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Addiction to sex is a disorder that can be difficult to diagnose for a variety of reasons. However, when compulsive sexual behavior becomes distressing or prevents you from fulfilling daily obligations, it may be considered an addiction. An estimated 12 to 30 million people in the U.S. may have a sex addiction, according to The disorder may lead to a variety of devastating consequences, which extend to the individual’s partner since people with this condition are rarely single. Identification and treatment can go far in reducing the adverse effects of sex addiction by teaching healthy ways to engage in sexual relationships and finding alternative ways to address the urges that accompany the addiction.

Causes and Risk Factors

Sex addiction is not an insatiable desire for sex. Instead, sexual activity is used as an escape from emotional discomfort, which may have originated in childhood or developed in adulthood. Sex is used the same way alcohol or drugs might be used by someone with a substance abuse disorder. Some of the factors that might contribute to sex addiction include:

  • A genetic predisposition to impulsivity or pleasure/sensation-seeking behavior
  • A personal history or genetic predisposition to depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses
  • Higher levels of sex hormones than the average individual
  • Exposure to sexual content, activity or abuse at a young age
  • Rejection of relationships or social isolation

Sexual encounters may produce a similar effect on the brain to drugs and alcohol, triggering the reward pathway and releasing high levels of the “pleasure” chemical, dopamine. The feelings of euphoria and pleasure that result lead the individual to pursue more and more encounters to experience the same effect.

Symptoms of a Sex Addiction

While sex is a healthy activity for most people, those who are addicted may feature some of the following characteristics:

  • Lack of ability to set boundaries for sexual activity or stop altogether
  • Neglecting work or other responsibilities to seek out sexual encounters
  • Spending a substantial amount of money to satisfy sexual urges
  • Feeling shame or guilt about sexual activity
  • Continuing to pursue sexual encounters despite efforts to stop doing so
  • Continued behavior even when it causes significant problems with your partner
  • Need to intensify sexual encounters to achieve the same pleasurable feelings

When sexual activity becomes an addiction, it can be nearly impossible to break the cycle without professional treatment. A program that addresses this addiction can help you gain a healthy perspective on sex as well as manage the negative issues that may have led to the disorder. The sooner you seek treatment, the less damage the addiction will cause in your life.

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Long-Term Repercussions

Like other types of dependency disorders, the long-term damage caused by sex addiction can be substantial. As many as 45 percent of women and 38 percent of men with a sex addiction have been diagnosed with a venereal disease, according to the Department Management of the USDA. Women may also experience unintended and unwanted pregnancy as a result. Others with sex addiction might face problems at work or legal issues as a result of their persistent pursuit of risky sexual behavior. The disorder can also cause loss of employment and relationships.

Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse

Both sex addiction and substance use disorders are characterized by an inability to stop the behavior despite increasing negative consequences. Some individuals may combine sexual encounters with substance use to increase the euphoric sensations they are seeking. They may also turn to substances to mask the guilt and shame that often develop after sexual activity. Unfortunately, as substance use often turns to abuse and dependency, the problems associated with both conditions tend to be exacerbated, and a co-occurring disorder becomes evident. Treatment also becomes more complex, as both disorders must be addressed to produce the best possible outcome.

Treatment Options

The Center for Professional Recovery is equipped to address all types of co-occurring disorders, including those that include sex addiction. We work with professionals from a range of high-pressure industries, where abuse and addiction can become a way of dealing with the stresses of balancing a career and personal life. Undergoing treatment with your peers is an effective way to find understanding and accountability that go far in producing long-term recovery. To learn more about our program, contact the Center for Professional Recovery today at 866.298.0056.

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