Sexual addiction is a condition in which an individual cannot manage their sexual behavior. Persistent sexual thoughts affect their ability to work, maintain relationships, and fulfil their daily activities.
While sexual addiction shares some features with substance addiction, the person is addicted to an activity, not a substance. Treatment may help, but without treatment, it may get worse.
An estimated 12 to 30 million people in the United States (U.S.) experience sexual addiction and it affects both men and women.
The common charachteristics of sex and love addiction include:
- Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.
- Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships, concealing our dependency needs from ourselves and others, growing more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones, ourselves, and God.
- Fearing emotional and/or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves in one relationship after another, sometimes have more than one sexual or emotional liaison at a time.
- We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity and/or the need to rescue or be rescued.
- We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone. Even though we fear intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships and sexual contacts.
- We sexualise, stress, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing care and support.
- We use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others.
- We become immobilised or seriously distracted by romantic or sexual obsessions and fantasies.
- We avoid responsibility for ourselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable.
- We stay enslaved to emotional dependency, romantic intrigue or compulsive sexual activities.
- To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all involvement, mistaking sexual or emotional anorexia for recovery.
- We assign magical qualities. We idealise and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.
Untreated, compulsive sexual behavior can leave the individual with intense feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Some patients may develop severe anxiety and depression.
Other complications may include:
- Family relationship problems and breakups
- Financial problems
- Legal consquences, if the sexual act is illegal or publically disruptive, such as in exhibitionism.
If you feel like you may be suffering from sex and love addiction, please take our self-assessment test or contact us directly.
Author: Nick Kypriotis, Client Relations Manager (MSc, FDAP NCAC) at The Kusnacht Practice