Differences Between Sex Addiction and People Who Engage in Frequent Sex

Sex addiction, like compulsive gambling or dependence on substances, is real – and researchers are looking more closely than ever at who may be living with the complex disorder. They are seeking to understand how they compare to people who may engage in a great deal of sexual activity without the life-disrupting symptoms of the addiction.

For decades, professional treatment centers and clinics have helped individuals across all walks of life manage the symptoms of sex addiction and embark toward a path of recovery. Meanwhile, the official naming of the condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has remained a source of debate. Currently hypersexuality, or hypersexual disorder, is under evaluation for listing in the forthcoming edition. Much of the debate centers around how to know what the symptoms truly are and how they’re different from someone who participates in high levels of sexual activity. A recent study looked at more than 200 individuals to see how their symptoms impacted their lives.

Symptoms of Sexual Addiction include:

  • Inability to stop obsessive thoughts about sex, even when the thoughts are unwanted or bizarre.
  • Lost ability to control urges or cravings for sexual behaviors, even when the activity is in a high-risk environment like the workplace.
  • Reduced interest in social settings or family life to pursue the sexual activity, such as arranging for paid sexual services, multiple partners or online sexual engagements.
  • Continuation of the activity even when the consequences are known – such as loss of employment, financial losses, family loss and others.
  • Frequent use of sex to escape or avoid negative emotions and life stressors.

Additionally, people who showed symptoms of sexual addiction seemed to turn to sexual activities as a solution to a challenge, even when those behaviors would worsen the situation. Researchers looked at whether the disorder could induce serious anxiety, stress and life problems, and if alcohol or drugs were omitted from the factors how it would change. They also noted that future research may include looking at the ways sexual addiction may impact the brain, similar to drug-related addictions.

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