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Posted on: February 14, 2020 | Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral Health


A photo of a man who is a sex addict.

Most healthy adults enjoy sexual activity. The physical and emotional rewards of sex are unparalleled. As enjoyable as it is, the drive for sex is usually tempered by other needs and responsibilities in life. For people with sex addiction, however, the desire for sexual activity becomes a compulsion that is driven by obsessive thoughts and urges. Sex addiction is defined by behaviors and urges involving sexual activity that is excessive and impacts one’s life negatively. 

During the process of sexual attraction, an array of hormones are released within the brain. These hormones, notably testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin play a key role in the addiction process for people with sex addiction. Much like any addictive process, sex addiction is defined by a pattern of excess that has negative implications on the life of the person afflicted and their relationships. Sex is a natural desire for most people, however, if this becomes impulsive and affects your daily life and relationship, it may be time to reach out to a professional. 

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Potential Causes Of Sex Addiction

While there isn’t a singular cause of sex addiction, there can be many contributing factors that impact one’s likelihood of struggling with this condition. Difficulty managing emotions and a pattern of using sexual behaviors as a form of self-medication are common causes, as well as childhood abuse or inappropriate exposure to sex at a young age. 

In addition to these potential factors, some people are simply more prone to addiction than others.  Whether it is the addiction to alcohol, drugs, or behavioral addictions such as gambling or sex, the propensity for addiction starts within the brain and is often a genetic predisposition. Genetics don’t necessarily predict one’s path in life, but if there is a family history of addiction, coupled with access and exposure, it can increase the odds. 

Sex Addiction Warning Signs

People who may be wondering ‘Am I a sex addict?’ can review some of these sex addiction warning signs.

  • Excessive masturbation
  • High-risk sexual behaviors
  • Unsafe sexual practices
  • Impulsive pornography use
  • Prostitution
  • Extramarital affairs
  • Molestation
  • Exhibition behaviors
  • Voyeurism 
  • Masochistic behaviors or sadism

In addition to these behaviors, sexual addiction and compulsion is usually coupled with obsessive thoughts and urges that interrupt one’s daily functioning. People who struggle with this condition spend a lot of time and mental energy on sexual fantasy and often feel a loss of control over their thoughts which brings distress. Sex addiction also brings with it feelings of guilt, shame and fear, which can become a part of the process that feeds the addiction.

Impact Of Sex Addiction

The impact of sex addiction can be devastating for the individual struggling with it as well as their loved ones. Common challenges that people with sex addiction face include:

  • Venereal disease: Men with sex addiction have a venereal disease at a rate of 38%, and women with sex addiction have venereal addiction at a rate of 45%1.
  • Unwanted pregnancy: Around 70% of women with sex addiction have had an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Relationship problems: People struggling with sex addiction often experience challenges with monogamous relationships. Infidelity is common for people with sex addiction, which impacts relationship health. 

Treatment Options For Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is a treatable condition. There are treatment options available that can meet the needs of adult and teen sex addicts who are at risk of harm as a result of this mental health challenge. If you are wondering how to help a sex addict or someone you know who may be struggling with obsessive of compulsive sexual thoughts, help is available. Our therapists at Highland Springs Clinic offer a variety of treatment options for sex addiction as well as other forms of addiction that impact people’s lives. Highland Springs Clinic uses evidence-based practices and adheres strictly to laws of confidentiality so that people in the program can focus on healing. Highland Springs is proud of our many treatment modalities to help people with addiction recover and rebuild their lives. State of the art treatments such as DTMS therapy offers a non-invasive option that has shown direct results for people with addiction challenges. Treatments modalities such as EMDR can help reduce symptoms related to traumatic life events to reduce suffering. Highland uses DBT and CBT treatment modalities in individual and group settings to help aid the recovery process. As healing begins, the inclusion of loved ones for family therapy will help create a well-rounded treatment experience. Highland Springs understands addiction and specializes in treatments that change lives. Don’t suffer with your sex addiction on your own, reach out to access compassionate and professional care today.

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