Hypersexuality or sex addiction is a dysfunctional obsession with sex. The disorder is characterized by:
- Compulsive sexual behavior consisting of extreme sudden or frequent sexual urges or activity
- Patterns of negative outcome (examples include emotional and physical health concerns, broken relationships, and legal and career troubles)
- Attempts at self-correcting and failing to stop unwanted behavior despite repeated promises to themselves and others
The obsessive thoughts and behaviors of hypersexuality are considered to be a process addiction (for example, gambling is a process addiction) instead of a substance addiction (such as a drug addiction). Additionally, hypersexuality is usually classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and can be a symptom of OCD, as well as being a symptom of drug abuse, bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder. The DSM IV for Psychiatric Disorders describes sex addiction as a “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship”.
This psychosexual behavior often begins with the sufferer subconsciously trying to manage emotional triggers in their life and alleviate distress. As the disorder progresses, the behavior develops into compulsive and uncontrollable impulses as the person becomes addicted to the pleasurable neurochemical changes in their brain that produce a “high”. This is similar to how drug or alcohol addicts constantly crave their next high. And, as with other addictions, because the underlying issues aren’t being addressed, the sex addict finds themselves locked in an endless cycle of inappropriate behavior, frustration, and unhappiness.
Often, those who exhibit hypersexuality will not look for therapy and treatment until they have hit rock bottom and have experienced significant negative consequences to their relationships, health, finances, and careers. In order to heal, a sex addict must take ownership of their behavior and will need to undergo intensive psychotherapy. Additionally, any spouse or partner of the sex addict will feel victimized and will need to work as hard as the addict in order to learn to trust them again. Still, with time and hard work, those with hypersexual disorder can overcome their unhealthy sexual compulsion and can look forward to a healthy future.
For more information and help for the treatment of hypersexuality, 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.