Today, sex is all around us – on billboards, on the internet, on the T.V, in books and magazines, in schools – an individual is exposed to it since early childhood. In a world where sex is available in abundance, it comes as no surprise that an individual might have strong sexual urges that might be hard to control. Sex addiction develops when a person gets obsessed with sex. Constantly thinking about sex and unable to focus on other things often lead to all sort of problems from work to relationships.
Continue reading the article to know more about sex addiction including its meaning, signs, consequences, myths and facts, treatment and coping mechanisms for sex addicts.
Understanding Sex Addiction
Sexual addiction is characterized by an individual’s intense desire to take part in sexual activity. Being aware of the difference between healthy and unhealthy sexual desires is the key. Following are some clear indicators of an obsession with sex:
- Excessively watching pornography online or on television
- Constantly thinking about sexual activities and unable to focus on anything else
- Possessing huge collections of pornography or sexual/pornographic magazines
- Indulging in sexual activities in public places
- Indulging in promiscuous sexual relations
- Masturbating excessively
Sex addiction generally affects the sex addicts thinking which gets distorted in a manner that they rationalize their risky sexual behavior in any possible way that seems logical to them. In some cases, sex addicts are seen blaming others for their sexual actions or problems rather than accepting it. Accepting an addiction is hard which is why sex addicts also try to deny they are an addict and they indeed have a problem.
While some individuals are genuinely unaware of their addiction, there are some who are completely aware of it but refuse to acknowledge it until the very last stage or when they catch a disease or due to some major problem. If sex addiction is recognized and accepted by an individual during its initial stages, it becomes much easier to overcome it. Nipping the problem in the bud is always easier than letting it grow and creating a mess later on.
As sexual addiction progresses, the behavior of sexual addicts worsens. For instance, during the initial stage, an individual will just watch pornographic content for a couple of hours. With time, they will enroll themselves in online sex groups which generally charge money. This will then prompt them to get obsessed with it to the point where they will be willing to do anything to be a part of some sort of sexual activity which presents itself as a danger to the sex addict (it may cause diseases, physical harm, and financial harm to name a few).
Several types of problematic sexual behaviors can indicate addiction and they are as follows:
- Fantasy sex
- Seductive sex
- Anonymous sex
- Buying sex
- Voyeuristic sex
- Exhibitionistic sex
- Intrusive sex
- Pain exchange (S and M) sex
Let us look at them one by one.
1. Fantasy sex
It means obsessing with fantasy sex to a point where love sex stops meaning anything to an individual.
2. Seductive sex
It involves charming others and manipulating them to have affairs or purely sexual relationships.
3. Anonymous sex
It involves feeling aroused only by strangers.
4. Buying sex
Paying to get involved in sexual activities either online or buying the services of a sex worker.
5. Voyeuristic sex
It means getting aroused by (secretly) watching other individuals indulge in sexual activities.
6. Exhibitionistic sex
It involves showing your body in public. Posing for photos/videos and/or having sex for others to provoke feelings of shock or disapproval.
7. Intrusive sex
Also known as exploitive sex which involves touching others inappropriately without their consent, happens often in some relationships where one person has some authority over the other.
8. Pain exchange (S and M) sex
It associates sexual pleasure with pain.
How does it begin?
Sex addiction usually starts in adolescence, where sex gives the illusion of relieving problems for a short while. When this is combined with abnormal sexual activities i.e. paraphilia, it is believed to start much earlier, as early as during childhood. It often emerges later in life when an individual’s response to trauma or stress.
Sex addiction: Signs and Symptoms
Initially, sex addiction isn’t very easy to recognize but eventually, these signs become more obvious. Because this addiction rapidly progresses and quickly shifts from tiny discreet actions to big, noticeable (and dangerous) behaviors, you will recognize these signs and symptoms in a sex addict:
- Compulsive stimulation or masturbation
- Indulging in multiple or extra-marital affairs
- Indulging in several one night stands
- Consistent and excessive use of pornographic content
- Constant cybersex over the internet or phone
- Serial use of prostitutes
- Practicing unsafe sex
- Paying for sexual activities
- Having more than one sexual partner
- Watching others take part in sexual activity
- Molesting/raping/sexually harassing other individuals
Usually, a sex addict fails to bond with their partner. As a matter of fact, most of them will have absolutely no desire to establish emotional bonds with their partner. This is a major cause of them being addicted to pornographic content because they don’t have to form an emotional bond. They want an arrangement where no strings are attached – a purely sexual relationship is what they want. It is hard for sex addicts to control their behavior once the addiction advances.
Sexual addiction can have these common consequences:
A lot of sex addicts ruin their relationships due to their obsession with sex. They might not realize the loss immediately but they sure lose a lot of important people from their lives. Sometimes, the inability to stop this addiction also makes the addict feel anxious, hopeless and leave them feeling depressed.
Social interaction is adversely affected as the priorities of the addict changes completely. They use their spare time being involved in some sort of sexual activity and never seem to have enough of it. Soon, social life begins to fade away and the individual is left on his own.
Sex addicts often take part in one-night stands and buy services of a prostitute which can result in a number of diseases such as hepatitis, herpes or AIDS, or an unwanted pregnancy.
From poor work performance to splurging on ways to get to be a part of sexual activities, the addict finds himself in a financial crisis.
Debunking sex addiction myths
Myth: Individuals with morals and values cannot be sex addicts
Fact: Your addictions and morals do not have a direct relationship. Morals and values define you as a person but having fantasies is quite normal. Sometimes, these fantasies could quickly become an obsession.
Myth: Women cannot are addicted to sex
Fact: Even though a large number of sex addicts are men, it is silly to assume women cannot be sex addicts. Statistically speaking, about 80%of sex addicts are men while 20% of them are women. It is a common belief that women cannot be addicted to sex because it is harder for women to accept and address the problem than men.
Myth: All gay men go through sexual addiction
Fact: It is not limited to gay men or any minority. It can affect straight men, women, gay women, heterosexual men and women alike.
Myth: You can only be a sexual addict once during your lifetime
Fact: Sex addiction isn’t any different from any other addictions when it comes to this. An alcoholic can join a rehab, stay clean for say, five years, but then falls weak, gives in to alcohol and again becomes an addict. Similarly, a sex addict can only lead a normal life until he slips and goes back to his older habits and behavior.
Coping with shame
Sex addicts are not only misunderstood by other individuals but also made to feel guilty and ashamed of themselves. For most addicts, the urge to control their behavior is taken over by a stronger negative desire to perform sexual activity whether it is masturbating excessively or paying for the services for sex workers.
As a society, we need to understand and treat sex addiction as a real problem and stop treating sex addicts with disgust. As humans, we need to be more open and accepting.
How to overcome sex addiction?
Overcoming sex addiction isn’t easy, but accepting and addressing is the first step toward setting things right. There is a different set of steps for different addicts that depend on the severity of their addiction.
The very first step toward recovery is understanding that you have a problem and being able to accept it. Knowing that you have a problem and being able to talk to others about you shows how strong you are.
2. Call for help
Getting out of addiction is no child’s play and requires immense support. Don’t be ashamed to reach out to your family, relatives, friends, mentor or a doctor.
3. Identify your triggers
Start with understanding what triggers you and work toward avoiding those triggers. For instance, if the TV in your room makes you feel like watching pornography, we suggest you remove it from your room and place it in some common area, say, the living room.
Start avoiding situations that trigger you like frequenting bars and looking for opportunities to have multiple one-night stands. This will reduce the chances of you making a wrong decision.
4. Be mindful
Awareness and insight into how your behavior contributes to an addiction will make it easy for you to understand yourself. Set new goals and work towards fulfilling those. Being mindful of your old behavior and habits will help you identify them and stop before its too late.
5. Join a support group
Sex addiction is more common than you think. Hundreds of other people suffer from similar obsessions. A lot of support groups and communities that help you with it. You can also search for online support groups if you feel you are still not ready to face the world.
6. Seek professional help
If you think it is better to seek professional advice and guidance then search for a trainer or a counselor that can guide you back to life and help you move forward in life.
There are numerous treatments for sex addiction but none that will give you immediate results. Overcoming sex addiction will take time, patience and most of all, a strong willpower.
A counselor or a mental/medical health professional can not only help you determine if you really are addicted to sex, help you get to its root and guide you in the correct direction. Sex addiction recovery can be made through the following treatments:
- Twelve-step program
- Faith-based treatment
- Support groups
Let us look at them one by one.
What initially started as a program to help alcoholics, is now used to help sex, medication and narcotics addicts. You can also find some twelve-step program methods in support groups like Sexaholics anonymous, sex addicts anonymous, etc.
Individual or group counseling is an effective treatment to enroll yourself in. you can also try marriage counseling to help you and your spouse to cope up with lies, fear, and deception or any other issues that have been caused due to sexual addiction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT) is a popular method of psychotherapy. This therapy helps an individual restructure their thoughts in a more positive manner and acting accordingly. It may include teaching a person to address his/her sexual desires in a positive manner such as with their partner or by shifting their thoughts to non-sexual and productive activities.
4. Faith-based treatment
These treatments provide support, spiritual therapy, and counseling that help sex addicts cope up with everything. Prayer sessions, pastoral counseling, studying the holy books can guide you toward effectively dealing with your life.
5. Support groups
You can either seek support from your spouse, family, friends, mentor, relatives, professional or through support groups. Join a support group that you feel is right for you. Own up to your issues and let others help you out of it.
Depression could have side-effects and if your addiction is that, take suitable medication to deal with it. Additionally, if you have the habit of using sex to deal with anxiety or stress, there are suitable medications for that too. Severe addicts can also be given hormonal medications which reduce their sexual urges while simultaneously reducing or eliminating compulsive behaviors.
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