Defining Sex Addiction: The Path to Treatment and Control
Sex is a pleasurable experience that most people enjoy. Why is it that certain people become addicted to it? There are myriad of factors that can lead to sex addiction, including both genetic and environmental factors. The difference between a normal interest in sex and addiction are the destructive nature of the addiction. Consequences to actions are not taken into account prior to the act, though guilt or remorse may be felt after it’s over. This is similar to other addictions like to drugs or gambling.
What is a Sex Addict?
What causes sex addiction is not readily understood. There does seem to a biochemical component as antidepressants and psychotropic medications can help to curb the addiction. Sexual interests, food, and drug abuse, follow the same reward system in the brain. Drug abuse is a combination of genetic and environmental pieces, which can combine into a dangerous addiction. Since sex is closely tied with drug abuse in the brain, the components that can form into sex addiction could possibly share the same components.
The sex addict has a greater euphoric response to sex that goes beyond what most people experience. This is similar to many drug addictions where the dopamine system of the brain is exploited by the drug. Sex addicts are more likely to have come from dysfunctional families and/or have been sexually abused. This suggests that environment is a factor in the expression of sex as an addiction. They also have trouble forming strong personal bonds in a relationship. There is a tendency to have multiple partners, because they cannot maintain a long term relationship. Unable to manage their sex lives, sex addicts dive into destructive behaviors such as prostitution and one-night-stands.
Most addicts cut themselves off from their addictions, but this is not necessarily an option for a sex addict. Sex is a healthy and normal adult behavior, and abstinence is not considered a feasible treatment for most people. The sex addict must learn to distinguish between healthy and non-healthy practices. It is difficult to treat sex addiction, because if the addict is to maintain sexual relations it is like teaching an alcoholic to be a social drinker only.
There are support groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous that work very similarly to Alcoholics Anonymous. This provides a support network to help the addict keep from acting upon their urges.
A better option is to seek out in-patient sex addiction rehab for men or women. Such programs can require at least a 30-day commitment. The length of the stay might be tied to the fact that sex is a natural human instinct: the time required to teach the brain how to have a healthy sexual relationship takes longer.
As mentioned above, medication can curb the habits of a sex addict. Just as other addictions are tied to anxiety and depression, sex addicts also suffer from these ailments. A course of drug therapy can help both the addiction and the mental illness.
Untreated sexual addiction can lead to many undesirable results. The addict’s unchecked urges can lead to run-ins with the law either from prostitution, stalking, or indecent exposure. There is also an increased chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases due to multiple sex partners. The emotional damage cannot be ignored either. An untreated sex addict is destined to be lonely as they try to get their next fix, and not try to build relationships. Sex addiction is a real disease, but there are ways to manage the addiction to allow the patient an opportunity to lead a normal life.