Although most healthy adults in the United States both think about and have sex on a regular basis, it does not usually interfere with other aspects of their lives, such as school or work. However, some people develop unhealthy habits or characteristics that will eventually have negative effects on their home life, career or education. They will engage in compulsive sex -- behavior that continues despite the negative consequences that it has been having in other areas of the person’s life. During the sexual act they will experience a “high” but, once it is over, they will return to feeling emotionally empty. Many will feel compelled to increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior to achieve the desired effect.
People who engage in compulsive sex can be straight or gay, man or woman, single or partnered. They use sex to help stop feeling lonely, anxious, depressed, angry or a host of other mental states. The sex can be with another person or masturbation. Many compulsive sex addicts report that they began fantasizing and masturbating at a very young age in order to avoid negative feelings and graduated to engaging in actual sex once they became adults.
Be assured that not everyone who has sex or masturbates a lot is compulsive about sex. Further, simply because someone’s sexual habits do not conform with societal norms does not necessarily mean that they have a problem. For instance, our society believes in monogamy but some scientific evidence exists that would tent to support the notion that humans are not designed to be with one person for their entire adult lives. In fact, many of us likely have an erroneous definition of “compulsive sex” given that people who are caught cheating on their mates have taken to claiming that they are a “sex addict” and entering treatment in order to seem less culpable for their cheating. Several high-profile celebrities may fit this bill.
However, compulsive sex is a real problem that can ruin the lives of both the patient and his or her family and should not be dismissed simply because the term may be overused or misused by the mainstream media. A compulsive sex problem does not develop overnight and, by the time the patient seeks treatment, sex has become as destructive as an illicit drug and treatment is needed
Patients with a compulsive sex problem can exhibit symptoms and behaviors that are much more varied than other types of addicts However, they do tend to have some things in common with substance abusers. For instance, compulsive sex addicts will often use the sex to escape from their negative feeling for a bit, yet feel bad about their behavior once the act is over, resulting in more depression or intense feeling of guilt or remorse. This phenomenon is also experienced by drinkers who relapse. Many sex addicts will feel that the sex has taken control of them, thinking about sex and sexual behavior when not actively engaged in it and, then, trying to stop cold turkey but failing miserably. Like an alcoholic being offered a drink, they will be unable to turn down a sexual partner or experience.
True compulsive sex is behavior that continues despite already causing negative consequences at home, at work or in school. These patients neglect their jobs or families in order to engage in sexual behavior. This is where naughty husbands and wives differ from true addicts; although both groups lie to hide their behavior, the actual addicts tend to do so because they are ashamed of themselves and not just because they know they will get in trouble. On the other hand, naughty mates stop the behavior after they get caught, addicts get caught but carry on with the behavior despite the fallout.
Those who engage in compulsives sex know that they have a problem but are powerless to stop their behavior. Although they may desire a stable relationship, their sexual patterns has made this impossible either because they cannot get emotionally close to another person or their particular proclivities are too intense or bizarre for most “normal” partners to tolerate. As a result, compulsive sex addicts often have anonymous sex or one night stands with people they would never be interested in having a long-term relationship with.
The sheer seriousness of the disorder can also be demonstrated by the fact that compulsive sex addicts may continue the behavior even in the face of threats to their freedom, health or finances. For instance, some may actively seek out sex with minors or animals, both of which are crimes, even though they are aware of the legal consequences. Others may engage in unprotected intercourse with strangers, despite being aware of the dangers of HIV and other STDs. Some may even spend all of their money on prostitutes instead of paying the bills, or will be fired because of inattention to their duties or absenteeism.
Compulsive Sex Treatment
The good news is that our society is beginning to acknowledge and understand a whole host of addictions, including alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual addiction. While virtually unheard of twenty years ago, specialized treatment for compulsive sex is now available on both an in-patient and out-patient basis. The goal of treatment for compulsive sex is to enable the patient to reconnect with people and develop healthy sexual partnerships.