Sex and love addiction – what are they really?
Sex and love addiction are inarguably two of the most controversial topics today. Sexual behavior is hard to tie down as “normal” in the grander scheme of things. Sex and love can be considered intimacy disorders, which many are only just beginning to understand are real illnesses that require careful attention by mental health professionals.
Sex and love addiction are not simply promiscuity or an unwillingness to commit. Sex and love addiction are compulsions to find satisfaction in sexual partners, romantic relationships, or both; this compulsive behavior comes at the expense of other major areas of everyday life, such as work. school, personal relationships, and emotional wellbeing caused by a preoccupation with finding sex or romance.
Keep reading to find out more about sex and love addiction, and the programs at Emerald Isle Health and Recovery can help!
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What are some of the symptoms of sex or love addiction?
Generally, addiction can be defined as “a patterned use of a substance (drug) or a patterned or repetitive behavior that a person continues to engage in despite negative consequences.” The compulsion to take part in these activities is not unlike people with eating disorders being compelled to continually eat.
Sex addiction encompasses a wide range of sexual behaviors, including compulsive masturbation, excessive sexual desire, cybersex, frequenting prostitutes and strip clubs, and other high-risk sexual behavior. Some sex addicts use pornography excessively, often involving multiple tabs within their Internet browser simultaneously.
The Internet and the Spread of Sex Addiction
The Internet is an enabler for people with sex addictions because it offers access to a virtually unlimited number of partners without the risks associated with offline interactions. Anonymous sex or “no-strings-attached” sex is a typical component of this type of addiction.
Love addiction, as we identified earlier, is essentially the compulsive, obsessive, and habitual pursuance of an intimate relationship or romantic partner to the detriment of one’s emotional, mental, and physical health. This can overlap with sex addiction in some ways but where it differs is the focal point.
For a sex addict, the main addiction is the actual sexual activity and satisfaction of sexual urges. Love addicts differ from sexual addicts in that the most important thing they seek is the validation of their feelings and the gratification associated with emotional intimacy, and a high degree of romantic intensity typically attached to relationships.
Sex addiction vs love addiction
People who are love addicts will exhibit certain patterns and behaviors within their romantic relationships. Some of these things might look like: lacking the ability to be alone without feeling lonely or empty, an immediate manifestation of debilitating physically ill symptoms when they feel rejected by someone they are interested in, or a preoccupation with romantic fantasies as a way of escapism, habitual engagement in compulsive risk-taking behaviors.
People with sex or love addiction often have difficulty with intimacy, making healthy relationships difficult to develop. Many people who are addicted to sexual activity or exhibit the habit of compulsive pursuance of a romantic relationship also have co-occurring mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Depending on the person, it can become a primary or secondary addiction in which other substance abuse problems exist. This phenomenon is known as poly-addiction. Love addicts anonymous can potentially help individuals who have this disorder.
How do sex and love addiction work?
As different as sex and love addiction can seem from each other, the truth is that when it comes to the factors that can be responsible for persons falling into the spiral of addiction, these two intimacy disorders have a lot more in common with addiction to substances or drugs than you might initially assume.
The major similarity that’s easy enough to identify is the fact that all addiction is about satisfying a desperate need for escapism and even the rush of dopamine or endorphins. Because of this “chase,” a sexual or love addict can’t commit to one relationship, instead preferring a string of short-term relationships with only minor emotional impact.
It’s not uncommon to see a sexual or love addict in a new relationship every so often. Each new relationship brings with it a thrill, and as a result, these relationships serve the same purpose as drugs.
The “feel-good” chemicals released in the brain during drug use lead to dependency. These same chemicals are released when a person engages in sexual activity or other addictive behaviors. Much like any addict, negative consequences are not an effective deterrent to risky behavior.
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What are the major contributing factors of sex and love disorder?
There are many factors that might encourage sexual dysfunction significantly enough to result in someone developing a sex or love dependency. Let’s examine them:
It was mentioned above, but to go deeper into it, the human brain is extremely susceptible to the influences of our hormones. Chemicals in our brains like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins actually do quite a lot to run the show. Much of what we assume to be active choices are actually the result of these chemicals. In essence, these chemicals are responsible for the ability to feel motivation, pleasure, and fulfillment. Persons with neurological deficiencies in the brain’s natural production of these chemicals (like ADHD) may be more susceptible to these symptoms.
Certain medical conditions can exacerbate or create a sex addiction as one of their symptoms. Diseases like dementia or Huntington’s disease damage areas of the brain and may result in increased or excessive addiction to sex and love.
There are many types of trauma one may encounter that may leave unfortunate lasting impressions and negatively affect the control one has over their relationship towards sex and love. Dysfunctional family dynamics are one of the key symptoms. Going hand in hand with toxic family experiences, trauma may be experienced and set in early childhood, leaving to a lifetime of struggles. Other types of trauma might be harmful or abusive sexual experiences. This particular factor can vary widely in terms of the ways it manifests.
Oftentimes, sex and love addiction can be developed or exacerbated by the presence of other conditions at the same time. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common.
However, personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder can also contribute.
The truth is that mental health issues greatly affect the extent to which persons may gravitate towards sex or love as a band-aid. Loneliness, suicidal thoughts, feeling desperate, as well as low self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
Why should someone seek treatment for sex or love addiction?
These two addictions can be incredibly destabilizing to a person’s life. It creates an unfair position for one’s partner, leading to infidelity and an overall lowered quality of life, and causes feelings to get hurt.
Sex and love addiction treatment is perhaps the best option for someone who has a desire or interest to overcome their addiction and actively regain control over their choices and their own needs or wants.
Sex and love addiction usually devastate a life partner and family members. In the case of a person who is in a relationship at the time, their partner can be severely impacted by the addiction. It can result in situations that make the partner feel worthless.
For anyone in a long-term relationship, these forms of addiction can result in lasting damage and loss of interest in rescuing the relationship.
The legal problems associated with these addictions are severe and must be taken seriously. Persons with these addictions can often engage in behavior that crosses boundaries and cause emotional damage to their life partner. In a relationship, this is a huge problem that can result in legal action being taken against them. In serious enough cases, it could cause jail time.
What sort of addiction treatment options exist for sex or love addiction?
Sex addiction rehab has various treatment options to suit the needs of anyone. Regarding professional treatment, some programs are 12-step based and focus on abstinence; others include more therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to address the underlying causes of addiction.
Depending on whether or not there are co-occurring conditions, medically-assisted therapy may be integrated as well. As with all addictions, there are withdrawal symptoms one may experience. A professional treatment center is equipped to make the period of withdrawal as painless as possible. Ultimately, the important part is that each person chooses the rehab that works best for his or her individual needs. Saving a relationship requires putting in the work.
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Find your freedom from compulsion with Emerald Isle Health & Recovery
Knowing what treatment would work best starts with knowing objectively how bad the addiction has progressed and what, if any, co-occurring conditions might be relevant. For this reason, Emerald Isle Health & Recovery offers a free addiction assessment to new clients.
This free addiction assessment allows us to tailor your potential treatment plan in order to directly and effectively target the underlying causes of your addiction. All that remains is the most important question: are you ready to take back your life?
Reach out now to our dedicated Admissions staff and reach out to our expert team today to schedule your free, confidential assessment!