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Sexual addiction, which is also called sexual dependency, hypersexuality, nymphomania (females), satyriasis (males), compulsive sexual behavior and sexual compulsivity, refers to the phenomenon in which people cannot manage their sexual behavior. The individual is obsessed with sexual thoughts – thoughts which interfere with their ability to work properly, have relationships, and go about their daily activities. Many say that sexual addiction is a form of obsessive compulsive behavior. A person with sexual addiction obsessed with sex, or has an abnormally intense sex drive. Their lives are dominated with sex and the thought of sex; so much so that other activities and interactions become seriously affected. It is not uncommon for the patient with sexual addiction to rationalize and justify their behavior and thought patterns. People with a sex addiction may deny there is a problem. Experts say there is a strong link between sexual addiction and risk-taking. Even though the risk of danger is clear, they may take risks regardless of the potential consequences, even if this means possible health problems (sexually transmitted diseases), physical risks or emotional consequences.
The sex addict may initially be involved in a healthy and enjoyable sexual situation which eventually develops into an obsession. Fantasies and sometimes actual acts may be well outside the radar of most people’s idea of what is sexually acceptable behavior. There is effective treatment available for individuals with sexual addiction. The World Health Organization in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) includes “excessive sexual drive” as a diagnosis of sexual addiction. Is sexual addiction really a disorder? – researchers from UCLA wrote in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology that”sexual addiction” may be nothing more than strong sexual desire. The scientists measured brain responses of hypersexual participants who had difficulties regulating their reactions to sexual images. The team found that individual brain responses were related to sexual desire rather than levels of hypersexuality. Sexual impulses, not weak self-control, make men cheat – a study carried out at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University and published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that human males are more likely to be unfaithful than females because they have stronger sexual impulses, rather than weaker self control.
What are the signs and symptoms of sexual addiction?
A symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notice. For example, drowsiness may be a symptom while dilated pupils may be a sign. Even though there is no current official diagnosis for sex addiction, doctors and researchers have tried to define the disorder using criteria based on literature on chemical dependency. Some sex addiction behaviors may include:
- Compulsive self-stimulation (masturbation);
- Multiple affairs, this includes extra marital affairs;
- Multiple one-night stands;
- Multiple sexual partners;
- Persistent use of pornography;
- Practicing unsafe sex;
- Using prostitutes;
- Dating through personal ads, but in an obsessive way;
- Watching others in a sexual way (voyeurism);
- Sexual harassment;
- Detachment – the sexual activity does not satisfy the individual sexually or emotionally. Bonding with the sexual partner is lacking;
- Feelings of guilt and shame;
- Feeling of lack of control over the sexual addiction, even though he/she is aware of the financial, health, or social consequences. The individual may have a recurrent failure pattern to resist impulses to engage in extreme acts of lewd sex. Individuals find themselves often engaging in sexual behaviors for much longer than they had intended, and to a much greater extent;
- There have been several attempts to stop, reduce or control behaviors;
- The person spends a great deal of time obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from a sexual experience;
- The person may give up social, work-related or recreational activities because of their sexual addiction;
- Sexual rage disorder – the individual may become distressed, anxious, restless and even violent if unable to engage in their addiction.
What are the causes of sexual addiction?
Nobody is sure why some people become addicted to sex while others don’t. As antidepressant medication and some other psychotropic drugs have been found to be effective in the treatment of sex addiction in a significant number of cases, experts believe sex addiction may be linked to a biochemical abnormality or some chemical changes in the brain. There may be a common pathway within our brain’s survival and reward systems which dictates our behavior with food, drugs (abusing them) and sexual interests. The pathway may reach parts of our brain which influence our judgment, rational thought and higher thinking.
Researchers found that lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) – a part of the brain – result in compulsive sexual behavior. Some studies have found that people with sex addiction frequently come from dysfunctional families. A person with sexual addiction is more likely to have been abused than other people. A significant number of recovering sex addicts have reported some type of addiction among family members.