The sexual experience is a normal part of life for human beings. It is an experience that builds intimacy between couples and one that is necessary to create children. So how can such a natural and wonderful thing be addictive? Like any other addiction, it comes down to the pleasurable feelings produced by neurotransmitters in the brain. In that regard, a sex addiction is no different from any other behavioural or substance addiction.
Before going further, it must be made clear that sex addiction is no joke. Our modern culture considers it a laughing matter far too often. What’s more, many people believe sex addiction does not exist. They believe those who seem to have trouble are experiencing nothing more than an overactive libido and a lack of self-control. Nevertheless, sex addiction is very real and very harmful.
Sex Addiction Defined
It is true that there are people who have a more active libido than others. There are also those who engage in a lot of sexual activity because they view it as an enjoyable ‘hobby’. However, a genuine sex addiction demonstrates very specific characteristics that are easily recognised by a trained clinician. The two primary characteristics are as follows:
- Inability to Stop – A person who is addicted to sex will find him or herself in the position of being unable to stop once they begin a particular activity. That activity could be something like viewing online porn, visiting strip clubs, or seeing prostitutes. Like the problem gambler who promises him or herself just one more wager, but fails to keep that promise, the sex addict promises him or herself that they going to stop. However, they cannot.
- Ignoring Consequences – The ability to ignore the consequences of one’s behaviour is one of the hallmarks of sex addiction. For example, the man who frequents prostitutes will slowly drain his finances. Although he is fully aware that he will eventually run out of money to pay the bills, he keeps right on seeing the women. He will likely keep doing so even if he has to beg, borrow, or steal to get the money.
Perhaps the most misunderstood thing about sex addiction is the vicious cycle that fuels it. This cycle starts when an individual uses sex to find fulfilment, escape their troubles, or deal with some other unpleasant circumstance. The pleasurable feelings produced by the sexual activity invites him or her to go back and do it again. After a while, they start to feel demoralised and bad about them self; they may even develop early-stage depression. However, what does the individual do about those negative feelings and thoughts? He or she engages in more sexual activity to escape them. This is the vicious cycle of addiction.
Dangers of Sex Addiction
Addictive sexual habits may not present the same physical harm one might experience from alcohol or drugs, but the damage it causes is real nonetheless. If left untreated, a sexual addiction can destroy a person’s entire life. Unfortunately, it can also lead to depression that is deep enough to include suicidal tendencies.
If you find yourself struggling with sex, you need to get help. Just consider the potential possibilities of ignoring your problem:
- Relationships – One of the first things to be damaged by sex addiction is your personal relationships. Number one is the relationship with your spouse or significant other. Once that person knows you cannot be trusted to control yourself, he or she will pull away until the relationship is destroyed. Children will pull away next, assuming the addicted parent is a pervert. Finally, friends and acquaintances also sever their relationships.
- Finances – A sex addiction is no different from any other in the sense that the addict must continually strive for new experiences and activities to replace those that no longer provide the expected level of pleasure. Oftentimes this leads to spending money on anything from DVDs to phone sex to prostitution. Many a sex addict has wiped out his or her entire savings, and then some, trying to feed their addiction.
- Depression – If you are struggling with the sex addiction, you already know it makes you feel terrible about yourself. Such self-loathing can lead you into clinical depression if you’re not treated. Clinical depression itself is a serious condition with a completely new set of problems you do not need.
- Career – Sex addicts can reach a point where their addiction interferes with work. The result can be serious enough that the individual misses promotions or, in some cases, is even terminated from his or her employment. A constant obsession with sex is not only bad for the individual; it is also bad for his or her company.
As you can see, the damage an untreated sex addiction can cause is pretty severe. It is not something you want to take lightly under the mistaken impression that it will go away on its own. It won’t.
The seriousness of the sex addiction should not be ignored. Thankfully, there is help by way of private clinics, professional counsellors, and community-based support groups. To get help, all you need do is ask. There are a number of addiction helplines throughout the UK, ready and waiting to offer you sound advice and treatment referrals.
If you recognise any of the following symptoms in your own life, there is a good chance you have addiction requiring professional help:
- you find yourself persistently thinking about sex, to the detriment of other things
- when sex involves partners, you seek out as many as you can
- you continue engaging in specific behaviours despite negative consequences
- you find yourself regularly looking for new ways to enjoy different kinds of sex
- you find your sexual practices must become ever more extreme in order to derive the same pleasure
- you become defensive when others express concern about your sexual activity.
In closing, we want to reiterate that sex addiction is very real and very destructive. If you are struggling at all, please reach out and get the help you need so much.