Addiction does not always refer to illicit substances. There are also behaviors, or processes, to which a person can become addicted, such as gambling, eating, and shopping. Sex and love addiction, a type of serious behavioral addiction that can have drastic, negative consequences for the individual, is often overlooked.
Let’s look at sex and love addiction as separate conditions and explore the symptoms and causes of both.
Sex addiction can manifest in a number of different ways but is generally characterized by a lack of control over sexual thought and behavior. Many sex addicts suffer feelings of guilt and shame in relation to their addiction.1 An affected individual might resist seeking help due to these feelings and a fear of being judged. Similarly to all other types of addiction, sex addiction can drive a person to engage in high risk behavior in order to feed their addiction.2
As mentioned, sex addiction can manifest in various ways. The following are some of the most common characteristics of sex addiction:
Excessive masturbation and/or consumption of pornography
Many sexual partners
Multiple sexual affairs while in an exclusive relationship
Frequent sexual engagement with prostitutes
Using increasingly extreme types of sex and pornography
Excessive use of online sex chat rooms/live web cams
Engaging in high risk sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex or asphyxiation
Trying to reduce sexual activity/fantasy but being unable to do so
Neglecting responsibilities and instead prioritizing their addiction
Struggling to be open and authentic with a partner
Continuing to engage in their desired activities despite clear consequences in other areas of life
Some of the above activities are not harmful in moderation. Everyone’s sexual preferences are different and need not be judged. However, these activities become a problem when they begin to impact one’s personal and professional life, as they do when a person develops a sex addiction.
Sex addiction can be difficult for people to deal with as feelings of guilt and shame are often present, and sex addiction also has an impact on the partners of those addicted. Some people may feel hurt by their partner’s addiction or feel a sense of betrayal or jealousy. To avoid judgment and to protect a partner’s feelings, an addicted individual may be secretive about their behavior.
Love addiction is characterized by:
An overwhelming need to feel loved or be in a relationship
Neglect or compromise of one’s own needs and well-being to satisfy or keep a partner
Obsession with the idea of being in love
Numerous relationships, or staying in relationships that are destructive
Difficulty being alone
Falling in love with someone without knowing them well
Cycling through relationships
Obsession with and reliance on a partner
Experiencing severe depression following a break-up
Engaging in high-risk, destructive behavior following a break-up
Neglecting family and friends in favor of spending time with a partner
Feeling jealous when a partner spends time with others
Love addiction usually occurs out of an attachment disorder, where the attention of one’s partner becomes an obsession. Very often, those suffering from a love addiction struggle with feelings of:
Low self esteem
A sense of unworthiness
Fear of abandonment
Love addiction can be dangerous for the affected individual. Some people may stay in toxic and potentially abusive relationships due to their addiction. Those struggling with this addiction may not be aware of their condition, and many people are unaware that love addiction is even a condition.
Sex and/or love addiction can affect anyone, but there certain groups more predisposed to these conditions.
The following are just some of the factors that can contribute to the development of addiction.3
Sex addiction is associated with high levels of chemical changes in the brain. When a desire is gratified, high levels of satisfaction and even euphoria are felt. The brain then drives the individual to seek more sexual pleasure.4
Addiction can also develop due to an over secretion of androgen, a sex-related hormone. Androgen influences our libido and can cause a sex addiction to worsen when it’s over-secreted.
Dysfunction in one’s family background can lead to sex and love addiction.5 Attachment ruptures during early childhood can leave some individuals with attachment disorder, which can manifest as love addiction. A family history of addiction also increases one’s likelihood of developing an addiction.6
Studies on sex addiction have found that a large percentage of sex addiction cases come from a history of abuse.7
As with all types of addiction, sex and love addiction can have a significantly damaging effect on individuals and their families. Our goal here at Heather R. Hayes & Associates is to help anyone struggling with addiction recover from their condition and improve their quality of life, as well as that of their families and other loved ones.
We offer a range of expert-led services, provided by a team of professionals trained in Trauma-Informed Responsive Intervention™, case managers, recovery coaches, and more. If you are or someone you know is suffering from sex or love addiction, please don’t hesitate to contact us for guidance.
1 Gilliland, Randy et al. “The Roles Of Shame And Guilt In Hypersexual Behavior”. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, vol 18, no. 1, 2011, pp. 12-29. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182. Accessed 15 Oct 2020.
2 Moraites, Robynn. “Risk Taking Behavior And Its Connection To Addiction”. NCLAP, 2014, https://www.nclap.org/risk-taking-behavior-and-addiction/. Accessed 16 Oct 2020.
3 BK, Ajegena et al. “Sex And Sexual Addiction In The United States Of America: An Overview Of Its Epidemiology, Management And Prevention Strategies”. Journal Of Addiction Research & Therapy, vol 09, no. 05, 2018. OMICS Publishing Group, doi:10.4172/2155-6105.1000366. Accessed 16 Oct 2020.
4 BK, Ajegena et al. “Sex And Sexual Addiction In The United States Of America: An Overview Of Its Epidemiology, Management And Prevention Strategies”. Journal Of Addiction Research & Therapy, vol 09, no. 05, 2018. OMICS Publishing Group, doi:10.4172/2155-6105.1000366. Accessed 16 Oct 2020.
5 BK, Ajegena et al. “Sex And Sexual Addiction In The United States Of America: An Overview Of Its Epidemiology, Management And Prevention Strategies”. Journal Of Addiction Research & Therapy, vol 09, no. 05, 2018. OMICS Publishing Group, doi:10.4172/2155-6105.1000366. Accessed 16 Oct 2020.
6 Swisher SH (2007) Therapeutic Interventions recommended for treatment of sexual addiction/compulsivity. Sex Addict Compulsivity 2: 31-39.
7 Ferree MC (2002) No stones: Women redeemed from sexual shame. Vancouver: Xulon.
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