Sexual addiction

Drug abuse and addiction / Category / Emile Du Toit / May 5th 2014

What is sex addiction?

Sexual addiction can be defined as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts.

Sexual addiction differs from normal sexual behaviour in the same way that controlled drinking differs from alcoholism. In sexual addiction, like any other addiction, sexual behaviour has reached a point where it is out of control, despite the damages being caused through this compulsive behaviour.

What kind of behaviours fall under sex addiction?

Sex addictions include one or more of the following behaviours:

  • compulsive sexual episodes
  • compulsive masturbation,
  • indulging in compulsive pornography,
  • dangerous sexual practices,
  • having multiple affairs,
  • exhibitionism,
  • frequenting online sex sites,
  • voyeurism,
  • prostitution,
  • anonymous sex.

  • What is the pattern of behavior in sex addiction?

    The pattern or process of sex addiction is entirely different to someone who enjoys a lot of sex. Let’s take a look at what this pattern of behaviour in sex addiction looks like:

  • There is a pattern of out-of-control sexual behaviour.
  • Often there is a persistent pursuit of self-destructive behaviour. Sexual addicts understand the consequences of their actions but cannot stop acting out. They often seem to have a will-full attitude that prevents them from dealing with the consequences of their behaviour until it is too late.
  • There is an on-going desire or effort to limit sexual behaviour. Sex addicts often create external barriers in an attempt to control their sexual behaviour. This might include moving to a new citiy or neighborhood. Many immerse themselves in religion to soothe their shame, but their acting out continues.
  • Sexual anorexia is sometimes attempted, in which they allow themselves no sexual expression at all.
  • Sexual obsession and fantasy becomes a primary coping strategy. Sex addicts use fantasy to maintain a constant level of arousal. Along with obsession, these two behaviours can create a kind of analgesic ‘fix’.
  • They tend to experience divergent moods related to sexual activity. Sex addicts experience intense shifts in mood, often due to the despair and shame of unwanted sex.
  • They experience severe consequences due to sexual behaviour, and yet are unable to stop despite these adverse consequences. Consequences include loss of partner or spouse, severe marital or relationship problems, loss of career opportunities, unwanted pregnancies, suicidal ideation, exposure to AIDS or other sexually transmitted disease.
  • They regularly increase the amount of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficiently satisfying. Sexual addiction is often progressive and while many sex addicts may attempt to control their behaviour for a period of time, the behaviour returns and quickly escalates to levels beyond those previously experienced. Sexual bingeing occurs to the point of emotional exhaustion, and withdrawal for sex addicts can parallel the physical pain experienced by those withdrawing from opiate addiction.
  • There is usually a degree of neglect of important social, occupational or recreational activities because of sexual behaviour. As more of the addict’s energy is focused on relationships with sexual potential, healthy relationships and activities suffer from neglect.
  • Inordinate amounts of time are spent obtaining sex, being sexual and recovering from sexual experiences. Two sets of activities organise a sexual addict’s day: One involves the obsession, initiation and practice of sexual behaviour, while the other involves dealing with consequences of the sexual behaviour.
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