A celebrity gets caught having an affair or multiple affairs? No problem! They’ll just claim they have a sex addiction and go to “rehab.” Sex addiction seems to be a scapegoat for celebrities who get caught having affairs. But the question is, is sex addiction real?
Sex addiction is real. Experts estimate that about 12 million Americans have a sex addiction. Those who have a sex addiction understand that it’s not a phrase to throw around to get out of trouble. A person who has sex addiction feels out of control of their sexual compulsions. It negatively affects their ability to function in their daily life.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is when you lack control of your sexual impulses, regardless of the consequences of your behavior. People with sex addiction have a set of compulsive sexual actions they follow like they’re on autopilot.
Having an affair doesn’t mean you have a sex addiction. This addiction, like so many others, permeates all aspects of your life. Initially, you feel in control of your actions. But, with time and repeating behaviors, you lose control of your impulses.
Someone with a sex addiction may show the following symptoms:
- Obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies that interfere with productivity and focus
- Consistent preoccupation with fulfilling sexual urges despite consequences
- Engaging in high-risk sexual behavior such as anonymous or unprotected sex
- Lying to hide sexual behaviors
- Avoiding activities that don’t include sex, such as family or company events
- Repeated attempts to curb or stop sexual actions but an inability to do so
- Feeling guilt, shame, or remorse after sexual actions
- Sex has negative consequences such as job loss, financial difficulties, or legal problems
- Intensifying sexual behavior with risk-taking to achieve the same high as in the past
- Spending an excessive amount of time engaging in, pursuing, or fantasizing about sexual activities
What Causes Sex Addiction?
Unresolved trauma causes sex addiction. Traumatic experiences and responses vary widely. Big T trauma comes from a single life-altering event. These could be a natural disaster or the death of a loved one. Little T trauma is a series of smaller events that accumulate over time. These events could be continuous neglect or bullying.
Traumatic events cause your brain to take over. You enter fight-or-flight mode, taking all non-necessary systems offline. Your emotional processing shuts down, so it can redirect energy toward heightening your fighting senses.
You then work to remove yourself from this survival mode. You do this through dopamine. Dopamine is the pleasure-chemical that makes you feel happy and content.
Sexual arousal causes an abundance of dopamine. Therefore, you learn that during times of stress, sexual pleasure helps you leave fight-or-flight mode behind quickly.
You establish this link in your brain between stress and reward. But the relief may diminish over time. What brought you calm and pleasure before no longer does. Therefore, you seek out more intense forms of sexual pleasure to recreate that same high.
Dopamine addiction is the basis of all addictions, including those involving drugs and alcohol. You learn something that feels good. So, you do it repeatedly. These repeated actions create a worn-down neural pathway. Your learned behavior becomes a compulsion because you want to feel relief from negative emotions.
Why Do Some Experts Question, ‘Is Sex Addiction Real?’
There are a couple of reasons that critics likely question whether sex addiction is real. Most of them involve sensationalism and publicity around the illness.
Sex Addiction is Not in the Diagnostic Manual
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is a handbook for mental health assessment. It is a reference guide for anyone in the mental health field. Essentially, a book has to validate your diagnosis. The term “Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder” is in the most recent edition. It is a broad term used to help diagnose a variety of sexual compulsions, including sex addiction. Some critics feel that if it doesn’t have a diagnostic entry in the manual, it is invalid.
Sensationalism of Sex Addiction
The sensationalism of the concept of sex addiction also causes people to question its validity. To many, it seems like it is just a phrase to hide behind to minimize personal responsibility. The fact that sex addiction has become an excuse for some people doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
Knowing whether you have sex addiction is critical, and self-diagnosis isn’t enough. Speaking with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist is a vital step in a proper diagnosis. The information is confidential, which is why you don’t see CSATs publicly speaking about their client’s stories.
Risks and Consequences of Sex Addiction
To an outsider without an addiction, perhaps sex addiction still feels like a cover story. If you or your loved one have a sex addiction, you know that the consequences are real.
Consequences of sex addiction include:
- Health Dangers. Health implications include dangers such as contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
- Legal Issues. You could experience legal issues like indecent exposure or arrest for paying for a sex worker’s services.
- Job-Related Risks. If you miss work to pursue sex or use hook-up apps on company time, you could lose your job.
- Loss of Trust. Your secretive behavior may result in a loss of trust with your partner or loved ones.
- Relationship Damage. You spend so much time on your addiction and keeping it secret that you neglect family and friends.
- Substance Use. Many people with sex addictions also have substance use disorders. They use alcohol or drugs to enhance the high they experience from sexual activities.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Sex addiction is real. It impacts every aspect of your life and relationships. At Begin Again Institute, we know that sex addiction treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. We offer recovery programs that fit your needs and your timeline. If you are ready to accept that you have a sex addiction and need treatment, all it takes is contacting us so you can start to heal.