What is Sex Addiction?
Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Like an alcoholic unable to stop drinking, sexual addicts are unable to stop their self-destructive sexual behavior.
Sex addicts come from all walks of life: male and female, all sexual orientations, ages from pre-teens to senior citizens, those employed as laborers or CEOs of major organizations. Sex addiction does not discriminate. Many addicts were abused as children – sexually, physically, and/or emotionally. Many grew up in families in which addiction already flourished, including alcoholism, drugs, gambling, and/or compulsive eating. Most grapple with other addictions in addition to sex addiction, but often find overcoming sexual addiction the most difficult.
Much hope nevertheless exists for these addicts and their families. Sex addicts have shown an ability to transform a life of self-destruction into a life of self-care, a life in chaos and despair into one of confidence and peace. Dr. Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows (1983).
Can sex be addictive?
Yes, it can. First, it is important to understand what addiction is. Understanding the basic fundamentals can help you compare sex addiction to other types of addiction you may be more familiar with, such as drugs or alcohol. Although there are not any substances such as cocaine or beer involved, the brain releases certain chemicals during the performance of sexual behaviors that create the same type of “high” feeling as addictive substances. It is these “high” feelings that become addictive, and therefore, the behavior that helped create that feeling becomes necessary, not voluntary. Dr. Patrick Carnes in his book, Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict states, “Contrary to enjoying sex as a self-affirming source of physical pleasure, the sex addict has learned to rely on sex for comfort from pain, nurturing, or relief from stress, etc., the way an alcoholic relies on alcohol, or a drug addict on drugs.” It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that just because a person feels good or euphoric after sex or some other sexual behavior he or she is an addict. If you are concerned you may be addicted to sex or a sexual behavior, please reach out to one of our specially trained therapists for help. Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict (1989), Dr. Patrick Carnes.
How much is too much?
The trend in the current psychological literature about “How much is too much” has changed over the years. We no longer quantify (or put a number to) how many times a day is too much. Rather, we look at it from a quality of life viewpoint; meaning that a 21-year-old can have sex or masturbate several times a day and still be “okay.” The problem, we believe, becomes a problem when the sexual acting out behavior impairs other areas of life. For example, having unprotecorn Addictionted sex with many anonymous partners and thereby putting oneself at risk to catch STDs or HIV; masturbating to the point of injury; missing school or work because he or she is busy engaging in or recovering from the sexual activity; continues behavior despite consequences (loss of job, legal problems, broken relationships, etc).
–“What Is Sex Addiction?” SexHelp. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2016.