Sex addiction is a preoccupation, objectification, and persistent sexualization of life. It involves “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships, and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”
A sex addict will continue to engage in certain sexual behaviors despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships, or even arrests. Sex addiction also includes addiction to pornographic materials and online dating apps.
It may exist on its own or become part of a cocktail of addictions, with drugs, food, and alcohol. For example, to have a more intense sexual experience, some sex addicts may turn to drugs. To cover the shame and guilt of sex addiction, some addicts may develop an eating disorder connected with food addiction. As some of its materials are online, an addiction to the internet be part of the disease.
Unlike most other types of sex addiction, fantasy sex occurs when individuals are obsessed with fantasies that are sexual in nature. In fantasy sex, the addict remains detached from anything that resembles genuine intimacy with his/her partner. In that sense, fantasy sex provides an escape from reality. These fantasies preoccupy a significant amount of the individual’s time and energy. Fantasy sex often involves unrealistic expectations (e.g. a partner with a flawless body) and fetish-based scenarios (e.g. mini skirts and the military).
Sex addicts who engage in anonymous sex are excited and gratified by having sex with complete strangers. They may have frequent one-night stands, pay for a prostitute, or have sex with a variety of partners whose identities remain anonymous. Once the anonymity is broken, the sex addict loses interest.
One of the most common types of sex addiction involves 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. In many instances, anonymous sex involves paid sex. The primary exception here would be when the sex addict sees the same prostitute on a regular basis, sometimes for years.
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.
One of the riskiest types of sex addiction, in terms of getting caught and prosecuted, is exhibitionism. Sex addicts who are exhibitionists are sexually turned on by “flashing” their genitals (usually in public) to people. Part of the excitement for exhibitionists is often due to their victims’ startled or disgusted response. They also get aroused from the attention they receive. Like certain types of sexual addiction, no actual physical contact is made with the other person.
Voyeurism involves the act of spying on unwitting individuals. The victims of voyeurs are usually fully or partially naked. They are involved in an activity that is very personal or intimate in nature, such as showering or bathing, getting dressed or undressed, having sex, or even going to the bathroom. Voyeurs are sexually aroused by watching their victim, and often masturbate while they are observing the other person. Part of the arousal and excitement for many voyeurs is the secretive and exploitative nature of the activity.
This is one of the types of sex addiction that can be very cunning. In seductive role sex, addicts get others to engage in sexual activity with them by using manipulative ploys, persuasion, or charm. Rather than developing any kind of genuine connection with the other person, they treat him or her as a conquest. Part of the arousal and excitement comes from the challenge of getting the other person to comply.
Pain and humiliation are the primary components of sadomasochism, often referred to as S&M. Sex addicts who engage in sadomasochism may be primarily sadistic or masochistic. Sadists are sexually aroused by humiliating or causing pain to their partner. They enjoy dominating their partner, who may or may not be consenting to the interaction.
This is one of the types of sex addiction that involves touching someone in a sexual manner without their consent. The addict usually touches the genitalia, breasts, or buttocks of their victim. Frotteurism, which involves rubbing up against someone, is one type of intrusive sex. It often occurs in a crowded public venue in which the addict can easily escape.
Individuals who engage in exploitative sex obtain sexual pleasure by coercing the other person to participate. This includes pedophilia (having sex with children) and rape. The victims are often very vulnerable (such as children, invalids or disabled, or hospital patients). The addict obtains gratification from the power they are able to exert over their victims.
● Frequently engaging in more sex and with more partners than intended.
● Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex; wanting to cut down, and unsuccessfully attempting to limit sexual activity.
● Thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities or continually engaging in excessive sexual practices despite a desire to stop.
● Spending considerable time in activities related to sex, such as cruising for partners or spending hours online visiting pornographic websites.
● Neglecting obligations such as work, school, or family in pursuit of sex.
● Continually engaging in the sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or potential health risks.
● Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve the desired effect, such as more frequent visits to prostitutes or more sex partners.
● Feeling irritable when unable to engage in the desired behavior.
More generally, sex addicts tend to organize their world around sex in the same way that cocaine addicts organize theirs around cocaine. Their goal in interacting with people is to obtain sexual pleasure.
Do you know the effects of such addictions on your loved ones?
Your loved one could be highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases or infections because of their risky sexual behaviour. This includes an increase of exposure opportunities to these diseases by having sex without condoms. The longer the addiction, the riskier the sexual practice will be.
Your loved one may report feelings of diminished self worth, isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. They will start feeling like they are two separate people: the addict and the human being.
Your loved one will feel they are unable to form close friendships. Feelings of shame will envelope them. They feel they will be judged or rejected by their friends if they came to know about their addiction. This will lead to your loved one finding ways to turn potential friends or partners away without ever being able to accept the bond that often accompanies sexual activity. This creates sexual, social, and emotional anorexia - an intentional distancing from anything intimate. It eventuates in chronic isolation, which could result in suicide attempts/ideation.
Your loved one might become Paraphilic, which means experiencing extreme sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, or individuals. Paraphilic behaviour (voyeurism, exhibitionism, and pedophilia) is illegal. Your loved one might move on to more extreme compulsions after typical sexual experiences no longer excite them, which could lead to a host of legal ramifications.
The sexual experience is not about intimacy. Your loved one could use sexual activity to seek pleasure, to avoid unpleasant feelings, or to respond to outside stressors, such as work difficulties or interpersonal problems.
Sex addiction influences the brain’s reward system by releasing 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. Sex releases this chemical, allowing one to temporarily forget traumatic issues; maybe an incident of childhood abuse, which may have remained unresolved.
There are other possibilities of why your loved one chose sex to function. Research has found that sex addicts often come from dysfunctional families and are more likely than non-sex addicts to have been abused. One study found that 82 percent of sex addicts reported being sexually abused as children. Sex addicts often describe their parents as rigid, distant, and uncaring. These families, including the addicts themselves, are more likely to be substance abusers. One study found that 80 percent of recovering sex addicts report some type of addiction in their families of origin.
Your loved one will only end up in one of the following three places if they are unwilling to treat their addiction. Death (due to STDs, complications with escorts, which may result in extortion, violence, and murder), jail (voyeurism, exhibitionism, and pedophilia are illegal), or an institution (a hospital or rehab).
A sex addict can be at different stages. In order to intervene, we need to understand where the person is in their addictive journey. An addict will always be in a particular stage of change. Knowing where they are gives us an opportunity to intervene correctly.
● Pre-Contemplation - I am not an addict - Most difficult to help this person.
● Contemplation - I might be an addict - The door is open for help.
● Preparation - I am an addict and I want to stop - Provide the help that is needed.
● Action - I am going to stop now - Need of a supportive and clinical environment.
● Maintenance - I am going to stay stopped - constant motivation and encouragement.
Mostly, if you have come searching for help and not your loved one, they are in denial of their problem. You must be wondering how you would convince your loved one to come to us. At Solace Sabah, we can perform what we call an intervention. Professionals are trained to use motivational interviewing, giving the sex addict the ability to reason their addiction themselves and prepare them for treatment and recovery. To read more about denial and intervention at Solace Sabah, read this: