Is Sex Addiction a Real Thing?
Is sex addiction a real thing? I’ve been on both sides of the addiction fence for over 20 years, being addicted and being in recovery so I have a solid foundation of what addiction means to me and over the years I could understand some of the more misunderstood addictions like porn addiction or video game addiction but I couldn’t wrap my head around sex addiction really being a clinical and diagnosable problem people are facing? I had to ask myself this over and over, can this be an actual addiction? And if you are a sex addict, you can stone me now!
I recognize the fact that people enjoy different varieties of sex, have fetishes, and take part in different sexual acts because they enjoy sex. I can understand the point of the man or woman who feel the need to be have sex all the time, and that is something they may be struggling with. I can also see the need to classify a percentage of sex offenders or those who take part in illegal sexual acts, as ‘sex addicts’ in order to provide treatment. While not really being fully convinced, I decided to look into this further and see what stories are out there, what people are talking about, the viewpoints individuals have; I wanted to know myself if I can view this as an actual addiction or not.
The definition of addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
I can see how sex addiction can fall under the definition of addiction, but are the people who are involved in different forms of sex, fetishes, and continual sex feel that they are enslaved by it, and have it become habit forming? Before I could really answer that I would have to look at how people and experts have defined sex addiction. An article on psychcentral.com defined sex addiction as progressive intimacy disorder, involving compulsive sexual thoughts and acts, which would have negative impacts on the person and people close to them. The individual would have to intensify their behavior to achieve their desired results. The average person in day to day living has compulsive sexual thoughts so what makes a sex addict a sex addict?
Wikipedia defined sex addiction as a compulsive engagement, act, or participation in sexual activities, and not taking into consideration the negative consequences. Some people do obviously report that they can not control their sexual behavior, thoughts, or impulsive, and this could be diagnosed in a clinical sense so as treatment can take place, but there is much debate in this area.
A drug addict becomes chemically hooked on a drug, which alters brain chemistry and uses that drug to achieve a desired effect and typically ignores all consequences. I did not believe a person could not become chemically hooked on sex, but I could certainly see using sex to achieve a desired result, and in many cases will ignore the consequences.
I decided to search out Sex Addicts Anonymous to get some real life insight and personal stories about sex addiction. When reading some of these stories I noticed that so many of these individuals would discover these impulses at a very young age, and that many of them were sexually abused or assaulted at a young age. They could trace back their addiction to sex at the point where they discovered porn, or had feelings of a strong attraction to some sexual act, or even after the point they were abused sexually. Some people developed an uncontrollable urge towards internet porn, prostitution, escorts, massage parlors etc. Many individuals described it as a compulsion to be loved and be sought after, always seeking out attention and affection from either men or woman. The most common factor in all of this was the development of a strong sexual desire, which became the outcome from prior events and occurrences. When looking back on my own drug addiction I can understand where some of these people are coming from. During some of the more disturbing parts of my addiction I was involved with multiple women at a time, and had a continual need to do so, although no major consequences came of it, I can understand the compulsion involved.
What many experts can agree on is that no one factor is thought to cause a sexual addiction, some experts even believe there is a strong link between sexual addiction and risk taking. UCLA conducted a study on sex addiction, to help address if it was recognized as a real thing, looking at both hypersexuality and sex addiction. UCLA researchers measured how the brain behaved in hypersexual people, and found that the viewing of sexual images was only linked to their level of sexual desire. They noted that when people are diagnosed with hypersexuality issues or a sex addiction problem, it was individuals who felt they had uncontrollable urges, engaged in sexual acts frequently, and faced many consequences because of it, and as a result could not change these problems. Researchers argue that these symptoms could not necessarily explain an addiction, but rather; and I quote, “in fact, non-pathological, high sexual desire could also explain this cluster of problems,” as stated by the senior author and researcher, Nicole Prause. The researchers studied the brains response in individuals whom have claimed to have a sexual addiction or hypersexuality problem, by showing them sexual images as stimuli, and the brain waves were monitored, paying close attention to any spikes 300 miliseconds after viewing. The researchers discovered there were no major increases or decreases in the brains response, as to what could be compared to a drug addict viewing images of drugs, and the brain reacting to these images immediately after viewing.
For my own conclusion with all of this, I can see ‘sex addiction’ as being a compulsion the person is not taking control over, and giving into urges to fulfill a needed desire or outcome, which would come down to strong sexual desire. I can see how this can be defined as an addiction, as drug addicts; although chemically hooked on a drug, have a strong compulsion to use, ignore consequences, and peruse that urge to use to avoid physical and mental pain. I also believe a person’s environment would have a lot to do with their sexual desires, whether or not they were abused, or raped, were involved in traumatic relationships, suffered some severe childhood trauma, and continue to be within and or associated with these environments throughout their life. With human problems it is easier to have a label on something to help grasp a full understanding of it, define it, treat it, and come to an ultimate conclusion.
My conclusion is that sex addiction is a fair term to use to help explain what a person is going through, and what they can do to get better. For a very general explanation when comparing it to drug addiction; a person can consider this an addiction, because of their adapted environment, compulsion, and desire to take part with out any regard for consequences.
If you are a sex addict and are seeking help, you should speak with an Addiction Advisor immediately to discuss what treatment options would be best suited for your needs.
In Canada, you may call the DRS Addiction Hotline 1-877-254-3348 or in the U.S. at Addicted.org 1-800-304-2219