Compulsive shopping, sexual addiction and gambling addiction are all examples of addictions that don’t involve substance use. Sexual addiction can be especially harmful as it affects a person’s mental health and may cause them to engage in sexual behaviours that increase the risk for sexually transmitted diseases.
What Is Sex Addiction?
The National Health Service defines a sexual addiction as any type of sexual activity that gets out of control. When discussing sex addiction, many people assume a partner must be involved, but some people develop addictions to masturbation, pornography or engaging in sexually charged online chats. In people without sex addiction, it’s possible to control sexual urges and engage in sexual behaviour only when it’s appropriate. For sex addicts, it’s much more difficult to control sexual impulses, which may cause a variety of negative consequences.
Causes of Compulsive Sexual Behaviour
Researchers don’t know the exact causes of compulsive sexual behaviour, but they have identified some factors that increase the risk for sex addiction. One of those risk factors is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. High levels of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters may contribute to the development of sex addiction in some individuals. Medical problems that affect the brain may also increase the risk of sex addiction. These conditions include dementia and epilepsy. Finally, changes in the reinforcement centers of the brain may cause someone to engage in compulsive sexual behaviour.
Risk Factors for Sex Addiction
Some people are more likely to develop a sexual addiction than others. Easy access to sexual material is one of the most significant risk factors. For example, someone who can easily access online pornography has a higher risk of developing a sex addiction than someone who can’t access this type of content. Sex addiction is also more likely to develop in people who have the privacy they need to view sexual materials or engage in compulsive sexual behaviours without being interrupted.
Substance use disorders can also increase the risk of sex addiction, especially in people who tend to feel less inhibited when they drink alcohol, take prescription medications or use illicit substances. Drinking and using drugs may make it more likely that someone will give in to their sexual urges when it’s inappropriate to do so. Additional risk factors include a history of sexual abuse, a high level of conflict within the family and the presence of another mental health condition. For example, people with depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety have a higher risk of becoming sex addicts than people without these mental disorders.
Signs and Symptoms of Sexual Addiction
People with sexual addictions experience a wide variety of signs and symptoms. These symptoms may be more severe in some individuals than others.
- Constant preoccupation with sex
- Excessive use of sexual webcams or chat services
- Multiple sexual affairs
- Frequent masturbation
- Engaging in risky sexual behaviour
- Difficulty maintaining intimate relationships
- Increasing secrecy regarding their sexual behaviour
Classification of Sex Addiction
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is used to assess mental health symptoms and make accurate diagnoses based on an accepted set of criteria. In the current version of the DSM, hypersexual disorder is proposed as a new psychiatric disorder characterised by intense preoccupation with sexual urges and behaviours. Under the proposed criteria, someone might be diagnosed with hypersexual disorder if they’re unable to control the amount of time they spend having sexual fantasies, engaging in sexual behaviours or having sexual urges in response to mood changes or stressful life circumstances.
Treating Sexual Addiction
Some of the most common therapeutic approaches to treating sex addiction include psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychodynamic therapy helps people identify their unconscious thoughts and become more aware of their personal motivations. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps people with sexual addictions identify their limiting beliefs and replace them with more effective coping methods. Acceptance and commitment therapy, a type of CBT, encourages people with sexual addictions to accept their urges and commit to making decisions that are well-aligned with their personal values.
Mood stabilisers, naltrexone, antidepressants and anti-androgens have all been used to curb compulsive sexual behaviour in people with sex addictions. Mood stabilisers are typically prescribed for people who have bipolar disorder, but they can also be useful for treating other mental health conditions. Naltrexone helps people with substance-based addictions and behavioural addictions by blocking the brain’s ability to experience pleasure when engaging in certain activities.
Antidepressants are used to treat several co-occurring psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which may limit sexual urges. Anti-androgens block the effects of male sex hormones (androgens). They’re often used to treat sexual offenders whose urges can put others at risk.
Attending support group meetings can also be helpful for people dealing with sexual addictions. Sex Addicts Anonymous offers 12-step meetings, giving participants an opportunity to share their experiences and support each other through the addiction recovery process. There’s also an organisation called Love Addicts Anonymous, which helps people recover from harmful dependencies on love and relationships.
Sex Addiction Treatment in the Swiss Alps
If you’ve been struggling with a sex addiction, it’s possible to learn how to control your urges and build stronger relationships with others. Clinic Les Alpes offers comprehensive treatment for sex addiction, giving you access to holistic treatments, several types of therapy and medications to help you manage your symptoms. Located near Montreux, Switzerland, Clinic Les Alpes is licensed by the Swiss Health Department and hires only the most experienced professionals to provide addiction treatment.
When you come to Clinic Les Alpes, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty, giving you the mental clarity you need to work through your problems and take responsibility for your actions. To learn more about our luxury rehabilitation centre, call (877) 630-4284 to speak with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate staff members.