictive, then all of us would be addicts.
But for tens of thousands of people in the UK, the beauty and intimacy of love and sex are undermined by a compulsion to experience the rush that the experiences bring, normally as often as possible. For these people, love and sex can come to fill their waking lives as they seek out new opportunities to engage in the experience or develop their fantasies. The obsession can come at the expense of everything else in their life and, over time, cause great damage to themselves, their friends and their family.
These disorders are known as sex and love addiction and, though few reliable statistics exist, they are believed to be increasingly common in the UK and across the western world.
Though there are similarities between sex and love addiction, the two disorders differ in fundamental ways, and are clinically considered as separate from each other:-
Sex addiction is characterized by the compulsive seeking, observing and engaging in sexual behaviour, despite the negative consequences generated by these activities.
Love addiction is compulsion towards the feeling of being in love. Different people experience it in different ways; for example, for some people love becomes a dependence on a particular individual, who they rely on to provide unconditional positive regard at all times; for others it is characterized by an obsessive desire to relive the euphoric feeling that accompanies new love.
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Signs and Symptoms of Love Addiction
There is no one way in which love addiction manifests itself; indeed, it is often different for every patient. However, at the root of the disorder is often an expression of a particular desire: the desire from the sufferer to control their situation in an attempt to improve the way they feel, and to prevent their worst fears from being realised. This in turn can develop in two main ways:
A deep fear of losing a relationship and subsequent obsession with controlling their partner
A drive to experience the rush of new romance, resulting in obsessive attempts to extend and/or repeat this early, intense phase of relationships
These categories are by no means entirely distinctive from each other, and sufferers often display a number of behavioural symptoms relevant to both. These can include:
Feelings of worthlessness or emptiness when alone
Tendency to be over pleasing or controlling
Having multiple online dating profiles
Constant checking of online dating profiles
Serial dating or relationships
Falling in love quickly and often
Constant search for ‘the perfect person’
Strong fears of rejection or abandonment
Periods of depression and/or anxiety
Obsession with thoughts about an existing relationship or of finding a relationship
Lacking a strong sense of purpose or direction
Failing to keep important commitments or obligations
Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Perhaps more so than love addiction, sex addiction closely resembles other addictive disorders. Sufferers often report irresistible urges, both mental and physical, to act out sexually, without regards to the consequences. As time goes on, other parts of life can fall to the wayside as a preoccupation with sex takes increasing control.
People suffering from sex addiction may:
Be preoccupied with or consistently crave sex
Engage in sexual activities more often than intended
Unsuccessfully attempt to stop or limit sexual activity
Spend considerable amount of time searching for sexual partners, either online or elsewhere
Continually engaging in sexual behaviour despite negative consequences, such as divorce, or sexual health issues
Feelings of irritation and anxiety when unable to engage in sexual behaviour
Consistent thoughts and fantasies about sex, to the point where it becomes unpleasant
Escalating frequency of sexual activity to obtain desired effects
How do sex and love become addictions?
Over the years, a debate has raged about whether sex and love addictions really exist. How, the detractors argue, can activities which only bring joy to most people become an unhealthy addiction for a minority? If love and sex are two of evolution’s key tools, how can they ever be bad for us?
The answer to these questions lies in how the brain responds to pleasure. When we have sex, a part of our brain called the ‘reward system’ is activated and a number of chemicals are released into our brains. Among these chemicals are a category called endorphins, which are the most powerful pleasure lever our brains possess – on a molecular level they are almost identical to Heroin. It is these chemicals which make sexual activity feel so good. This was evolution’s plan to ensure us humans keep on making babies. But evolution didn’t stop there; in fact, the pleasure process begins long before we even start to engage in sexual activity. Brain scanning has shown that pleasure chemicals, including endorphins, are released even when we just think about sex. The purpose: to get us excited enough to go out and find the real thing.
If love and sex are two of evolution’s key tools, how can they ever be bad for us?
Like all addictions, the problem comes when sex is consistently used as a quick and easy way to access intense pleasure. When this happens, the brain begins to physically change to make space for the increased amounts of endorphins being released. The result is that the subconscious brain starts to consider sex as its highest priority, while demanding ever stronger and ever increasing amounts of sexual activity or fantasies to keep it satisfied.
Love addiction, too, is all about the brain’s reward system. Many have argued that everyone is a love addict to some extent; that it has over millions of years to ensure we bond and reproduce. Brain imaging reinforces this theory – intense romantic love fires up the reward system, in a similar way to drugs. And as with sex addiction, the more that someone relies on love, and in particular the pleasure rush that comes with intense romance, the more this activity becomes hardwired into the subconscious brain.
Porn addiction In the 1990’s, when internet porn first started becoming widely available, psychiatrists began noticing that the more people watched porn, the more they began to crave it. Almost two decades later, brain imaging helps explain why. When people who describe themselves as ‘porn addicts’ watch pornography, they develop changes in the same area of the brain that changes in drug addicts. The area is called the ‘reward centre’, which normally fires up as we accomplish a goal – including having sex – and makes us feel good. But when it is triggered regularly by a particular activity (or substance), the reward centre changes form, so that that activity is prioritized above all others. Then, a tolerance begins to build, so more and more of that activity, and of increasing extremity, is needed. If you you are struggling with porn addiction, read this porn addiction recovery guide.
Causes of Sex addiction
But why is love and sex a healthy part of life for some, yet unhealthy and unmanageable for others? Although addiction works in a similar way among all sufferers, the roads that lead them there are different for all. And there is still a heated debate among scientists about what factors can actually cause love and sex addiction – some argue that it is predominantly rooted in psychology, often left over from traumatic childhood experiences; others believe it comes from biochemical imbalances or genetic predisposition. However, for most sufferers, it is likely a mixture of a number of different factors. These include:-
A genetic disposition to addiction plays a significant role in all dependencies, be they to drugs, alcohol or behaviour types. Sex and love addiction are no different – the genetic traits you inherit from your parents can greatly influence how vulnerable you are to becoming addicted.
Children brought up in families that are emotionally uncaring, unavailable or rigid are more likely to develop a sex or love addiction in later life. This family dynamic is often, though by no means always, influenced by a family history of drug or substance abuse.
In sex addiction in particular, hormones are believed to play a significant role. Both men and women have hormones known as androgens, which strongly effect the libido. There is some evidence that sex addicts have abnormally high levels of androgens, and medications that effect hormone levels are sometimes used as treatment for sex addiction.
All addictions are closely associated with a category of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In both sex and love addiction, there are two neurotransmitters that play a particularly important role; dopamine and endorphins. There is some evidence to suggest that people with an addiction to love and/or sex naturally have higher levels of these chemicals than other people, and that this plays an important role in them developing an addiction.
Consequences of Sex Addiction
The consequences of love and sex addiction are too often underestimated, even by people in the medical profession. But just as the brain chemistry of these addictions share much in common with substance abuse, so do the physical and psychological consequences. When cravings for love or sex are not fulfilled, the brain will experience a drop in levels of neurotransmitters that are vital for it to function correctly, resulting in depression, anxiety and even psychosis. The cravings can even manifest as physical pain, as the same areas of the brain are responsible for romantic love, sex and pain perception.
This is often exacerbated by profound effects on family and interpersonal relationships. Sex and love addictions can establish unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of what a satisfying romantic and sexual relationship should be. Sex addiction is often accompanied by deception, denial, and deep seated issues with trust, which can often lead to fractured relationships with romantic partners as well as children, friends and colleagues. As the illness progresses, simple life requirements such as work, caring for children and domestic chores become neglected, as the sufferer focuses increasingly on satisfying cravings.
Love addiction is often characterized by periods of extreme highs and lows. New relationships are often particularly intense, as the love addict becomes infatuated and incapable of seeing any flaws in their partner. Friends and family may be neglected, as well as other of life’s demands such as work and household chores. Once this phase ends, the relationship often becomes very melodramatic and chaotic, as the addict tries to reignite the flame or seeks to constantly ensure that their partner will not leave. When the relationship comes to an end, they might experience deep depression and anxiety.
Health and Heartbreak The idea of a broken heart seems like a poetic metaphor, useful for romantic novels and not much else. But in 1969, the British Medical Journal published a study in which they followed 4500 widowers for nine years after their wives died. They found that in the first 6 months following the death, the chance of the widower dying increased by 40% and, astonishingly, the most common cause of death was a heart attack. This may well be because of the great physical strain that emotional upheaval can cause on the body and, in particular, the heart. The idea of a broken heart, it seems, is not just for fairy tales.
Recovering from Sex Addiction
As love and sex addiction are similar to drug and behavioural addictions, the treatments too are very alike. Research to date suggests that effective treatment for sex addiction and love addiction should include a mixture of group therapy, individual counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, as well ongoing activities designed to boost self-esteem and re build mechanisms to increase resilience.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is used to address the psychological processes that underlie sex and love addictions, and build techniques to help the patient train themselves out of the default reactions caused by their addiction. There is an increasing body of evidence to show that CBT works in part by physically altering the brain for the better and literally undoing the damage caused by addiction. A very active type of therapy, CBT uses a range of techniques from role playing to story-telling and homework. It is a key method of building up coping strategies that can be used whenever addictive patterns start to reassert themselves.
Group Therapy helps provide peer support. It can be extremely effective in helping the patient come to understand some of the essential truths about their addiction, as members of the group work together to overcome the same issues. In group therapy, members exchange stories, coping strategies, hopes and difficulties. With the structure of the 12 steps program, these groups can help patients work through the process of recovery in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support.
Individual Therapy, where the patient works one on one with a therapist, helps to build the addict’s understanding of their addiction and guide them through their recovery. Specialized therapists work with the patient to identify and develop strategies to deal with the key triggers associated with their addiction. Together, the therapist and patient address methods of dealing with stresses and psychological issues in productive and positive ways. This type of therapy is also very useful for helping work with the patient in building up relationships that may have been damaged by their addiction, and for developing coping strategies.
Families or couples counselling can be a necessary step in building a nurturing and supportive environment for the addict’s recovery. Lying, deceit and abuse are common issues inflicted on the friends and families of sex and love addicts, and this can make it difficult for them to support them in their recovery. Furthermore, these issues may have cause psychological difficulties in those close to the sex or love addict, which counselling can help to address.
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25 May 2022
This treatment centre has helped start my recovery and all the staff have been very helpful. Really enjoyed my stay here 10 weeks!
24 May 2022
Very good place to come the staff are great and the community was always so helpful
Pay peanuts, get monkeys – a dodgy business model is redeemed by great staff, and a community-minded
24 May 2022
Whilst Liberty House offers great value for money for those recovering from various addictions, and coming to terms with various personality disorders which may underpin these addictions, their community-based model has its cons. Budgetary restrictions place their incredible on-site staff under immense pressure. Nobody who works full-time at the centre itself is in it for the money. They work there because they care passionately about healing and recovery for their clients, but their passion and commitment is compromised by the financial model which underpins the business – and don’t forget that they are indeed a business; a private model where somebody up the chain is profiting, at the expense of its staff and paying customers. Like many residential rehabilitation centres, there are frequent repeat customers; one might assume that despite client recovery being a primary aim, the danger of relapsing is built into the business model. Let’s talk about the positives; this is mainly the staff. The core therapists believe in tough love, softened by a community-based approach, where customers are asked to share much of the workload of recovery. This puts the staff under intense pressure. They collectively have to fight for tiny increases to their working budget. Much of the equipment in the centre is broken, old, faulty and in need of replacing; don’t expect a good night’s sleep. The beds and furniture are worse than you might find in an open prison, and sometimes this is what – in my experience – many customers grumble about. But the staff make do, despite this; the remarkable chef, Gareth, has to spend his own money on equipment; sometimes he brings in his own. If he is not there, the food is crap; he, however, turns mediocre food into brilliant meals, which was one of the saving graces of my experience. All the core therapists were brilliant at their jobs, and put in the hours and dedication to the clients they serve; I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Jeanette, Jade, Brendan and John Port. I cannot praise the support staff enough; an incredible team, from top to bottom; from the cleaners and builders, to management. Their service was exemplary, in very difficult circumstances. Some of their house rules are almost impossible for their customers to understand and decode, so there’s a hell of a lot of confusion for the entire community – staff and clients. Hopefully this will be redeemed by the tenure of their new manager, Sally – but her work is cut out! I wish her and her support staff all the best in their jobs, especially Gosha and Justine, but it’s wrong to name a few; this is a great team all around. Ultimately, I owe Liberty House a debt of gratitude for saving my life, and the lives of hundreds of people. The reviews on this page are bound to confirm my experience is not unique. At the least, your loved ones will come out of their treatment in a much better state of mind, body and spirit then when they arrived. Like any rehabilitation process, it’s a question of horses for courses; this follows the Alcoholics Anonymous model, which is severely in need of an update; like the bible many clients mistake it for, it was written a long time ago. Nevertheless, therapists are very well trained. In my short stay, I learnt to challenge and update many of my core beliefs. I learnt about a variety of therapeutic models, from transactional analysis, to CBT, DBT and more, which will serve me well in my future adventures on the wheels of steel. If you are a drug user, or a caring relative in desperation, I recommend Liberty House. It’s seven times cheaper than the Priory! Your loved ones will be grateful beyond measure when you leave the clinic a changed person. But I do wish whomever is profiting from this private model stops hoovering up the meagre profits, and begins to invest in the centre, beginning with pay rises, budget increases, and a massive overhaul. The centre is direly in need of entire refurbishment; otherwise it will lose staff, and lose business, in years ahead. Finally, despite the corner-cutting, it’s a happy family there. Your loved ones will come out shiny and freshly-polished, with the tools to beat their respective addictions, and a new family to support them in recovery. Thanks to all at Liberty House for changing my life – for the better, and hopefully for the rest of my life.
23 May 2022
I am so grateful for being able to come to Primrose lodge. My life is now going in the right direction. Thank you x
23 May 2022
Liberty house is a very good treatment centre for addiction. It runs on the bases of the 12 step programme but offers so much more. The addition of calming breathing techniques, meditation and yoga which are all important for calming the mind body and spirit to embrace change. Thanks
23 May 2022
My stay at Linwood house has been the the most wonderful journey I’ve been on in my life. Coming face to face with myself and learning to process my feelings has been incredibly powerful. Thank you to all who have been involved, you’ve quite literally been lifesavers. I feel like a beautiful butterfly, I’m ready to spread my wings.
22 May 2022
All the support from the staff, the amount of patience the staff have. The consistent care and routine of the medication has helped massively. The general understanding and been able to approach staff with ease the groups have helped me massively also my peers have been great.
22 May 2022
thoroughly enjoyed my time at Oasis, the centre is great the treatment program is great and the staff are great
22 May 2022
I received an excellent detox and treatment at Primrose Lodge and would certainly recommend it to anyone requiring such treatment.
22 May 2022
I cant thank the staff enough for their help and support throughout my detox and rehab. they were polite, professional and extremely friendly from day one and treated me with dignity and respect. The councilors(some being recovering addicts themselves) were very understanding and knowledgeable. The groups were informative and at times enjoyable. The accommodation is satisfactory and could do with a facelift(mattresses and bedding especially) however all your basic needs are met. The food could be healthier but the chefs are very good and do their best with the resources they have available. the option to order food from the outside on occasion would be nice. Overall i have found my time at Liberty house to be extremely positive and feel i am now equipped to manage my addiction going forwards. They have saved my life.
22 May 2022
I found the group sessions enlightening the therapy sessions were very good, overall the treatment I received has given me the confidence and the focus to continue my recovery
21 May 2022
I came in here primarily for gambling but also because I drank excessively, I thought the centre is excellent and met all my needs. The staff and therapists were excellent and I feel I have learnt a lot about my self .
21 May 2022
When I came in to sanctuary lodge I felt lost and broken, with the help of the staff here I am leaving like a rejuvenated person ready to live again. The staff have been fantastic throughout my my stay here for the housekeeping to the chefs , the support staff , and Maria the manger and Kat my therapist. Both have been a big help throughout my stay here through the good and bad times .
20 May 2022
The staff at liberty house are incredible! I have made progress far beyond my expectations. They will always go above and beyond to insure you take as much as possible fro the programme . The only downside is the standard of the accommodation, which is very substandard.
20 May 2022
Absolutely zero complaints, staff were incredible and the scope of services provided were outstanding, has given me the support and foundation for me to continue my life in sobriety.
19 May 2022
I was absolutely broken and couldn’t see a way out of my addiction when I stepped foot into Sanctuary Lodge, I’ve been in a mosh pit of emotions, I’m leaving here with a strong sense of who I am and I feel so happy and excited to start my new life in soberity. I can wholeheartedly say that every element of sanctuary lodge and my entire stay has been the single most fantastic eye opening experience. My therapist Kat, has carried me through my whole journey and supported me more than I could ever express, I absolutely love her , she has made me look at myself in a completely new light, positive feedback where I needed to hear it good and bad parts I didn’t want to see. She has helped me look at my life in a new light, And with professionalism is second to none and I cannot express my gratitude enough. Maria the manager has been professional and supportive of all my needs and always takes the time to make sure I have been happy with the treatment . Therapy team have been simply fantastic and the support team , are just the best BIG shout out to Stevie, Dorrell, grace, and Hannah and Julie they have been amazing every step of the way. The chefs need a shout out Martin and Tony are great Chefs , and make a great Sunday roast and full English. ( p.s remember to order a George !) .
19 May 2022
My stay at Liberty House was an amazing life transformation experience. I know that if would of possponned my using for little longer i would be facing death.I got so much from this place, life was throwing curve balls in the last weak and with the counselers support and the people support from the groups was there when i needed it. I feel that i have grown so much over here, as much as i didnt want to come here at the end was time to leave ands i fely very empotional to leave because this place felt like being home. Fully recommend from the bottom of my heart.
19 May 2022
The great experience and brilliant staff at Primrose Lodge have provided me with a strong foundation for the beginning of my lifelong recovery. Thank you!
19 May 2022
The place is very clean and tidy food’s getting better each day the therapy is excellent
19 May 2022
This is my second time at Sanctuary Lodge and it has been a truly beneficial experience. The therapy team are excellent and I can’t speak highly enough of my Therapist Tracey. The programme is very varied and challenging. The care support is excellent as is the catering and housekeeping services. I would highly recommend Sanctuary Lodge to anyone suffering with addiction who wishes to start their recovery.
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