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Sexual addiction

BY: Dr John Boakye
Similar to any other addiction, sex addicts often put their desire for sex ahead of responsibilities
Similar to any other addiction, sex addicts often put their desire for sex ahead of responsibilities

An addiction is a condition in which a person is unable to stop using a substance or engaging in a behaviour even when it may be harmful to him or her.

One common example is sex addiction, a range of sexual behaviours that are done in excess and significantly impact one’s life in a negative way. It comes in different forms, including addiction to pornography, prostitution, masturbation or fantasy, sadistic or masochistic behaviour and other excessive sexual pursuits.

Causes of sexual addiction
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 such as testosterone or oestrogen 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 excess sexual activities.

Environmental influences: Early-life environmental factors, including adverse events such as abuse or 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. People who 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.

Social rejection in relationships and social circles: can lead to other less healthy ways of finding sexual gratification. 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 – such as depression and physical maladies – that can contribute to sex addictions or unhealthy sex 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 a very subtle yet powerful way.

Signs of sexual addiction
Emotional symptoms of sex addiction: You may not have healthy boundaries; you become easily involved with people sexually or emotionally regardless of how well you know them, according to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. You might stay in relationships that aren’t healthy or jump from relationship to relationship. When alone, you feel empty or incomplete. You may also sexualise feelings such as guilt, loneliness or fear.


You feel powerless over how you act sexually. Your sexual choices make your life unmanageable.
You feel ashamed or embarrassed over your sexual acts: You promise yourself you’ll change but fail to keep those promises. You’re so preoccupied with sex it becomes like a ritual to you.


Physical symptoms of sex addiction: Although a sex addiction or pornography addiction can create many physical side effects, few physical symptoms of this disorder exist. However, the most common physical symptoms you might notice from having a sexual addiction is feeling immobilised due to sexual or emotional obsessions.

Sexual acts with multiple partners: Sex addicts are often unable to remain loyal to their partners due to their insatiable sexual appetites. This usually results in them engaging in risky behaviours such as cheating and engaging in sexual acts with multiple partners. Risky is the operative word here, as those who sleep around tend to have a much higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Neglect of responsibilities: Similar to any other addiction, sex addicts often put their desire for sex ahead of family commitments, job responsibilities and pretty much anything else that isn’t sex-related.

Similar to any other addiction, sex addicts often put their desire for sex ahead of family commitments, job responsibilities and pretty much anything else that isn’t sex-related. This can lead to financial difficulties, job loss and even divorce if the neglect continues to spiral out of control.

Indulging in trade-offs for sex: Almost all sex addicts are willing to trade their time and currency, particularly when illicit sex is the end game. The sexual cravings are too strong to resist, which means that sex addicts are often willing to part with their hard-earned cash and any spare time they get to satisfy those urges.

The dismissiveness of risky sexual behaviour: What if I get caught cheating? Or contract a sexual disease from all the sleeping around? These are all normal questions a person would ponder on before doing the dirty deed. Sex addicts might run along this emotional parallel for a while, the difference being that all the pondering in the world doesn’t stop them regardless of the consequences.

Inability to reduce the amount of time spent on sexual activities: Similar to substance addiction, sex addiction is often difficult to cut down on, since over time the sexual urges become stronger, not weaker. It’s easy to detect a sex addict as they struggle to minimise the amount of time they spend on sexually related activities (also similar to gaming and internet addictions).

Inability to discuss the problem: If you’ve ever tried to speak to an alcoholic about their drinking, then you’ll likely come across the same problem with a person who is addicted to sex. You’ll likely experience the same level of denial and an inability to open up and discuss the problem. Not to say that it will never happen; however, the initial discussions can often be frustrating and worrisome for the addicts’ loved ones and family members.


Loss of sexual functioning: This is particularly prevalent in young males who tend to view a lot of porn. Since the sexual ‘high’ they experience in pornography cannot be matched with a real-life partner, they often experience erectile dysfunction as a result. Essentially, when a male engages in porn, his dopamine levels rise to an extreme level and this conditions the body to desire those high-arousal levels. When indulging in ‘normal’ sex with a partner, this conditioning can reduce the ability to function.

Displaying strong disinterest in a partner: This is perhaps the most obvious sign of a relationship problem, where one partner is keen to have sex and the other isn’t. When one half of a couple begins to withdraw from sex, this is often a sign that something deeper is going on. This might not always signify a problem with sex addiction as such. However, if withdrawal from sex is accompanied by any other red flags, then it’s highly likely that sex addiction might be a contributory factor.


Constantly watching porn: Constantly engaging in porn and sexual fantasies is another sign that someone might be suffering from sex addiction. This can cause many problems as real-life sex often cannot live up to the type of porn scenarios that people see online or on television.


Feeling remorse or guilt after sex: Shame and guilt often accompany most addictions, and this is prevalent when it comes to eating disorders, too. The more the person eats, the guiltier they feel. It’s the same with sexual engagement. It feels good at the moment, but shortly afterwards, not so much. The type of ‘emotional hangover’ that a sex addict often experiences after engaging in risky sexual behaviour is nothing to be envied. These feelings of inadequacy often follow them around for a long time until they get their next ‘fix’ and the cycle continues.

Effects of sex addiction
Sexually transmitted diseases: The effects of a sex addiction can be severe. According to the Departmental Management of the USDA, about 38 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women with sex addictions have a venereal disease as a result of their behaviour.

Unwanted pregnancy: Pregnancy is also a common side effect that can occur due to risky behaviour. In one survey, nearly 70 per cent of women with sex addictions reported they’d experienced at least one unwanted pregnancy as a result of their addiction.

Psychological effects: These include feelings of shame, inadequacy and emotional distress. It can also lead to anxiety, depression and substance abuse, problems related to impulse control and emotion dysregulation.

Other negative effects: A decline in personal relationships, social and family engagement. You have decreased concentration and productivity at work, which may lead to great financial loss.

Controlling your sexual addiction
Sex addiction can be controlled or completely treated. You will typically want to speak with a mental health professional, like a psychologist or licensed social worker. They will help you address some of the underlying factors that are maintaining your sex or porn addiction and teach you to cope with your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a healthy way.

The bottom line is that your mind is the most powerful weapon. If you make a firm commitment to control sex addiction, you can make it. Say ‘yes I can’ and you will make it.

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