Sexual thoughts and behaviors can become problematic if they become unmanageable and out of control. Sex addiction, or hypersexual arousal disorder, is a debilitating disorder in which someone cannot control their sexual behaviors or desires and spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking about acting out in sexual ways. This article will discuss various sex addiction signs and treatment options.The compulsion to act out in sexual ways may feel uncontrollable despite the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or emotional consequences. Acting out or obsessive thoughts or fantasies about sexual behavior can interfere with work, relationships, and/or daily life.
Most sex addicts report that their behavior lasted much longer than they anticipated or intended, and to a much greater extent. They also report high levels of guilt, shame, and distress over their behavior. Sex addicts can be male or female.
The cause of sex addiction is unknown, but biopsychosocial factors may contribute to the development of the addiction.
Sex Addiction Signs
There are many sex addiction signs, including:
Compulsive masturbation can be secretive and a way of self-medicating. Behavior can be either a daily routine or compulsive binges that can sometimes be paired with illicit drug use to increase the duration or intensity of the sensation. An addict can also injure their genital area as a result of compulsive masturbation.
Sex addicts can sometimes have fantasies that border on illegal or are illegal, such as a preference for underage minors. Fantasizing about underage minors doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in offending actions, but getting treatment from a trained professional is imperative.
VoyeurismSex addicts tend to sexualize other people that they look at. Voyeurism is not the same as pornography and it doesn’t necessarily involve masturbation. “Voyeurs” become aroused by sexualizing the uninformed person that they view through a window or a person’s skirt that they have looked up from under a staircase, for example.
Multiple affairs, multiple one night stands, anonymous sex, and risky or unsafe sex
Many times, a sex addict is diagnosed after being discovered by a partner of having an affair or caught acting out with another person or multiple people.
Hooking up through personal ads with anonymous partners allows the sex addict to maintain the secrecy of their addiction, but puts them and any partners at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.
Compulsive use of pornographySocial, personal, occupational, and financial consequences are the result of compulsive pornography usage. There is also a rise in porn-induced erectile dysfunction, which results in a man unable to get or maintain an erection without the use of pornography.
Sex addicts can sometimes be exhibitionists that flash their genitals in public, which is illegal. The person who is exposed to the exhibitionist’s genitals is not given a choice, which is categorized as offending behavior.
Cybersex is becoming more and more common as people discover the world of virtual sex. Sex addicts can have an encounter by sending sexually explicit messages and masturbating to one another either via chat rooms or other technology platforms.
Prostitution or use of prostitution
Prostitution is another form of illegal activity that sex addicts can have a preference for. Sex addicts sometimes choose to pay for sex or they can become involved in prostitution themselves.
Getting Help for Sex Addiction
Identifying with one or a few of these sex addiction signs does not necessarily mean you’re a sex addict, but like many other forms of addiction, addicts may deny there is a problem. There is help for sex addiction and a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) can evaluate a potential addict and make a diagnosis using a variety of assessment tools that will differentiate sex addiction from medical and other mental health disorders.
Once diagnosed, a CSAT will come up with an individualized appropriate treatment plan that will likely include individual counseling, group counseling, and couples counseling, if appropriate. When sexual addiction compulsions become severe or out of control, inpatient treatment may be warranted.
“Chained,” courtesy of Daniel Kramer, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Staring,” courtesy of Zachary Nelson, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Trapped,” courtesy of Andrew Neel, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Darkness,” courtesy of Iz zy, unsplash.com, Public Domain License