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The Cost of Addiction: Understanding Its Impact

Bald man sitting near window holding pillow looking depressed at home

Addiction takes a toll on your mind, body, and spirit. Sex addiction is particularly misunderstood and misdiagnosed. It’s a multi-faceted, layered issue, and its impact is pervasive and enduring.

Sex addiction affects your health, self-esteem, and well-being. The consequences of this addiction can harm your relationships with others, your financial health, and even have legal ramifications

Addiction is an exhausting and tumultuous affliction. Healing from it requires understanding the cost of addiction and recognizing its impact. 

The Physical Cost of Addiction

Sex addiction can put you in some unhealthy or risky situations. It may start with excessive masturbation but progress to contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or other physical injuries. 

The physical impact of addiction varies in extremity depending on each person’s situation. Unprotected sex leads to more complications, as 38% of men and 45% of women with sex addictions have a venereal disease as a result of their behavior. 

Physical risks of sex addiction include: 

  • STDs, including exposure to HIV and hepatitis B and C
  • Harm to the genital area due to excessive masturbating or sexual activity
  • Sexual dysfunction

When you’re experiencing sex addiction, you’ll often progress to more extreme behaviors. You can’t get the same sexual gratification from your go-to behaviors, so you increase the frequency or risk of your actions to get the same feelings as before. 

Sex addiction can even cause serious injury or death. Engaging in sexual activity while severely intoxicated, using objects not designed for sexual activity, or engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation all put you at risk of serious injury. 

Just like any other addiction, you can experience withdrawal from sex addiction. If you notice new behaviors or symptoms popping up when you’re trying to quit, you may be experiencing withdrawals

Common sex addiction withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense sexual urges or cravings
  • Difficulty sleeping and extreme tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Body aches or stiffness in muscles and joints
  • Decreased or nonexistent sex drive
  • Avoiding socializing

The Psychological Cost of Addiction

When someone is experiencing sex addiction, it can feel impossible to think about anything else. Just as someone with an alcohol addiction dwells on when they can get their next drink, a person experiencing sex addiction feels a compulsive obsession toward sex. 

People experiencing sex addiction may struggle to manage their emotions. It’s common to experience low self-esteem. Sex addiction can also worsen pre-existing mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Other common psychological effects of sex addiction include:

  • Self-isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Difficulty forming/maintaining relationships with others
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Flashbacks or dreams about pornography
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of frustration and annoyance
  • Obsessive-compulsive symptoms
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation

People with sex addiction often fear being abandoned, which may cause them to stay in unhealthy relationships or jump from one relationship to another. 

You may experience intense guilt and shame surrounding the addiction. If you don’t talk about the addiction with a trusted loved one or mental health professional, you internalize that shame and guilt, which can cause severe emotional distress.

Sex addiction impacts your brain chemistry. It alters your brain’s reward system, training it to expect the dopamine hit that sexual pleasure brings. When you use sexual pleasure as a distraction from difficult feelings or past traumas, it reinforces the behavior. The more you train it to avoid those feelings with sex, the more routine the behavior and avoiding the real issues becomes. 

Before you realize it, you can’t stop. You might not even enjoy sexual activity anymore, but you’ve trained your brain to need it. You need to escalate your behavior to get the same fix. 

The Social Cost of Addiction

Sex addiction doesn’t only affect you. It also negatively impacts your loved ones. When you prioritize engaging in sexual activity over the people in your life, it takes a toll on those relationships. Responsibilities like attending work, studying for school, caring for children, or maintaining your health take a backseat. You struggle to spend time with the people you care about because it feels impossible to resist the compulsion for sex. 

Sex addiction can have a financial cost, which extends to people in your life who rely on you. Facilitating sex addiction can start to replace financial obligations like medical bills, mortgage payments, or day-to-day living expenses, putting your family in jeopardy. 

Addiction also carries social connotations. When people don’t understand something, they’re quick to judge. You may feel outcast from society, struggle to connect with others, or feel forgotten by the system you live in. 

While awareness of addiction has significantly improved, sex addiction is often misunderstood. Due to the stigma surrounding sex addiction, it can be difficult to get treatment. But the more you learn about sex addiction, its causes, and how it affects your life, the better chance you have for long-term healing

Healing From Sex Addiction

Sex addiction treatment shouldn’t just focus on treating the symptoms. To stop the sexual urges and cravings, you have to treat the underlying cause: trauma. It’s possible you haven’t yet processed or recognized past events that have led to negative behaviors. That’s where professional help comes in. They can safely guide you through the recovery process. 

Look for a mental health professional and a recovery center that helps you identify the root cause of addiction and offers personalized care and support. 

Options for treatment programs include: 

  • Psychotherapy. Individual counseling helps unpack unresolved trauma and begin recovery.
  • Support Groups. Community is essential to healing addiction, so group meetings with others who have the same issues are helpful.
  • Intensives. Intensives help you jump-start recovery by focusing only on treatment during a short residential stay.
  • Partner Programs. Vital to repairing romantic relationships and familial bonds when betrayal trauma and trust issues develop.
  • Residential Treatment. For those who need more long-term recovery help, residential treatment centers are available to steep you in treatment for a more extended period.

Begin Again Institute offers a variety of treatment options to fit your needs. We have a 14-Day Men’s Intensive and a 14-Day Christian Men’s Intensive to help you identify the root cause of the addiction and jumpstart recovery. 

For those who have more than one mental health concern and may need treatment lasting longer than a couple of weeks. We partner with Integrative Life Center to offer a 28-Day Residential Program.

In addition, our Partner Support Program is free to the partners of men enrolled in our intensives. The online program allows partners to process complicated emotions, learn healthy techniques for dealing with the trauma they’re experiencing, and share with others in their shoes. 

All of our intensives are led by Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs), who are trained to work with people living with sex addiction and their partners. 

There are various methods for healing from sex addiction. It boils down to understanding how your mind and body respond to trauma and learning tools to stop harmful behaviors. 

Consider seeking treatment for sex addiction if:

  • You struggle to control sexual impulses
  • You feel anxious when you’re not engaging in sexual activities
  • You’re neglecting basic self-care such as eating and hygiene 
  • You struggle to focus on work or school
  • Your physical/mental health is suffering

Going through treatment for sex addiction requires patience, discipline, and vulnerability. But it will change your life for the better. It’s like taking the first step into your new life. 

How Begin Again Institute Can Help

At Begin Again Institute, we offer a variety of sex addiction treatment programs so you can find the best one for your needs. Professional help makes a difference in the long-term success of recovery. Healing takes time, but you have to start somewhere. Take the first step by calling us today.

  • Category: Sex Addiction
  • By Begin Again Institute
  • June 24, 2024

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