Sexual addiction: Understanding, diagnosing, and treating hypersexuality


Their names are all over the news and their deeds have led countless individuals to shed light on a problem our society is currently facing, and has been facing for some time now. The list of esteemed men now being ousted for their sexual exploits continues to grow daily, exposing the unfortunate impact of an oversexualized and undereducated society.

In the western world, sexual education is a heavily politicized topic and more often than not, our youth are sheltered from the topic of sex. What is problematic is that while taught so little about sex, it is depicted everywhere in society. Sex and innuendos run rampant throughout the media, in television shows and movies, and even in magazines geared towards adults and adolescents alike.

This causes our youth to develop into adults with a skewed idea of sexuality, which can inevitably lead to a variety of sexual disfunction disorders, the most currently publicized being sexual addiction. The good news is that understanding and addressing sexual addiction can lead to a better tomorrow with proper treatment.


What is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction is a mental health condition in which individuals experience uncontrollable, prolonged, and recurring sexual urges which are unrelated to other medical conditions, side effects of medication, or substance abuse.

There are many names for this disorder including sex addiction, hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, sexual compulsivity, compulsive sexual disorder, and nymphomania in women or satyriasis in men.

Sexual addiction shares many qualities to substance addiction. A sex addict may use sex as a coping mechanism, a reward, or may become addicted to the physical dopamine rush that accompanies sexual activities.

Sexual addiction is not limited to single individuals, either. Even those with healthy sex lives or involved in committed relationships can develop these urges, most often in an attempt to manage stress or depression.

The Impact of Sexual Addiction
The Impact of Sexual Addiction

Living with sexual addiction can be embarrassing, exasperating, and exhausting on both the addict and those around the addict.

Sexual addiction can cause a number of psychological and societal problems as an individual may have low self-esteem and feel guilty or even depressed over their uncontrollable sexual urges. These feelings tend to manifest themselves in everyday life and can lead to the loss of a job or relationship, risky sex practices, and even legal issues.

When an individual suffers from addiction, the effects exceed the boundaries of the bedroom. Individuals tend find social situations awkward when faced with uncontrollable sexual urges and may even withdraw from social settings entirely.

Sexual addiction can lead to infidelity, which can cause familial tensions and the loss of critical, intimate relationships. Sexual addiction can also have severe health consequences as compulsive, unprotected sexual activities greatly increase the likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

Recognizing Sexual Addiction

There are numerous indicators of sexual addiction, and yet it can still be difficult to diagnose as it manifests itself in many ways, and there is a fine line between what is considered a healthy but high sex drive and an uncontrollable fixation on sexual activity.

An individual suffering from sexual addiction typically engages in risky or compulsive sexual activities including unprotected sex with multiple partners, money for sex or sex for money, excessive viewing of pornography, and compulsive masturbation.

Oftentimes, during, or after, engaging in these compulsive sexual activities may evoke feelings of emotional detachment, guilt, obsession, shame, distress, anxiety, and even violence.

A sex addict likely also exhibits traditional clinical signs of addiction. A sex addict may develop a tolerance, demanding more sexual activity to fulfil the addiction, and may experience symptoms of withdrawal if the addiction is not fulfilled.

An individual suffering hypersexuality may also try to control their urges, or reduce the frequency of the urges to no avail, and may eventually surrender participation in social events and hobbies to their addiction.

While there are a number of indicators of hypersexuality, only a licensed psychotherapist or mental health professional can properly diagnose, and treat, sexual addiction.

Treating Sexual Addiction

While many people living with sexual problems believe their issues cannot be resolved, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Through proper sex therapy, sexual concerns of any kind, especially hypersexuality, can be overcome. Oftentimes sex therapy helps identify other coinciding psychological issues which can be simultaneously addressed in treatment.

Sexual addiction is best addressed in a therapeutic setting in which an individual can discuss their sexual attitudes and behaviors in a safe space, free from judgement. With the coaching and encouragement of a qualified, licensed psychotherapist who specializes in sex therapy, numerous approaches can be taken to combat sexual compulsions.

Sex therapy focuses on establishing trust which can lead to liberating breakthroughs that can help mend and develop healthy relationships. Because sexual addiction shares many similarities to substance addiction, talk therapy and a traditional twelve-step approach is often extremely effective in coping with, and ultimately overcoming, this addiction.

If you, or someone you know may be suffering from sexual addiction, there is a way to overcome the challenges that seem unsurpassable. Through a series of coaching sessions and proper therapy, this addiction can be conquered like any other.

Finally, you can lead a normal life without battling feelings of guilt, shame, and obsession. There is a way to reclaim your life.