Sexual addiction: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
In the United States, it is estimated that 12-30 million men and women experience a form of sexual addiction. Sexual addiction is diagnosed as a condition when a person cannot manage their sexual behavior. Addiction takes over someone’s life and leaves an individual unable to function in society or maintain relationships.
Symptoms of sexual addiction can be characterized by activity, behaviors, and attitudes. Some of the most common activity associated with sex addiction are: multiple partners/affairs, compulsive masturbation, excessive use of pornography, unsafe sexual behavior, prostitute relationships, and exhibitionism.
Behaviors and attitudes relating to sexual addiction may include detachment, lack of respect, obsession, feelings of shame or guilt, failure to resist, lack of ability to control (even when trying to stop), or sexual rage. The most common behavior associated with sexual addiction is an individual’s inability to partake in normal work, social, recreational, or relationship activities.
There is no immediate cause of sexual addiction. Neurologists and sexual health experts pin addiction to the reward center of the brain. When the brain associates pleasure as a survival mechanism, sexual addiction can become apparent. Some studies have linked lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) with compulsive sexual behavior.
Those who come from dysfunctional families or have a history of being abused are more likely to have sexual addiction. Those who have addiction within their family history are also more likely to experience addiction in life.
Many treatments relating to sexual addiction are focused on reducing urges and partaking in healthy relationships. Self-help organizations can offer 12-step programs that help manage behavior. Some of the most popular are Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
Specialized therapists are available at treatment programs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a technique used by therapists that help patients change behavior. CBT is a “reprogramming” of sexual behavior and can help avoid relapses.
Some prescription medications can help reduce sexual urges. The most common drug known exhibit this behavior is Prozac. However, Prozac is not on the market to treat sexual addiction.