Monday, December 13, 2010

Is it a real condition or a convenient excuse for serial cheaters?

When sex becomes an addiction

Still, plenty of questions surround sexual obsession: Does it mean you're addicted to sex if you're doing it three times a day? How do you separate the addicts from otherwise healthy people who just happen to really, really love having sex? Relationship expert Amanda Kane explains the difference: "Generally, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sexual acting-out and forms no emotional bond with his or her sex partners." So if you find yourself using men just for sex, you might have an addiction problem. For some addicts, it is the only way they know to relieve anxiety and cope with stress. This is very different from super-passionate couples who link sex with love and emotional connection.

Another key point is compulsion: "Sex addiction has the hallmarks of other addictions (i.e. alcohol or drug addiction) because it involves a recurrent failure to control sexually acting-out," stresses Kane. It's a red flag if you engage in multiple behaviors (having risky, casual sex, watching pornography, masturbating) constantly despite harmful consequences. Sex addicts often experience intense highs followed by a big low point with feelings of guilt and shame, and in order to cope with these low points, they seek out even more sexual experiences. Which inevitably leads to a dangerous vicious cycle.

Signs of sex addiction

But unlike physical conditions (such as heart problems or diabetes), mental health disorders like this can be difficult to diagnose. Still, there are some tell-tale signs: According to SASH, you likely have an issue with sex addiction if you have out-of-control repetitive behaviors such as:

  • Frequent casual sex
  • Having numerous affairs whilst in a relationship
  • Craving "risky" sex
  • Using pornography on a very regular basis
  • Using sex as a way to deal with problems and stress
  • Feeling unable to control sexual behavior even if you want to
  • Requiring increasing amounts of sex to achieve the same "high"
  • Lack of intimacy during sexual encounters

You can't get an official diagnosis for sex addiction yet, though, because right now "it is not a formal diagnosis included in the DSM-IV-TR, which is considered the 'bible' of mental health disorders," explains Kane. "Essentially the verdict is still out about creating a formal diagnosis for this problem, but it is a legitimate concern for an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the population."
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