Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, the negative impact on you and your family members increases as the disorder progresses. Over time, you will intensify the addictive behaviour to achieve the same results. For some sex addicts, behaviour does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or the extensive use of pornography, phone, or computer sex services. For others, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation, or rape. As a sex addict, you may not necessarily be sex offenders.
There are no distinct categories of sex addiction but sexual addictions can come in different forms which include being addicted to the following:
● Voyeurism – This involves spying on individuals who are fully or partially naked; and are performing an intimate activity such as urinating or changing clothes. Voyeurs are sexually aroused by watching their victim, and masturbating during this observation.
● Exhibitionism – From a relationship perspective, it is introducing yourself in an inappropriate way by “flashing” your genitals (sometimes in public) to people. Like certain types of sexual addiction, no actual physical contact is made with the other person.
● Seductive Role Sex – In seductive role sex, addicts get others to engage in sexual activity with them by using manipulative ploys, persuasion, or charm. There is no genuine connection. The addict treats others like a conquest, in whose compliance produces a high.
● Trading Sex – Sex for trade occurs when it’s the addict who’s receiving compensation for sex. The compensation often comes in the form of money or drugs but may also include gifts or even necessities, such as shelter. Although the addict is treating sex as a business, the underlying drive often has to do with the sense of power obtained from charging others for sex.
● Intrusive Sex – If you engage in intrusive sex, such as touching people in crowds or making obscene phone calls, you are really perverting the touching and foreplay dimensions of courtship. Your behaviours represent both intimacy failure and individuation difficulties.
● Fantasy Sex – You may find refuge in fantasy sex because other forms of acting out are simply too complicated, too risky, or too much effort. It is about fear of rejection, fear of reality, and reduction of anxiety.
● Paying for Sex – This allows the sex addict to have an endless stream of willing sexual partners. Paid sex often involves paying for a prostitute or “escort”, but it also includes paying for phone sex.
● Anonymous Sex – You do not have to attract, seduce, trick, or even pay for sex. It is just sex. You get high in the risk of having sex with unknown persons.
● Pain Exchange Sex – In this, the sex addict is aroused if someone is hurting them. Specifically, touching, foreplay, and intercourse become subordinated to some dramatic storyline that is usually a re-enactment of a childhood abuse experience.
● Exploitative Sex – Addicts in this category will use “grooming” behavior, which carefully builds the trust of the unsuspecting victim. Attraction, flirtation, demonstration, romance, and intimacy are all used. Arousal is dependent on the vulnerability of the other.
Drug and sex addiction have similar effects on the brain—both primarily influence the brain’s reward system through a neurotransmitter called dopamine. When a person satisfies a need or desire that is vital to survival or reproduction, dopamine is released, causing the person to experience pleasure or euphoria. This reinforces the expectation of reward and increases the desire to engage in the underlying behaviour. If you refrain from this compulsive sexual behaviour, the dopamine receptors, in your brain, start “craving” for the chemical. This in turn gives you the “urge” to repeat the activity over and over again.
However there are influencing reasons or incidents in one’s life that may force you to become an addict. Sexual addiction, can develop due to factors that encompass all aspects of an individual’s life. These include:
● Genes: You may have a genetic predisposition to emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, or sensation-seeking behaviour. You may also have a predisposition to other traits that are commonly associated with sexual addiction, like anxiety or depression.
● Hormones: As one might expect, higher levels of sex hormones like testosterone or estrogen can affect libido. If you are inclined towards impulsive behaviour and have high levels of sex-related hormones, you may be more likely to engage in excessive sexual activities.
● Environmental influences: Early-life environmental factors, including adverse events like abuse or early exposure to sexual content, can contribute to some of the underlying characteristics that drive hypersexual behaviour.
● Mental health: Anxiety, depression, personality disorders, poor impulse control, and performance anxiety might be simultaneous issues that one struggles with alongside sex addiction. Those that have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, or have a tendency toward “manic” states, are much more likely to engage in excessive or risky sexual behaviour.
● Rejection in relationships and social circles might lead to other less healthy ways to find sexual gratification.
● Social isolation: Not only does social isolation increase one’s likelihood of seeking inappropriate ways of being sexually gratified, it also leads to a host of other problems—like depression and physical maladies—that can contribute to sex addictions or unhealthy sexual behaviours.
● Social learning: Watching others perform a behaviour, or “modelling,” is one way to learn something new—especially when you “like” or “identify” with that person. So having a friend, or a group of friends, who engage in excessive sexual activities or porn viewing can influence you in very subtle, yet powerful, ways.
You are not your addiction. The addiction is a disease, which has held you captive for so long. It has come out through your behaviour, and will eventually kill you, should you not get help for it. Below are the effects of being in active addiction:
● You might fear abandonment and loneliness. Hence, you might stay in or return to painful and destructive relationships.
● You may conceal your dependency needs from yourself and others. You may become more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones.
● You fear emotional and/or sexual deprivation. You compulsively pursue and involve yourself in multiple relationships one after another, sometimes having more than one sexual or emotional liaison at a time.
● Feeling empty and incomplete when you’re alone. Even though you fear intimacy and commitment, you may constantly search for relationships and sexual contacts.
● You may have sexualized stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear, and envy, using sex as substitutes for nurture, care, and support.
● You may have started using sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others.
● Avoiding responsibilities, by being attached to people who are emotionally unavailable.
● You might have assigned magical qualities to others, idealising and pursuing them. Then, blaming them for not fulfilling your fantasies and expectations.
● You feel immobilized due to sexual or emotional obsessions
Additionally, sex addiction can also lead to:
● A decline in personal relationships, social, and family engagements.
● Decreased concentration and productivity at work.
● Physical consequences like sexual dysfunction or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Profound psychological effects of sex addiction, like generating feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress can lead to, or stem from, co-morbid disorders like:
● Substance abuse.
● Problems related to impulse control and emotional dysregulation.
● Obsessive-Compulsive type symptoms.
It is important to address these co-occurring problems in your life, like depression, social anxiety, or social isolation,. It's easier to recover from sexual addiction when such issues are resolved.
Cross addictions - Sex addiction could lead to a host of cross addictions. To be able to finance the addiction, you could become a pathological gambler. To hide the feelings of shame and guilt, you could develop a Binge Eating Disorder/Overeating/Food addiciton. You could also develop codependency to use other people's insecurities to control your own addiction. Should you want to accelerate the high of sex addiction, you could also turn to illegal drugs.
Legal consequences - Sex addiction will lead some addicts to experiment with dangerous behaviours, which may lead to criminal activities. Such behaviours are called "paraphilic behaviours", where normal sex no longer makes you high. Examples of paraphilic behaviours are voyeurism, exhibitionism, or even pedophilia. These acts, if caught have legal ramifications. You could end up in jail, extortioned by minors who know your vulnerability towards the law, or even stuck in life-threatening situations with other sex villains.
What will happen if you do not stop?
You will only end up in one of the following three places if you are unwilling to treat your addiction. Death (due to STDs/HIV), jail (due to voyeurism, exhibitionism, and pedophilia, which are illegal), or an institution (a hospital or rehab).
You might say that coming to us is equivalent to going to jail. But at Solace Sabah, we treat you, not punish you. We make sure we do not treat you as though you’ve committed a crime. We teach you to derive pleasure out of the simple things in life and not out of sexually exploiting yourself and others. We stabilise the reward system of your brain and make you realise that you don’t need to perform sex all the time to function.
There is no cure for sexual addiction as it is a chronic disease. But, you can live with sex addiction in recovery. You can have tools to live addiction-free. We don't expect you to give up sex completely, but long enough to re-structure your life so that it can be used to fulfil a functional relationship with your significant other.