Sex Addiction: A Modern Reality
The recognition of sex addiction as a modern-day reality has been gradual, yet significant. For decades, mental health professionals have debated the validity of sex addiction, as research has been inconclusive. However, within the last 15 years, the medical and psychological community has come to recognize the existence of this disorder and its potentially damaging implications.
Sex addiction, also known as hypersensitive addiction or addictive sexual behavior, is a phenomenon where the patient engages in behavior that can be viewed as compulsive or uncontrollable, resulting in potential harm to the self or others. In comparison to substance-related addiction, sex addiction is a disorder of psychological dependence rather than a physical one.
As with any kind of addiction, sex addiction can have severely negative repercussions. Those who suffer from the disorder often find themselves unable to control their compulsions, leading to potentially damaging behaviors such as engaging in unprotected sex, purchasing sex or other forms of sexual exploitation. The disorder can also manifest itself through obsessive porn viewing, cruising for sexual partners, or engaging in high-risk and potentially dangerous activities such as anonymous sex or public masturbation.
Despite some compelling research, the medical community has yet to reach a consensus in regards to the diagnosis and treatment of sex addiction, as comprehensive studies are still relatively few. However, a number of recent studies have pointed towards the common traits of sex addiction and its relationship to other mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Studies have revealed the impact of biological and environmental factors that may contribute to sex addiction. Several environmental contributions include the presence of stress or trauma, the availability of sexual materials, exposed exhibitionism, and an individual’s background and upbringing. Studies have also shown that biological influences such as genetic makeup or biochemical imbalances can also play a role in the development of sex addiction.
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Sex addiction is treatable, however, the recommended treatment approaches for sex addiction remain debated and inconclusive. In comparison to substance-related addictions, there are few established programs tailored to this disorder. One program, the 12-step Sex Addicts Anonymous, (SAA) is used extensively in Europe and the United States, although whether this program is successful in treating this disorder is still debated. In addition to SAA, some clinicians are recommending psychotherapy as an effective form of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, in conjunction with medication.
Despite evidence and research pertaining to the disorder’s existence, sex addiction remains a controversial subject due to its dual acceptance as a mental health concern and potential excuse for immoral behavior. Until a general consensus is reached by health professionals, it is hiigly advised that patients seek a licensed medical practitioner if they feel that they are suffering from sex addiction. It is also important that friends and family take notice of any early signs and recommend that their loved-one seek professional help if they observe the symptoms.
The causes of sex addiction are complex and remain largely unknown, yet with proper diagnosis and treatment, those suffering from the disorder can expect to live a healthy and satisfying life.