Sex or love addiction is a topic that is often considered taboo and not discussed openly. However, sex addiction affects millions of people every year, and this addiction often has far-reaching consequences.
Sex addiction is characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. The focus on sex for some might seem like a need for sexual gratification, but studies also shown that individuals with a sex addiction might also be searching for power, control, or a way to manage disturbed feelings. Someone who has an unhealthy desire for sex will neglect other more important things in their life, will put themselves or loved ones in danger, and will be willing to face other risks in order to satisfy their need.
The arrival of the Internet, phone sex lines, escort services, and pornography have all contributed to the increase in sex addiction over the years. Pictures, videos, and the thought of extramarital affairs often fuel people’s sex addiction.
Signs of Sex Addiction
Diagnosing sex addiction is difficult. Experts have listed criteria that may suggest an individual has a sex addiction. According to Psych Central, individuals may have a sex addiction if they are:
- Frequently engaging in more sex and with more partners than intended.
Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex; wanting to cut down and unsuccessfully attempting to limit sexual activity.
- Thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities or continually engaging in excessive sexual practices despite a desire to stop.
- Spending considerable time in activities related to sex, such as cruising for partners or spending hours online visiting pornographic Web sites.
- Neglecting obligations such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex.
- Continually engaging in the sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or potential health risks.
- Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve the desired effect, such as more frequent visits to prostitutes or more sex partners.
- Feeling irritable when unable to engage in the desired behavior.
Sex addiction can lead to a host of negative consequences. While some individuals do not progress beyond compulsive masturbation, viewing pornography, or talking on phone sex lines, others do get involved with unsafe or unhealthy sex. Besides the health risks that all sexual promiscuity poses, such as sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, and loss of commitment in relationships, there are many other, far-reaching effects of sex addiction that is out of control. Child molestation, rape, and voyeurism all lead to devastation in other people’s lives, and can have long term legal impacts as well.
Sex Addiction Statistics
Studies have shown that sex addicts are not necessarily always sex offenders, but many are. According to Psych Central, at least 55% of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts, and about 71% of child molesters are sex addicts.
The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health estimates that 3%-5% of the U.S. population suffers from sexual compulsion disorders. Tracking data from 2010 by Nielsen Online showed that more than 25% of those with Internet access at work viewed pornography during working hours. Sex addiction statistics show that 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites between 1-10 hours per week, and another 4.7 million in excess of 11 hours per week. (MSNBC/Stanford/Duquesne Study, Washington Times, 1/26/2000). According to Datamonitor, in 2003, over half of all spending on the Internet was related to sexual activity, with 30 million people logging on at pornographic Web sites daily.
It is important for individuals suffering with sex addiction to seek help as soon as possible, so that they can live a healthy, balanced life once again, and in order to spare others from the harm this addiction can cause.
Many well known athletes, actors, and other celebrities have struggled with sex addiction. Many have had to face public scrutiny because of their addiction, and thankfully many have received the help they need to overcome this devastating disease. Eric Benet, Michael Douglas, and Tiger Woods, are among those that have recovered with the help of rehab.
Sex Addiction Treatment
Treatment for sex addiction is available, and there are a number of clinics that specialize in helping people with sex or love addiction. These include: Recovery Ranch, Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sierra Tucson, TulaneUniversity’s program in New Orleans, and the Menninger Clinic.
Treatment for sex addiction usually involves the same strategies that are effective in substance abuse rehab. Most treatment centers offer individual therapy, group therapy sessions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and family therapy. 12 step programs are often effective as well, but instead of promoting complete abstinence from the activity as with alcoholics or drug addicts, sex addicts learn to abstain from the unhealthy, compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. For some patients, medications such as antidepressants are necessary to help them deal with the guilt and pain their addiction has caused.