It’s essentially the highest form of intimacy we can have with a significant other and serves to strengthen and cement our emotional bonds even more. Sex, on a fundamental level, is of course required for the survival of humankind too. There’s a biological imperative. Without it, we don’t carry on.
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An Introduction to Sex Addiction
The rush of endorphins and dopamine that floods the brain is akin to the response that drugs can trigger.
Sex is a deeply gratifying and beautiful experience shared between people that care about each other. That’s how we like to see it anyway and for many people, it is that way. On the flip side of that equation though, there are those for whom sex is all about chasing that rush. The beauty is supplanted and replaced by a lust to satisfy a craving.
That’s where we ebb from the standard and get into the territory of sex addiction, where a heated debate lives as to whether such a thing even exists at all. Is it just an excuse to paper over bad behavior as some suggest? A joke? Or a real, defined addiction?
Formally speaking, sexual addiction is not a diagnosable mental disorder as per the gold standard used for making such conclusions, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The only behavior that rises to that level is gambling addiction.
Despite not having a distinct diagnosis. Compulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality or hypersexuality disorder as it’s sometimes referred to, is a real thing. A range of sexual drive is normal, some people will have a stronger libido than others. That’s natural. The ruthless pursuit of sex that defines sex addiction can and does create real problems in someone’s life.
Sexual pleasure works on the same reward system in the brain as drugs do and creates the same torrent of euphoria that substance users experience when high on their drug of choice. That’s what they chase. The release of those feel-good chemicals mentioned at the top becomes a reinforcement mechanism for the compulsive sexual behavior.
You’re no longer looking for intimacy and connection but rather a powerful blast of chemicals in the mind, the same way in which a drug abuser needs another hit. And just like that addict, the time in between and even during sexual encounters isn’t smooth sailing because both the drug and sex-seeking behavior are stress-inducing.
In fact, the proposed criteria for a diagnosis of hypersexuality disorder alludes to just that, “Hypersexual Disorder (HD) as a repetitive and intense preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors, leading to adverse consequences and clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. One defining feature of the proposed disorder includes multiple unsuccessful attempts to control or diminish the amount of time an individual engages in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states or stressful life events”.
In keeping with the comparison to drug addiction, the utter lack of control and disarray that your life is thrown into by the need for sex is a defining characteristic. Additional research puts it like this, “a key clinical feature in diagnosing paraphilic sexual behavior is that it must be distressing and cause significant impairment in one’s life”.
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Sex Addiction Withdrawal
With respect to withdrawal from a behavioral addiction, it’s not going to look the same as withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. There’s not much of the rigorous physical component that defines withdrawal from drugs however someone can experience issues with sleep and insomnia. Generally, the symptoms are in the mind and can manifest as intense cravings for sex, anxiety, depression, feelings of guilt, irritability and stress.
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At Thrive Treatment℠ we accept most private insurance plans and we are in network with Cigna, MHN Health Net, First Health, and Anthem Blue Cross. Additional payment options are available so don’t hesitate to give us a call so we can get you the help that you need.
What Are the Signs of Sex Addiction?
A behavioral addiction, while different from substance addiction, shares much in common in terms of the signs because, in reality, addiction itself is a brain disorder. The circuitry of the mind that relates to reward, stress and self-control has been changed and the quest or desire for sex, in this case, has taken over your life.
Signs of sex addiction aren’t as neatly defined as other addictions owning to the fact that there’s not an official standard for diagnosis but nonetheless, there are many clear indicators that a problem might be afoot.
- Sex with multiple partners or extramarital affairs
- Unable to successfully reduce sexual behavior, urges or fantasies
- Recurring sexual fantasies, behaviors and urges preoccupy your mind and time
- Engaging in increasingly risky or inappropriate sexual behavior i.e., sex with prostitutes, sex clubs, sex in public and putting yourself and others at increased risk of STI’s
- Sex is causing strains and stress on relationships, work and home life
- Urges for sex mixed with feelings of self-loathing, shame, regret and anxiety
- Sexual behavior is accompanied by a release of tension but also guilt
- Difficulty maintain or even establishing healthy relationships
- Habitual masturbation
- Frequently engages in sexual activity when alone like pornography, phone or cybersex, etc.
- Neglecting other responsibilities and obligations to pursue sex
Of note is the fact that the signs and symptoms of a potential addiction to sex are utterly lacking in the emotional element that most associate with sexual intercourse. The goal of sex for an addict has fleetingly little to do with creating a deeper bond with their partner and significantly more to do with a lack of impulse control and satisfying an urge.
Thrive Treatment's Sex Addiction Rehab in Los Angeles Can Help
Uncontrollable sexual behavior doesn’t have to control you.
Sex is a basic part of our lives but letting it dictate the direction of your life comes with distressing consequences.
At Thrive Treatment, among the best sex addiction treatment centers in Los Angeles, we work with you to get to the bottom of your compulsive sexual behavior. Through evidence-based, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy we’re able to help uncover the origins of your addiction and identify triggers. With individual and group counseling you’ll learn new strategies to cope with the cravings and develop more positive thought patterns to improve your emotional wellbeing.
You can have a healthy relationship with sex and, more importantly, you deserve it. Having control over your sexual impulses allows you to form and nurture those deep bonds that live at the core of meaningful relationships and live a life that you dictate the direction of.
Get in touch with us today and let’s get started.