WHAT IS A SEX ADDICTION?
Sex addictions manifest in various forms, and although they can share some commonalities in some sense, most of them differ from one another. However, as a whole, sex addictions are typically characterised by sexual activities or urges that are difficult to control.
These urges manifest through different means. However, they usually begin as intrusive sexual thoughts that become unstoppable – this is the stage where they become problematic and are considered to be an addiction.
TYPES OF SEXUAL ADDICTIONS
Generally speaking, the broad term sex addiction can be categorised into different terms that branch from the same root. Some individuals may experience multiple types of sex addiction simultaneously.
However, due to the experimental nature of the subject and the various avenues it encompasses, some individuals may not fit perfectly into specific definitions of sex addiction. However, here are the most common types of sex addictions in the UK.
GENERALISED SEX ADDICTION
Although this is not a medical term, generalised sex addiction refers to compulsive sexual behaviours in general. This is a broad term often used to describe obsessive thoughts and urges regarding any type of sexual experience or encounter.
Love addiction is a condition characterised by a pattern of becoming emotionally dependent on the feeling of being in love or being in a relationship to the point where it has a detrimental effect on the individual’s well-being and functioning.
People with love addiction often form relationships that are intense but ultimately dysfunctional; they may experience a constant need for affirmation from their partner and fear of abandonment or loneliness.
Pornography addiction is the compulsive need to consume pornographic material despite the potential negative consequences on the individual’s life. Individuals may find themselves spending an excessive amount of time viewing pornography, which can disrupt their daily activities, work, relationships, and social engagements. It often escalates over time, leading to a disconnection from real-life relationships.
SEX WITH PROSTITUTES
This involves seeking out sexual experiences with prostitutes as a form of addiction. Individuals may find themselves in a pattern where they are unable to resist the urge to engage in this behaviour despite potential risks such as sexually transmitted infections, legal consequences, and the detriment of personal relationships.
SADISTIC OR MASOCHISTIC BEHAVIOUR
This category refers to individuals who compulsively seek out pain or humiliation (masochism) or derive sexual pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation on others (sadism). While consensual acts within the context of a healthy relationship can be part of normal sexual expression, when these behaviours become compulsive and harmful, they can be classified as an addiction.
COMPULSIVE MASTURBATION AND FANTASIES
Compulsive masturbation or engaging in sexual fantasy to the point where it interferes with everyday life can be considered an addiction. This might involve an uncontrollable urge to masturbate, often coupled with elaborate fantasies, which can consume many hours of the day, leading to neglect of responsibilities and relationships.
SEX WITH STRANGERS
Engaging in sexual acts with strangers compulsively and as a primary method of achieving sexual gratification falls under this category. The behaviour can involve constant searching for new partners and can often lead to unsafe sexual practices, emotional detachment, and a cycle of guilt and shame.
COMPULSIVE HETEROSEXUAL OR HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS
This type of addiction involves an uncontrollable urge to be in a relationship or a series of relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual. It’s characterised by a pattern of short-term, intense, and often dysfunctional relationships where the person may feel an intense fear of being alone or single.
EXHIBITIONISM AND VOYEURISM
Exhibitionism is the compulsive urge to expose oneself in public, while voyeurism is the compulsive act of spying on others for sexual pleasure. When these acts are done compulsively and cause distress or impair one’s social or occupational functioning, they may be considered as part of a sex addiction.
SEX AND LOVE ADDICTION STATISTICS IN THE UK
While there are limited reliable and accurate statistics for sex and love addictions in the UK, it is safe to say that the problem is escalating, and we are seeing more clients reaching out to us for help. Since this particular addiction branches out into a wide variety of conditions, each formulating different symptoms and affecting different groups of people; the numbers are somewhat challenging to record.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF SEXUAL ADDICTIONS
Sexual addictions are caused and triggered by a multitude of factors. These causes are dependent on the condition itself and can be influenced by a degree of psychological, biological and social aspects.
- Early Exposure: Early exposure to sexual content or experiences can sometimes act as a trigger for developing sex addiction later in life.
- Emotional Trauma: Traumatic experiences, especially those related to emotional or sexual abuse, can lead to addiction as an unhealthy coping mechanism.
- Stress and Anxiety: Individuals may use sex as a way to manage or escape from stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Neurochemical Changes: Sexual activity can release chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, which can create a compulsion to repeat the behaviour.
- Mental Health Disorders: Compulsions can also be associated with mental health disorders, including personality disorders or mood disorders.
SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES
- Relationship Issues: Difficulties in personal relationships can contribute to the development of addiction.
- Cultural and Media Influence: Some argue that the increasing sexualisation of society and easy access to sexual content may lead to sex addiction.
- Substance Abuse: There is often a correlation between sex addiction and other forms of addiction, including substance abuse.
- Attachment Issues: Problems with early attachment and interpersonal relationships can predispose individuals to addiction.
- Past Behavioural Patterns: Previous patterns of risky or compulsive sexual behaviour may escalate into addiction over time.
OTHER POTENTIAL CAUSES
- Lack of Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Without healthy ways to cope with negative emotions or experiences, individuals may turn to sex.
- Reward Sensitivity: Some people may be more sensitive to the reward and pleasure systems in the brain, leading to addictive behaviours.
It’s important to note that sex addiction is a complex issue, and what causes it in one individual may not be the same for another. Understanding the underlying causes often requires a thorough assessment by a professional.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH CONSEQUENCES
Sex addiction can have a wide range of physical and mental health consequences, affecting various aspects of an individual’s life – here are some potential consequences:
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Engaging in unprotected sexual activities increases the risk of STIs, including HIV.
- Unintended Pregnancies: A higher likelihood of unintended pregnancies can result from compulsive sexual behaviours.
- Physical Injury: Certain sexual behaviours, especially those involving risk or lack of consent, may lead to physical injury.
- Exhaustion: The physical demands of compulsive sexual activities can lead to general fatigue and decreased immune function.
- Depression and Anxiety: These are common among individuals struggling with sex addiction, often as a result of guilt, shame, or the consequences of their actions.
- Low Self-Esteem: Feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy may develop, particularly if the individual views their behaviour as morally or socially unacceptable.
- Obsessive Thoughts: Compulsive sexual thoughts can dominate the person’s mental space, making it difficult to focus on other aspects of life.
SOCIAL AND RELATIONSHIPS
- Relationship Strain: Marriages and partnerships can suffer due to betrayal, trust issues, and neglect.
- Isolation: Individuals may become socially isolated due to their addiction or as a result of the time consumed by their compulsive behaviours.
- Workplace Issues: Productivity and professional relationships can be affected by the preoccupation with sexual thoughts or activities.
LEGAL AND FINANCIAL
- Legal Consequences: Behaviours such as soliciting sex, public indecency, or non-consensual acts can lead to legal issues.
- Financial Strain: Money spent on pursuing sexual encounters, pornography, or related activities can lead to financial problems.
POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE
- Domestic Violence: In some cases, sex addiction may be linked to forms of domestic abuse, either as a perpetrator or victim.
- Exploitative Behaviours: There may be instances of exploiting others for sexual gratification, which can have legal and moral implications.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND CO-OCCURRING DISORDERS
- Substance Abuse: Individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional turmoil of their addiction.
- Suicidal Thoughts: The mental and emotional stress of sex addiction can, in severe cases, lead to suicidal ideation.
It’s important to approach this topic with sensitivity and understanding, as the consequences of sex addiction can be deeply personal and varied. Professional treatment and support can help mitigate these effects and provide pathways to healthier coping mechanisms and lifestyles.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR SEX ADDICTS
At PROMIS, we provide sex and love addiction treatment options for sex addicts of all types. We treat each patient individually, offering tailored treatment programmes with the best-suited course of therapies and aftercare.
Our treatment plans may also include medications for those with severe mental health conditions who struggle to manage or regulate their emotions. Here is an overview of our programmes at PROMIS.
Our inpatient treatment provides our patients with 24-hour care under the close watch of our specialised staff. This residential setting offers a luxury stay within one of our centres in either a city-based or country location – both of which are ideal for overcoming and achieving an enduring recovery.
Our outpatient service is ideal for patients who need a little more flexibility. For those who cannot commit to a full-time stay with us, PROMIS provides sex addiction counselling and sex therapy with more freedom to remain engaged in outside commitments, such as work and childcare.
PROMIS is proud to offer some of the best treatments for sex related issues in the UK. We offer a range of therapies that include: individual therapy, group therapy and, in some cases, family therapy. Our clinicians use the most up-to-date technologies and evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy.
We believe in treating our patients thoroughly – that means providing valuable aftercare once the initial treatment phase has ended. We offer aftercare services for all of our patients to ensure they continue their recovery journey successfully.
GET HELP WITH PROMIS
If you or a loved one are experiencing uncontrollable sexual impulses or think you may be addicted to sex, it’s important to reach out for help and support. PROMIS can provide a free assessment to determine your condition, evaluate the best course of treatment, and get you back on track – contact us today. Begin your new and brighter future.