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Sex addiction: what does it mean if you’re addicted to sex

Christo van Meer

It happened: Sex Addiction is officially in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Christo van Meer, doctor and frequent Pure Journal contributor, thinks this is great news. The reasons are simple: hundreds of thousands of people are struggling with sex addiction. An official mention in the main medical manual of the world is not only going to help them get the necessary treatment, but also contribute to further research. Before the inclusion in the ICD, some sexological and professional studies couldn’t be published. The lack of a formal diagnosis also hindered the publication of critical studies and made it more difficult to understand the risks of sex addiction.

People with sex addiction — who are they?

IWhat does it mean if you have sex addiction? It may sound strange, but sex addiction isn’t much different from alcohol or substance addiction. The biochemistry of our brain is to blame for everything: the body fundamentally doesn’t really care what we enjoy, and this is one of the main ways the addiction offsets.  

What will happen if you have sex addiction? People suffering from sex addiction are highly stressed in everyday life. This manifests through the symptoms of the disorder: chronic obsessive thoughts about sex, constant change of partners, the need to lie to conceal sexual behavior, inability to control sexual urges, and even putting oneself and others in danger to fulfill desires.

For those of you who tend to self-diagnose sex addiction: getting pleasure from sex is not a symptom, just as your libido alone isn’t an indicator of you having a disorder.

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Sex addiction symptoms

  • Obsessive thoughts about sex

Everyone thinks about sex and fantasizes, but sometimes these thoughts and fantasies can get obsessive. When you have sex addiction those thoughts can prevent one from socializing normally and performing their professional duties.

  • Spending too much time having sex or looking for a partner

It is important to remember that having sex and looking for a partner is normal. When experts say "too much", they almost always mean compared to the average person. Too much, in this case (when you’re addicted to sex), means when one of those activities takes over your daily life.

  • Depression and shame after sex

A characteristic symptom that is often caused by the inability of a person with sex addiction to control their sexual urges. 28% of sex addicts have high levels of depression and anxiety.

  • Excessive masturbation

Masturbation is a healthy and natural way to explore your sexuality or relieve sexual tension. For people with sex addiction, masturbation can get too high in terms of frequency and time, sometimes leading to the appearance of physical damage to the genitals.

  • Risky sexual behavior

Sex addiction can lead to risky sexual behavior. Most often expressed in exhibitionism, public sex, sex in unsafe locations, and unprotected sex, all of which lead to a greater risk of STDs.

  • Sexual crimes

In the most advanced cases, sex addiction can involve crimes such as stalking, sexual violence, and harassment.

Programs based on the 12-step model and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help overcome sex addiction

How to treat sex addiction?

The most effective method of treatment of sex addiction is participation in therapy groups based on the 12-step model. Many are familiar with AA — only in the case of sex addiction, it’s SA. In these groups, the support of participants is a priority, and, unlike programs aimed at alcohol or drug addiction, sex-addicted people are not encouraged to completely give up sex. They’re strongly supported in controlling their sexual urges.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also very effective in this case. The patient learns to recognize their triggers of compulsive behavior, track their reaction to them, and change their behavior.

If sex addiction is accompanied by depression or anxiety, a specialist may prescribe medication.

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