Sex addiction - Dependence or desire?

Sex addiction

Sex addiction is hotly debated: some experts deny its existence, others (usually those who can make money out of the dependency) use it as the excuse for every fetish, affair and perversion going, so what is the truth? Well, we looked at addiction last issue and categorised it as a dependency that cannot simply be stopped, even if it is causing harm. So with this in mind, Dr Rob takes a look at sex!

'Sex addiction - Dependence or desire?'

by Dr Rob Hicks

When headlines shout about public figures being ‘caught in the act’, exposed as having enjoyed the act, or simply admitting to being part of the act, the defence of sex addiction has been met with wry smiles and “yeah right, pull the other one,” if you’ll excuse the pun! But increasingly people are reaching the conclusion that sex addiction can be real, as it’s possible to become addicted to anything, as Robert Palmer so famously sang. 

For years, people have described those with alleged ‘sex addiction’ as simply being weak-willed, or lacking in moral fibre. Many have been accused of using sex addiction as an excuse to justify their behaviours and help heal relationship rifts. However, when you break addiction down to the nitty gritty, put simply: addiction is when a person doesn’t have control over what they are doing, using, or taking, such that what they feel compelled or driven to do is harmful and damaging. Easy to see then how – like addiction to food, gambling, and even shopping – addiction to sex can be real.

Why do people get addicted to sex?

The addictive act causes a release of chemicals in the body, changing how a person feels physically and mentally. When this is enjoyed, there’s a craving to experience these feelings again and again. Soon it’s out of a person’s control as they become dependent upon it to be able to continue through everyday life, the behaviour becoming a major part of their daily routine. The resulting damage from sex addiction can be seen in personal, social and work relationships, not forgetting the financial impact sex addiction can have if someone is paying to fulfil their needs.
 

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction doesn’t only cover:
  • Sexual activities with lots of different people – although this is what is most often reported in the media.

Sex addiction can also be:

  • Having sex with the same person more frequently than would generally be regarded as normal. 
  • It can also be represented by compulsive masturbation,  
  • Or excessive use of pornography, nowadays often through the internet.

What causes sex addiction?

The area of sex addiction is only now being more openly talked about and scientifically researched, so it’s no surprise that precisely what causes it remains unclear. Some sex addicts may have a genetic predisposition to developing an addiction that is then triggered by a life event. Those with sex addiction are also more likely to have other addictions. It’s suggested that those who experience emotional trauma, abuse, depression, or neglect in childhood are at greater risk. However, usually there’s no single explanation for why a person becomes addicted to something.

In conclusion

So, can someone be a sex addict or not? For an individual, is sex addiction just an excuse when their activities become uncovered, or could they have a real mental health problem? The answer will of course depend on the individual, their circumstances, and often the opinion of an addiction specialist. For those who recognise they have a problem help is available, as it is for other addictions, and involves identifying and changing harmful behaviours; learning ways to control urges and cravings; andimportantly, where necessary repairing any damage suffered by those around them. 
  

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Editor's view

I tried, but I could not keep out of this topic – I have researched it thoroughly and I feel very strongly about the subject, so I AM going to stick my opinion in! I have to add to this discussion that sex addiction is not at this point considered a medical condition in this country, nor is it morally, or by law an excuse for illegal behaviour. 
 
We all have different sexual appetites; I know a girl who was so concerned with her high sexual appetite (4-5 orgasms a day was barely enough!) that she saw a doctor, but was told she didn’t have a problem. I also know couples who do not share the same bed and are quite happy with that level of intimacy. So when it comes to sexual desire there is a very large range of ‘normal’.
 
I also don’t see sex addiction and affairs as mutually exclusive! I think people have affairs for many reasons, and there are many married people who depend upon pornography and excessive masturbation, but who never stray. I suppose it could be put like this: sex addiction and affairs are like heroin addiction and crime, one can feed the other, but in many cases criminals are not addicts and addicts are not criminals – you can have one without the other!   
 

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