Hypersexuality: Is Sex Addiction Real?

The concept of sex addiction sometimes referred to as hypersexuality, has been studied by numerous researchers. However, there is no solid evidence of its existence. Scientists are still debating whether the symptoms of hypersexuality are best described as a compulsion or impulsion.

Key takeaways:
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    Although the World Health Organization recognizes compulsive sexual behavior disorder as a disorder, scientists are still unable to determine its existence and whether or not it is best explained as an impulsion or compulsion.
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    Compulsive sexual behavior disorder is defined as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.”
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    Compulsive sexual behavior disorder can be treated with a mix of talk therapy and medications such as antidepressants.

The World Health Organization recognizes compulsive sexual behavior disorder as a disorder that is defined as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.”

Is sex addiction real?

As stated above, scientists are still in debate over the existence of compulsive sexual behavior disorder and whether or not it is best described as a compulsion or impulsion. Regardless, the symptoms faced by people experiencing this disorder are valid and cause significant distress to the person and often those around them.

People with compulsive sexual behavior disorder engage in a number of normal sex acts, including masturbation, sex with numerous people, paying for sex, and pornography. However, these acts become a major preoccupation for people experiencing the disorder, causing them to feel like they’re out of control. People with the disorder experience significant distress as a result of the loss of control and may cause harm to others around them.

When examining hypersexuality, or compulsive sexual behavior disorder, it is important to differentiate between people with a high libido and people suffering from compulsive sexual behavior disorder. Those with a high libido experience no suffering from their actions other than the suffering imposed by a sex-negative society. However, people with compulsive sexual behavior disorder often suffer immense guilt and suffering from their actions, and often results in hiding their behavior from friends and family.

How does it occur?

As the research into compulsive sexual behavior disorder is relatively small, scientists are yet to agree on what causes the disorder.

Some potential causes include other health conditions such as:

  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Parkinson's disease

Other research indicates that compulsive sexual disorder may be caused by neurobiological factors, such as high levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine.

Other risk factors can include a history of sexual trauma.

What are the consequences?

Like many other compulsions and impulsions, compulsive sexual behavior disorder has many adverse consequences. These can include:

A lessening interest in daily activities such as work and family could lead to a loss of a job and poor relationships.

Suffering from feelings of guilt or shame, which could lead to mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

Could be at a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne viruses, such as HIV, if engaging in risky sexual behavior.

Potential financial damage from paying for sex or pornography.

Face criminal charges or jail time for sexual offenses.

Do women experience hypersexuality?

The research examining compulsive sexual behavior disorder in women is relatively small, as much of the literature on women's sexual dysfunctions has focused heavily on desire and pain disorders. However, research has found that as many as 7% of women report feeling out of control of their sexual behavior in the past.

Does hypersexuality harm daily life?

Compulsive sexual behavior disorder impacts a person's day-to-day life, as the desire to engage in sexual activity is so strong that it takes precedence over important daily responsibilities such as focusing on work or maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends.

The shame and guilt that is often associated with a compulsive sexual behavior disorder, may lead people to turn to other coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, which further harms their daily life.

Does hypersexuality harm your sex life?

Compulsive sexual behavior disorder harms a person's sex life as many people feel no pleasure from their sexual acts and use sex as a way to reduce their stress and anxiety over their intrusive sexual thoughts. The disorder can often affect a person’s sexual relationships, as many partners of people with the disorder feel pressured into having sex.

Is there treatment available?

Treatment is available for those who are struggling to control their sexual urges. People who are seeking help should reach out to a psychologist or sexologist, as they will work with their patients to help manage their sexual urges to have a healthy sex life. This is often done through talk therapy to deal with any underlying issues and medications such as antidepressants.

What to do if you suspect your partner is hypersexual?

If you believe that your partner is suffering from compulsive sexual behavior disorder, you should speak to a mental health professional such that specializes in treating partners of people with a compulsive sexual behavior disorder, as they can provide you with accurate information about the disorders and provide you with the tools needed to cope.

If your partner is harming you in any way, it is vital that you seek immediate support.

Although researchers are unable to determine the exact cause of compulsive sexual behavior disorder, people still suffer from its symptoms which cause significant distress to them and often the people around them. The inability to control sexual urges impacts a person’s day-to-day life, causing relationship problems and high levels of guilt and shame. Compulsive sexual behavior disorder can be treated by a mental health professional such as a psychologist or sexologist.

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