Sex Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects
By: Psych Guides
What Are the Different Types of Sexual Addictions?
There are no distinct categories, but sexual addictions can come in different forms, including addiction to:
Masturbation or fantasy.
Sadistic or masochistic behavior.
Other excessive sexual pursuits.
Several signs can serve to indicate whether someone is addicted to sex. These can be emotional or physical. Furthermore, it’s important to know the debilitating effects of sexual addiction.
Emotional Symptoms of Sex Addiction
If you or someone you love suffers from a sex addiction, you might not have healthy boundaries. If your husband is addicted to porn or sex, you may feel alienated, isolated, depressed, angry, or humiliated and need treatment yourself. If you are addicted to sex, you might become easily involved with people sexually or emotionally regardless of how well you know them, according to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Because most sex addicts fear being abandoned, they might stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or they may jump from relationship to relationship. When alone, they might feel empty or incomplete. They might also sexualize feelings like guilt, loneliness or fear.
Physical Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Although a sex addiction or pornography addiction can create many physical side effects, few physical symptoms of this disorder exist. However, the most common physical sex addict symptoms you might notice from having a sexual addiction is feeling immobilized due to sexual or emotional obsessions.
Effects of Sex Addiction
The effects of a sex addiction can be severe.
According to Departmental Management of the USDA, about 38% of men and 45% of women with sex addictions have a venereal disease as a result of their behavior.
Pregnancy is also a common side effect that can occur due to risky behavior. In one survey, nearly 70% of women with sex addictions reported they’d experienced at least one unwanted pregnancy as a result of their addiction.
Additionally, sex addiction likely has a negative impact on several areas of one’s life. It can lead to:
A decline in personal relationships, social, and family engagement.
Decreased concentration and productivity at work.
Physical consequences like sexual dysfunction or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
It can have profound psychological effects, like generating feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress. It can lead to, or stem from, comorbid psychological disorders like:
Problems related to impulse control and emotion dysregulation.
Obsessive-Compulsive type symptoms.
It is important to know that addressing co-occurring problems in one’s life, like depression, social anxiety, or social isolation, can make it easier to recover from sexual addiction.
Am I Addicted to Sex?
It is best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation of your sex addiction, however, you may also want to look out for the following signs:
You feel powerless over how you act sexually.
Your sexual choices are making your life unmanageable.
You feel shame, embarrassment or even self-loathing over your sexual acts.
You promise yourself you’ll change, but fail to keep those promises.
You’re so preoccupied with sex it becomes like a ritual to you.
If you’re exhibiting any of these symptoms, it might be time to seek sex addiction treatment. If you also have a co-occurring substance addiction (e.g., alcohol, cocaine), call to learn more about treatment options.
Get Help For Sex Addiction
It is important to understand that although sex and porn addiction are not “formally” diagnosable, these conditions exist and often present with very adverse consequences and high levels of distress, guilt, and emotional turmoil. If you can relate to the symptoms mentioned above, or know somebody who meets these criteria, do not hesitate to ask for help. Call to speak to a treatment support specialist who can provide you with more information.
What Causes an Addiction to Sex?
Sexual addiction, like porn addiction, can develop due to factors that encompass all aspects of an individual’s life. These include:
Genes: You may have a genetic predisposition to emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, or sensation-seeking behavior. You may also have a predisposition to other traits that are commonly associated with sexual addiction, like anxiety or depression.
Hormones: As one might expect, higher levels of sex hormones like testosterone or estrogen can affect libido. If you are inclined towards impulsive behavior and have high levels of sex-related hormones, you may be more likely to engage in excess sexual activities.
Environmental influences: Early-life environmental factors, including adverse events like abuse or exposure to sexual content, can contribute to some of the underlying characteristics that drive hypersexual behavior.
Mental health: Anxiety, depression, personality disorders, poor impulse control, and performance anxiety might be simultaneous issues that one struggles with alongside sex addiction. Those that have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, or have a tendency toward “manic” states, are much more likely to engage in excessive or risky sexual behavior.
Rejection in relationships and social circles can lead to other, less healthy ways to find sexual gratification.
Social isolation: Not only does social isolation increase one’s likelihood of seeking inappropriate ways of being sexually gratified, it also leads to a host of other problems–like depression and physical maladies–that can contribute to sex addictions or unhealthy sex behaviors.
Social learning: Watching others perform a behavior, or “modeling,” is one way to learn something new–especially when you “like” or “identify” with that person. So having a friend, or a group of friends, who engage in excessive sexual activities or porn viewing can influence you in a very subtle, yet powerful, way.
Can Sex Addiction Be Treated?
Yes, sex addiction can be treated. You will typically want to speak with a mental health professional, like a psychologist or licensed social worker. They will help you address some of the underlying factors that are maintaining your sex or porn addiction, and teach you to cope with your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.