Until fairly recently, sex addiction has been considered the excuse people give when caught out in multiple affairs – even at times glibly considered a bit of a joke.
As more and more research is being done on this kind of behavior, and a number of celebrities have brought the idea of sex addiction into the media, it’s becoming clear that this is a deeply troubling and destructive process addiction.
What is sex addiction?
Sexual addiction can cover a range of different behaviours, thoughts and patters, for example:
- Excessive watching of pornography
- Voluntary participation in acts of exhibitionism (allowing others to watch you) or voyeurism (watching others)
- Compulsive masturbation
- Excessive use of sex chat lines or online dating sites with the sole purpose of having sex
- Paying for sex or prostitution
- Taking part in extreme forms of sex, such as sadism (hurting others) or masochism (hurting yourself)
Sex addiction symptoms
Symptoms may be subtle and include:
- Initiating sexual involvement with near-strangers on a consistent basis
- Having multiple sexual relationships simultaneously or one after the other
- Being preoccupied with getting and having sex, even in high risk situations and at the expense of other activities or responsibilities
- Obsession with a particular sexual act, person, fetish or online porn
- Being secretive about sexual partners or sexual activities
It’s important to distinguish between promiscuous behavior, which many people may experience at some point in their life, and compulsive behavior, which you’re unable to stop when you try.
It is also helpful to look for patterns of this kind of self-defeating, self-harming behavior, which feels like there is no choice involved, despite knowing the consequences.
If these things sound or feel familiar, then it may be time to consider the possibility of addiction.
Dangers of sex addiction
There are aspects of this addiction which make it not only destructive for the person suffering, but also for any partners, like:
- Unwanted pregnancies
- The high risk of contracting (and then passing on) a sexually transmitted disease
- The risks associated with the sex trade
- The feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, self-hatred or other emotional distress
Other dangers of sex addiction are less tangible, although just as destructive:
- The negative effects on personal relationships, like those with your partner, children or parents
- The stigma around being a sex addict and what it means for you
- The consequence of this type of behavior on other areas of your life like work and your finances
Why do people get addicted to sex?
Often an early childhood trauma is the reason for sex addiction, however here are a few other reasons:
- To escape: Usually from difficult feelings, such as depression, anxiety or loneliness
- Lack of impulse control
- Intimacy: To feel connected to others and experience some form of intimacy
- Dopamine: The “high” that comes from the dopamine and endorphins released as the brain’s reward centers are stimulated, especially during sex, creates a craving for more
Many of the causes are similar to those of other addictions. People who are specifically addicted to sex though may also:
- Have very few or no healthy boundaries
- Have experienced a lack of nurturing or abuse in childhood
- Have had early exposure to unhealthy sexual content or an overly sexual environment
- Experienced little pleasure from the sexual act itself, despite the craving for it
What is sex addiction treatment?
Treatment for sex addiction is similar to that of other addictions, however a treatment plan would include joint counseling with a spouse or partner in order to support the relationship through this tumultuous time. In-patient treatment centers as well as outpatient programs exist and it’s important to find a center or program that has some experience with sex addiction specifically.
It is normal to want a healthy, intimate relationship with a partner and sex should be what enhances these relationships, not what they rely on or what a person absolutely needs in order to get by. If you’re looking for a rehab center in Cape Town for sex addiction, then check out the facilities which are listed under this category.