Sex: it can be tons of fun and really enjoyable – or it can get us is in a lot of trouble. Unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and illnesses, and tons of drama stem from one-night stand mistakes. There’s a reason sex is still considered an activity for mature, consensual adults.
However, what happens when sex gets out of control? When it becomes an uncontrollable urge, a persistent itch beneath the skin, interfering with your life and relationships, what happens then? What happens when sex becomes an addiction?
Sex Addiction is Real: The Signs and Symptoms
Understanding sex addiction is difficult for most people to understand, as is addiction in general. When one has never experienced the overwhelming, all-consuming urge to drink, use illicit substances, or compulsively do something despite knowing how harmful it can be, it’s easy to deny that addiction is more than a moral shortcoming. This is also true when it comes to non-substance based addictions, like gambling, body modification, and especially sex.
Sex addiction can be just as crippling and life-changing as an addiction to heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. The stigmas against addiction are difficult enough, but society has come a much farther way in understanding substance abuse than in understanding non-substance addictions. Sex addiction is not an excuse for cheating, or a lie to get out of commitment; people living with sex addiction struggle to maintain personal relationships, working relationships, and social standing often in silence and shame. They face intense physical and mental symptoms just as those with other addictions do, such as:
- Engaging in an increased amount of sex with more partners than intended.
- Persistent preoccupation with intercourse.
- Prioritizing sex over other activities.
- Continually engaging in excessive sexual acts despite the desire to cut back or stop.
- Finding the need to engage in more sex to achieve the same effects.
- Feeling anxiety or irritability when unable to engage in sex.
Risks of Untreated Sex Addiction: Loss of Relationships, STDs, Damaged Reputation
Some may joke that sex addiction sounds like a dream, and how it must be so much fun – it’s not. The average sexually active person is at risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV/AIDS. The risks are increased in certain areas of the country and among certain demographics, but sexual addiction only serves to further increase the risks.
Impulsivity and lapses in judgment can lead to unprotected sex with people we have just met, with unknown sexual and medical histories. Unfortunately, what some people view as “just a bit of fun” can have very real and long lasting consequences. While we should not judge others based on their medical conditions, putting ourselves in needless jeopardy is dangerous to ourselves and others.
In addition to the health risks, promiscuity is still stigmatized, even when it is the result of a legitimate disorder. Those assumptions based on preconceptions ruin reputations, causing problems in all areas of life. Rumors can derail potential relationships, business opportunities, and friendships. Existing relationships can be strained by the sexual demands caused by sex addiction, insecurities, and self-doubt. Left untreated, sexual addiction wreaks havoc on all areas of one’s life.
How to Talk to Someone Who is Addicted to Sex
If you suspect you or someone you know is living with sex addiction, it is important to seek professional help for the sake of your physical and mental health. Just as with any other addiction, it often has roots in deeper issues, such as emotional traumas or underlying mental health disorders. Rehabilitation services exist and support groups exist for people living with sex addiction. Recovery is possible. You don’t have to live as a slave to your body any longer.
For some, realization that sex has become a problem doesn’t come easily. Some only realize there is a problem when it is pointed out to them by well-meaning, compassionate people in their lives who love them. However, as someone outside of the situation, it’s important to approach it correctly.
Here’s a few tips for approaching someone regarding sex addiction:
- Avoid accusation and finger pointing.
- Be a supporter, not an enabler.
- Have real suggestions for solutions.
- Listen intently.
- Recognize that you cannot force anyone to do anything they are not ready for.
How to Seek Treatment
As we continue to learn more about addiction in general, and how it affects us mentally, emotionally, and physically, more recovery options and rehabilitation treatments become available. It’s important that, no matter what type of addiction you are facing, your path of recovery is tailored to work best for you. Ultimately, that means entering a treatment facility for continuous monitoring and care, or private counseling with a personal therapist or through support groups. Personalized care creates a solid foundation for a new, addiction-free life.
Make sure to do proper research before committing to treatment, but do not let yourself detour from your desire to overcome addiction. Know that your journey is yours and yours alone. Move at your own pace, but always keep moving.
You are strong enough to overcome anything.