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Evelyn_475's avatar

Is there such a thing as being a sex addict?

Asked by Evelyn_475 (787points) December 6th, 2010

I know there are organizations out there that are similar to alcoholics anonymous but are designed to treat those who believe they have an unhealthy relationship with sex. I have read their “self diagnosis” questions but I am still not convinced that answering those questions can really diagnose. They are somewhat vague. What is an unhealthy relationship with sex? Since it is a primal instinct, how do you know if it is really unhealthy? Generally sex is considered a healthy, normal activity. I am a bit unclear, so I figured I would as all you smart minds on fluther what you truly believe on this topic.

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18 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

This is too much, @Evelyn_475! Just yesterday I had a brief conversation with someone who is in rehab, and he said his counselor is a recovering sex addict. Then it came out that the woman is almost 70 years old! That got me laughing! My friend said, “Yeah! Well…I don’t know how long she’s been recovered!” I so wanted to post this exact question, but I don’t have the guts. But you do! This should be good!
Following!

ucme's avatar

Oh my god….yes..yes…oh yeah…that’ll work…...ooh baby, yeah…. yeah….. YEAH!! I dunno, maybe :¬)

LuckyGuy's avatar

This is not from experience mind you (darn it!) but I would say if, like any other addiction, it causes problems in your life, job, school, relationships with others, health and most other activities then, yes, you might have an addiction.

marinelife's avatar

A sex addict is someone who substitutes the sex act for other emotions. He is happy—he has sex. He is sad or depressed—he has sex. He feels anything at all—he has sex. He also uses sex to avoid intimacy.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Just out of curiosity I went and read the questions. I took the test. The questions themselves gave me the same impression that you had… that they didn’t mean much. I consider myself to have a healthy sexual lifestyle, and I answered yes to many of the questions. However, at the end, it said I was far from a “sex addict.”
I do believe that sex addiction exists. I agree with what @worriedguy said.

dubsrayboo's avatar

I have a family member that is a recovering sex addict. He ruined his business, distanced family members, and abused a family member because of his inability to productively cope with stress in any other way than something sexual. Even his jokes were sexual in nature. He’s become better with LOTS of therapy, thus my saying that he’s recovering.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Just like any other self-assessments, of course it’s vague and pointless – those things are useless. I do think sex addiction is a real issue for some but just like a lot of other behavioral issues, there are less people that actually have it than think they have it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Where do you find the test?

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve known a number of sex addicts—some from meetings and some I’ve met elsewhere. The sex really gets in the way of their lives. All they think about is sex.

One guy masturbated all day long. He cock got raw. Several spent every waking hour looking at porn. Or maybe not every, but hours and hours. They avoided their wives and families and jobs. They preferred porn to anything else. Others, usually women, are love addicts. They are constantly falling in love and they will do anything to keep their lover happy—always at the expense of themselves.

Both men and women will haunt the bars. They are often alcoholics. But they’ll go home with whoever will take them at the end of the night. Sometimes they’ll have three or four different men in a day. Guys ogle the women quite openly and will try to pick them up.

Another type goes for affairs. One guy I knew had three affairs going at once. He’d be juggling his schedule like a mad man, making fifteen minutes for her here, on the way to the store and back. Some will engage in online affairs—falling in love over and over, a different woman every month, seeking some magic pill to make them feel better.

Almost all sex and love addicts have very low self esteem. They feel deeply unhappy about themselves. The don’t value themselves. They think they are scum, and so they run around having sex to make them feel powerful and desirable. It’s very seductive.

What, in theory, they all want is a stable relationship with one person, where they can be totally open and honest and thus achieve true intimacy. The goal is not to be hiding and sneaking and cheating on your spouse—cheating not by sex, but by intimacy. When you see someone else, you are stealing your soul from your spouse.

It is very difficult for these people to stop. They almost never feel ok about themselves, and that shame and self-despising makes it hard for them to trust anyone could really love them. I don’t think most people have any sympathy for sex or love addicts. First, it’s hard to believe it’s anything more than pure self-indulgence. Second, they don’t understand how the sex or love addict can’t control themselves. Third, it’s hard to imagine that a lack of self-worth and an inability to trust people or to be intimate would lead to this kind of behavior. It’s kind of like mental illness. You can’t be inside someone else’s head, so you can’t know what it’s like. I also think there’s an element of jealousy, because people imagine the sex addict running around getting all kinds of sex and that seems like something to admire. Secretly.

It’s a condition that starts early in life, usually bred by some kind of physical or emotional abuse. What ever it is, it makes the child feel like a failure as a human being. This persists throughout life and I suspect many people can control it, until some other stressor happens, and they start acting out these destructive behaviors.

I don’t think it’s something people should be skeptical about. Probably there are people saying, “I can’t help myself. I’m a sex addict,” as if that gives them permission to continue acting out. I believe a few people do this, especially when their spouse is a love addict, who will put up with anything to have hubby around. Or husband puts up with a wife acting out, and sometimes even helps her act out, like a pimp.

Most are miserable. They may not deserve your sympathy, but maybe they deserve understanding. They are accountable for their actions and it is a choice to engage in this behavior, but it is not something they would choose if they thought they had any other option, I don’t believe.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta ‘The stealing your partner’s soul’ part is fine to talk about in terms of sex addicts but those of us who aren’t sex addicts don’t do any such thing when we ‘see someone else’. Wouldn’t want that kind of thinking to spread.

wundayatta's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir It’s the secrecy. What you do is not secret. A completely different thing.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

From hereDopamine. It’s at the core of our sexual drives and survival needs, and it motivates us to do just about everything. This mechanism within the reward circuitry of the primitive brain has been around for millions of years and has not changed. Rats, humans – indeed, all mammals – are very similar in this respect.

Dopamine is behind a lot of the desire we associate with eating and sexual intercourse. Similarly, all addictive drugs trigger dopamine (the “craving neurochemical”) to stimulate the pleasure/reward circuitry. So do gambling, shopping, overeating and other, seemingly unrelated, activities. Go shopping: dopamine. Smoke a cigarette: dopamine. Computer games: dopamine. Heroin: dopamine. Orgasm: dopamine. They all work somewhat differently on the brain, but all raise your dopamine.

You get a bigger blast of dopamine eating high-calorie, high-fat foods than eating low-calorie vegetables. You may believe that you love ice cream, but you really love your blast of dopamine. You’re genetically programmed to seek out high-calorie foods over others. Similarly, dopamine drives you to have sex over most other activities. With dopamine as the driving force, biology has designed you to engage in fertilization behavior to make more babies, and urges you to move on to new partners to create greater genetic variety among your offspring.

So, in my non-professional “expertise”, addicts of all kinds are in a place where they need more dopamine than others. How they go about getting it varies, but they’re all looking to fix a chemical depletion (or perceived depletion) in their brain.

iamthemob's avatar

What @papayalily said.

Everyone is inclined to pleasure-seeking behavior. Increased behavior or use of one kind or another generally increases the tolerance – and for some this leads to “chasing the dragon.” Increased use requires increased commitment of time and resources, and potential privileging of unproductive behavior over productive behavior. Eventually, this can interfere with being able to support yourself, and an increase on dependence on the behavior or use at the same time. So yes – sex addiction is a very, very real thing.

When you see sex take a priority over things you know it shouldn’t…or others are telling you it is…then it’s time to seek help. That’s going to beat a self-diagnostic. And if you’re questioning it…you need to bring others into the conversation, personal or professional.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Sure. Some people get from sex the comfort, satisfaction and affirmation others get from love. Imagine the foodie who has a outstanding meal and feels all is right with the world for the evening, the sex addict is similar in that the sex/orgasms give them that sated feeling. For sex addict people, it’s the sexual act and their own experience that matters more than who the partner/s are, how they feel about those people or what those people feel about them. It’s not about love so much as release, feeling sexually dynamic & desireable.

josie's avatar

No. Addiction is a relationship between specialized brain receptors and specific chemicals. When certain chemicals reach the brain, these receptors are activated and they never shut off.
Sex is fun and pleasurable to be sure. But the chemicals involved are endogenous. We all have them.
The term sex addiction is nothing more than a new age psychological way of “enabling “promiscuity. A terrific money maker for modern therapists.
Why not be honest and simply admit to promiscuity?
Answer: Why face the social disapproval, when you can have it both ways? Be indiscriminate, plus get sympathy for your addiction! What a great country!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@josie: Sex addicts as I’ve come to know some are people who don’t get the same satisfaction or deepness from their relationships that others do- they don’t feel the euphoria of love the same, the closest they get is the chemical release from sex and their brains want it all the time because they don’t feel the happiness of home & hearth & family even if they’ve got it good.

iamthemob's avatar

@josie – Indeed. Regardless of whether it’s defined as an addiction, and many APA members recognize behavioral addiction as something separated from substance addiction, or as closer to OCD, or more like an impulse control disorder – sexual “addiction” is indeed a separate phenomenon from promiscuity that has been recognized for reasons that are completely distinct from a need or desire to validate promiscuity.

Plus, when we consider something like cocaine, which functions as a re-uptake inhibitor, we are addicted not to the substance, but the fact that it encourages the flow of greater amounts of endogenous chemicals. It is the effect that matters, and not what is causing it.

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