In the age of online porn and app dating, it has become much easier to engage in promiscuous behaviour. But when does a healthy sex life become something more dangerous and damaging? You’d think that the difference between enjoying sex and being addicted to sex would be quite obvious, but this isn’t always the case.
Sex addiction has been observed as far back as the 1700s and has been described as Don Juanism, satyriasis, nymphomania, excessive sexual drive, sexual addiction, and hypersexuality.
Even today, it is a controversial disorder and isn’t included in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Although experts admit that some people suffer negative consequences as a result of their sexual impulses, there is a lot of controversy around the diagnosis of this as an addiction.
Some experts dispute that sex can be an addiction, but others say that, like any other kind of addiction, sex can be something that takes over and dominates your life. For people living with sex addiction, it can be difficult to maintain relationships and the sufferer may feel socially isolated.
There is also an increased risk of venereal diseases as a result of promiscuous behaviour and even unwanted pregnancies. For those addicted to using prostitutes or chat lines, this addiction can also lead to financial problems.
What is sex addiction?
Just like any other kind of addiction, it’s possible to become addicted to sex. In the same way that a gambling addict might crave the rush of gambling, so too can a sex addict crave the rush of sexual activity. According to relationship counselling service, Relate, sex addiction is any kind of sexual activity that feels “out of control”.
This might include any of the following behaviours:
Sex dominates a person’s life and behaviour
An individual engages the services of pornography or prostitutes regularly
An individual has multiple sexual partners and struggles to remain faithful in a relationship
In extreme cases, the individual’s behaviour might include illegal activity.
Learning how to identify sex addiction can help the individual to seek help and overcome this problem. There’s no reason a person with sex addiction can’t enjoy a healthy sex life if they are able to access the right help.
When does a high libido become an addiction?
Some experts dispute that sex addiction is even an addiction, but those living with an insatiable sex drive, the reality is very different. If a person’s behaviour with regards to sex ever becomes out of control, they may want to seek help from a professional.
If a person regularly suffers negative consequences as a result of their sexual behaviour and feels powerless to stop this pattern, then an addiction might be to blame. In many cases, sex addiction is just one part of a wider network of mental struggles.
How is sex addiction treated?
Sex addiction counselling is often the best course of treatment for someone suffering from sex addiction. The process will allow the individual to identify their feelings and learn coping mechanisms that allow them to take control of their behaviour.
There are also support groups and self-help books that can be useful for someone coming to terms with a sex addiction diagnosis. If substance abuse is also part of the addiction, this will also need to be addressed.
What support is available for partners?
If you suspect your partner may be addicted to sex, this can be a huge strain on your relationship. Often, the partner also needs counselling as they can be a part of the addiction.
If your partner is addicted to sex, denying them can feel cruel and many people fear that their partner will go elsewhere for sex if they can’t get it at home. As a result, many partners of those addicted to sex will also develop unhealthy attitudes towards something which should be a huge source of intimacy.
Setting boundaries and understanding how to draw lines in a relationship is essential. As the partner of someone addicted to sex, you may also have to deal with infidelity which can be emotionally traumatic. Speaking to your own therapist can help you to understand your feelings.
Can it be cured?
Often a sex addiction is part of a wider mental struggle. Through counselling and learning to control your feelings, it is thought that an individual can learn to control their feelings and have normal, healthy relationships.