All Posts Tagged: sex addiction

Sex Avoidance and Anxiety Disorders

Most people are somewhat familiar with the term “sex addiction”, particularly because they’ve heard about the occasional movie star or entertainer who seeks treatment for their compulsion. But, while sex addiction is recognized and there are rehab centers and support groups that can provide help, its polar opposite – sex avoidance – is hardly ever discussed. And yet, sex avoidance is just as shattering – perhaps even more so, because a person with sex avoidance shuns intimacy and the enjoyment that comes with having a sincere connection to a loving partner.

Additionally, while sexual avoidance can be troubling on its own, it is also often a side effect of having an anxiety disorder. Things like performance fears, being distressed and upset, and low libido can make people even more anxious and can lead to the avoidance of sex.

What is Sex Avoidance?

In general, the aversion toward sex is a defense mechanism. When thinking of intimacy or engaging in sex, the person with sexual avoidance feels emotional distress and physical symptoms, such as nausea and tensed muscles, or they may have panic attacks. They may also experience humiliation, shame, and low self-esteem for rejecting their partner.

As with any condition, there are people who fall on either end of the spectrum. Sex avoidance can come in the form of sexual anorexia, which happens when sex and intimacy are obsessively evaded in the same way anorexics shun food. In some cases, the sexual anorexic may enjoy physical intimacy once it has been initiated, but may not be able to instigate sex. Or, they may take it a step further and turn down their spouse or partner’s desire for physical closeness more often than not.

On the other extreme, the American Psychological Association has classified an actual disorder called Sexual Aversion Disorder. With this disorder, the individual actively seeks to avoid genital sexual contact with a sexual partner. Often, the person will even avoid genital contact related to a gynecological exam or procedure. Sexual Aversion Disorder can be so traumatic that the person won’t allow any physical touch or kissing.

Reasons for Sex Avoidance

There are various reasons for avoiding sex. The most obvious is the case of a person who has suffered childhood sexual abuse and now dodges anything that brings the trauma back up in their mind. However, not everyone who has been abused will avoid sex, just as not every person who shuns physical intimacy has been abused.

In some cases, people with anxiety disorders also shun sexual encounters. When a person has an anxiety disorder, they suffer physical effects along with their mental stress. Physically, the Mayo Clinic reports people with an anxiety disorder may experience the symptoms of:

  • Insomnia, trouble falling asleep or problems with staying asleep
  • Fatigue, particularly if they aren’t sleeping well
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • May be easily startled
  • Muscles aches, tense or clenched muscles
  • Twitching or trembling
  • Sweating

But, why would these symptoms cause someone to avoid the comfort of a physical relationship? One reason is that the act of intimacy raises your heart rate, induces heavier breathing, and makes you sweat. These bodily reactions mimic the physical “fight or flight” responses people experience during a panic attack, so much so that some individuals will go to great lengths to avoid feeling them at all.

Additionally, people who already suffer anxiety may choose to forego sexual encounters so they don’t have to add more fears to their list of concerns. Engaging in sexual activity can bring up worries about their attractiveness, their ability to perform, or may increase feelings of shame or guilt.

Sex Avoidance Treatment

Depending on its root cause, sex avoidance can be effectively treated either on its own or as part of an anxiety disorder therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy can help reduce anxiety, fear, and negative emotions. These therapies can be conducted on a one to one basis, in group therapy, or online depending on the particular preference of the client.
  • Sexual function can often be improved with the use of certain medications. For example, SSRIs may have the side effect of delaying orgasm and can often help men who suffer from premature ejaculation.
  • If you are already on anxiety disorder medications, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medicine so it has less effect on or can help with your condition.

A Place to Turn for Help

If your anxiety disorders are leading to sex avoidance, turn to the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Hypersexuality

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.

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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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