Hypersexual Disorder (Sex Addict)

There are two current movies making the rounds in theaters that are centered around the topic of hypersexual disorder (sex addiction): Thanks for Sharing and Don Jon. Even though both movies present the subject with a comedic undertone, sex addiction is no laughing matter. Those who suffer from it end up confused, obsessed, and endlessly looking for a “fix” that becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.

A sex addict is not simply a person who loves sex or one who acts in a sexually inappropriate way. Hypersexual disorder is characterized by:

  • Patterns of negative consequence, such as anxiety, depression, and legal problems
  • Risky behavior and a loss of control
  • Attempting to stop unwanted behavior and failing

Hypersexual disorder is often thought to be a form of obsessive-complusive disorder. According to the DSM IV for Psychiatric Disorders, sex addiction is a "compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship". Those with hypersexual disorder seek the endorphins and enkepline chemicals that are released through orgasm, producing feelings of satisfaction and relaxation. In this way, a sex addict is similar to an alcoholic or drug addict. And, just as with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, hypersexual disorder usually begins with a more harmless activity that is used as a coping method to fill a void (for example, an emotional loss, social issues, or other stressors) and develops into uncontrollable impulses as the disorder progresses. This physiological aspect reinforces the psychological void, turning it into a vicious cycle that never addresses the underlying issue.

In order to heal, a sex addict needs intensive therapy and must assume responsibility for his/her behavior. If the addict is in a relationship, the partner/spouse will understandably feel victimized and will need to work as hard as the addict in order to learn to trust again. With time, hard work, and patience, however, the sex addict can learn to overcome their unhealthy sexual behavior and create a healthy future.

For more information and help for hypersexual disorder, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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