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Sex Addiction: Is There Really Such A Thing?

- by Peter James Field, leading British psychotherapist with practices in London and Birmingham, England. He is author of numerous articles on psychotherapy, a Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and Fellow of the Royal Society of Health. Sex addiction has been defined as an intimacy disorder that is characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Ever since the term "sex addiction" became a familiar concept there has been a debate as to whether or not sex addiction is a real thing.

Yet many people every year seek help from mental health professionals and addiction programs in order to treat what they feel is sex addiction.

What is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction has been defined as a sexual intimacy disorder that is characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts, and sex obsession. This causes marked distress in the addict's personal life and often significant problems with their friends, family, and work life. Like other addictions, left untreated, sex addiction tends to intensify over time.

Some sex addicts masturbate compulsively, consume excessive amount of pornography, or engage in excessive amounts of computer or phone sex. For others it can involve excessive sexual trysts, prostitution, or repeated infidelity. And then for others still, sex addiction might also involve some illegal activities, such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape. That is certainly not to say that all sex addicts partake in illegal activities.

Sex addiction has a progressive element to it. It has been defined by the National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity as "engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others." This means that sex addicts often continue their dangerous and destructive behavior despite the negative effects it has on their health, personal relationships, and other areas of their lives.

What Causes Sex Addiction?

Experts aren't entirely sure why some people suffer from sex addiction and others don't. Many theories have been put forward. Some think it may involve some kind of biochemical abnormality in the brain. Others question if sex addiction might be related to some event or trauma in the person's past. More research needs to be done to find the cause of sex addiction. One thing that most scientists agree on, though, is that porn addiction definitely plays a massive part in developing sex addiction.

What Are the Symptoms of Sex Addiction?

While there is no official diagnosis for sex addiction, many professionals working in the field consider these factors when assessing a possible sex addict:

-- Often engaging in sexual acts with more partners than intended

-- Always craving or thinking about sex

-- Wanting to cut down on your sexual activity, but not being able to

-- Engaging in excessive amounts of sex with different partners despite intentions to stop

-- Spending much of your time doing things related to sex (viewing pornography, masturbating, engaging in sex, cruising for partners)

-- Neglecting other responsibilities in your personal, work, or financial life to pursue sex

-- Continuing to engage in these behaviors even after seeing the negative effect it has on your life and relationships

-- Having an escalating need for sex. You continually need more and more in order to feel satisfied

-- Feeling extremely irritable when unable to engage in your sexual act of choice

While one of these things alone doesn't make you a sex addict, if several of them sound familiar to you, you might want to consider seeking help from a therapist or mental health care professional who specializes in sex addiction.

There are many different ways to treat sex addiction, ranging from therapy, hypnotherapy, 12-step programs, and other options.

If you think you are experiencing sex addiction, the good news is that help really is available -- but you need to reach out and get it.

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THINK TWICE Sexual Risk Avoidance Education Initiative is supported by the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Grant #: 90TS00230100.
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