Thursday, June 21, 2012

What is Sex Addiction?

Types of Addiction

If I am in love with love does that make me a love addict? If I enjoy sex or Internet pornography seemingly more than others does that qualify me as a sex addict? People often ask themselves these questions and the answers can be quite ambiguous. There is a fine line between addictive behaviors and destructive or unhealthy behavioral patterns. The focus of Passport to Recovery’s Blog this week is to uncover some mysteries around what sex and love addiction are.

What is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is described as an intimacy disorder that progressively gets worse over time. It is characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts that lead to compulsive acts. Just as with other addictions, the sex addict often intensifies the addictive sexual behavior to achieve the same “high.” Consequently, the negative impact on the lives of the addict and his/her family members increase over time.

The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (now the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health) defines sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.”
The patterns of sexual behavior associated with sexual addiction vary, as some engage in compulsive masturbation or the incessant use of pornography. For others, sexual addiction can lead to illegal activities such as engaging prostitutes or taking part in exhibitionism, molestation or rape. In the grips of the addiction, a sex addict will continue to engage in these sexual behaviors despite facing potential arrests, health risks, financial problems or divorce.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, IV describes sex addiction as “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used” which results in “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”

More people today than ever are seeking help for sexual addiction because of general sexual provocation in society writ-large that has inadvertently increased the amount of people engaging in a variety of sexual practices, such as phone sex, the use of escort services, prostitutes and computer pornography. Fortunately, there are numerous addiction rehab centers that specialize in sexual addiction and have helped individuals and families overcome sex addiction.

What is Love Addiction?

Like sexual addiction, love addiction is an intimacy disorder that gets progressively worse over time and its consequences can have devastating effects. Love addicts often engage in a pattern of frequent relationships that begin with intense passion but then quickly end or long term relationships with frequent highs/lows. Both serve to stimulate a range of intense emotions that give the love addict a “high.” As the pattern continues, the negative impact that the "low cycles" have on a person's esteem and overall health become greater which sparks the addict to seek a new relationship and the addictive cycle repeats itself.

As with sexual addiction, as love addiction progresses it can create increasingly grave impacts to the addict and family members. These impacts can range from decreased health and debilitating low self esteem to romantic delusions that spark stalking behavior, violence, self-mutilation and suicide.

Unlike other addictions, love addiction is more difficult to identify because the destructive thoughts of the love addict are often internalized and not strikingly evident in their outward behavior. However, there are various love addiction treatment centers that can help the love addict overcome their addictive and debilitating relationship cycles.

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