Addiction manifests itself in many forms, and while some people are addicted to substances, such as drugs, alcohol or tobacco, others addicted to physical things, emotional stimulation, or other intangible items that we’re just beginning to understand.
The significance of sex addiction is often minimized in modern media. Some doubt whether it’s even an actual addiction. The reality of the matter is – as far as the brain is concerned – it’s a real addiction, and it appears to affect the brain in the same way that substance abuse does. Whether addicted to a substance, an action, a feeling or something else entirely, addiction works in the same way by causing a sort of compulsion in the addict that often leads to risky behavior so that they can satisfy the addiction.
With sex addiction, this risky behavior comes in the form of unsafe practices and mental distress that is often associated with these behaviors.
Here are just a few of the consequences of sex addiction.
The primary fears when dealing with the consequences of sex addiction are that of physical health. Sexually transmitted diseases or infections are often brought on by risky sexual behavior such as an increase in the number of exposure opportunities, sex without condoms, and a general lack of concern with the above as it pertains to satisfying sexual cravings. Lack of judgment and/or discretion amongst sex addicts is often reported, and this leads to higher instances of risky behavior.
Self Esteem and Self Worth
Many sex addicts report diminished feelings of self-worth, and self-esteem issues stemming from their addictions. In his breakthrough study on sex addiction, researcher Patrick Carnes revealed that 97 percent of those surveyed reported that their sexual activity led to a loss of self-esteem. Additional findings were:
- 96-percent had strong feelings of isolation and loneliness
- 94-percent experienced feelings of hopelessness and despair
- 91-percent acted against previously held values or beliefs
- 90-percent felt like two people (disassociation)
Lack of Intimacy
Respondents to the above-mentioned Carnes’ survey were typically unable to form close friendships and had issues with personal or sexual intimacy. Feelings of shame and lack of self-esteem were the major contributors to this problem. Most reported feeling that they would be judged or rejected by others if they knew that they were really like, or found out about the addiction. This led to addicts finding ways to turn potential friends or partners away without ever being able to accept the bond that often accompanies sexual activity.
Inability to Foster Healthy Relationships
Despite a large number of sexual connections, most respondents felt lonely or the sense that they were lying to friends and family by living two lives. One in which they appeared to be normal and healthy and the other fostered their addiction but was typically withheld from others. Problems with infidelity in romantic relationships often further facilitated these feelings.
Some sex addicts have natural and consensual sex with others, albeit at higher than societal average rates. Others become Paraphilic, which – according to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) – is the experience of extreme sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations or individuals. Paraphilia often has its own sub-classifications that are risky or illegal in their own right, such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or even pedophilia. Some sex addicts move on to more extreme compulsions after typical sexual experiences no longer excite them, which could lead to a host of legal ramifications.
According to a National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity finding, 58-percent of sex addicts have engaged in illegal sexual behavior, which is most commonly tied to prostitution.
The same findings from the National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity report that 83-percent of sex addicts also have concurrent addictions, such as alcoholism, eating disorders, or compulsive gambling.
Sex addiction is a legitimate condition, and it needs to be treated like one. Much like drug or alcohol addictions, sex addicts undergo immense physical and emotional duress in attempting to satisfy their addictions. Treatment to this or any other addiction is best handled by professionals with experience in recognizing and treating problem behavior. At Prescott House, our goal is to assist men who enter our program with recognizing the difference between safe and risky sexual behavior, as well as equip them with the tools they need in order to begin to live their lives free from the grips of sex addiction and compulsion.