Perhaps you have heard about sex addiction but don’t know too much about it. People hear about different stereotypes that fit the disease and many assume it’s a made up disease that perverts or overly sexual people use as an excuse for their behavior. But, NO! Sex addiction is a real, recognized medical condition that has only come to light in recent years within the psychological and medical profession.
Another reason many people don’t know much about the disease is because most addicts don’t freely talk about sexual disorders. They are either too embarrassed, uncomfortable or ignorant about the topic to discuss it openly with family, friends, or others. As a result, there are many misconceptions and stereotypes about sex addiction that are completely untrue.
When someone hears the term sex addict… Many different thoughts come… Are they thinking about the person who kidnaps and rapes children, the spouse who has multiple affairs, the person who exposes themselves or peeps in windows… or is the person who views pornography at work, or stays online for hours on end… or is the person who has sex with underage partners… or is the “pervert” in the raincoat with the long beard who lives in the scary house at the end of the street… And the example go on… There are so many misconceptions of the term sex addiction.
The National Council on Sex Addiction and Compulsive defines sexual addiction as the “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” Essentially, this means that addicts are so strongly compelled to carry out their addictive behaviors they are willing to risk their:
and in some cases criminal charges.
This disease is much more than someone using it as an excuse for reckless sexual activities. It is a disease, much like alcohol or drug addiction.
In fact, clinicians and researchers have defined the disorder based on criteria used for chemical dependency literature. According to Psych Central, these criteria include the following:
Frequently engaging in more sex with more partners than intended
Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex; wanting to cut down and unsuccessfully attempting to limit sexual activity.
Thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities or continually engaging in excessive sexual practices despite a desire to stop.
Spending considerable time in activities related to sex, such as cruising for partners or spending hours online visiting pornographic websites.
Neglecting obligations such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex.
Continually engaging in the sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or potential health risks.
Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve a desired effect, such as more frequent visits to prostitutes or more sex partners.
Feeling irritable when unable to engage in the desired behavior.
As you can see, all of the criteria focus on repetitive activities that are carried out continually by the sex addict. The nature of the activities also is defined by escalation, which is also typical of any addiction. Professionals feel that if a person engages in three or more of the above criteria for a period of at least six months that they are a suffering from sex addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association has issued its own set of preliminary criteria for what they call “Hypersexual Disorder.” Essentially, it is another term for sexual addiction. The symptoms are similar to the above criteria and can be used by medical professionals to help identify sex addiction in people who are seeking help or are in desperate need of care.
It is important that the level of awareness about sexual addiction increases among the general public because there are myriad people suffering from this disease in silence. If it were better understood, addicts would feel more comfortable to come forward and seek treatment. As it is right now, addicts are often ashamed, embarrassed and afraid of how people would react to their sex addiction.