When we think of addiction, we most commonly think about alcohol or drug addiction, when, in reality, people can suffer from or be addicted to almost anything. Simply put, addiction is an illness, and having an addiction to sex and love is a common indication of that illness. Some people think that because this specific illness doesn’t involve substances, it doesn’t harm the person suffering or to their loved ones and family that it can’t be a real addiction or illness.
Although sex and love addiction is not recognized as a real addiction by the American Psychiatric Association, it is classified as a process addiction; this means it is a behavioral addiction rather than a psychiatric condition. However, people suffering from an addiction to sex and love know all too well that this is, in fact, a real thing.
It is important to know that sex and love addiction is different from sex addiction, but you can’t really talk about addiction to sex and love without first talking about sex addiction.
If you or someone you know has an addiction to sex and love, read on to find out more about the symptoms, causes, and ways to treat this addiction.
An addiction to sex manifests itself in many ways but is most commonly a term used to describe out-of-control sexual activity. People suffering from sex addiction oftentimes feel shame or guilt around their addiction, which can delay them from seeking help. Like any addiction, the sufferer can’t get enough of the activity they are addicted to, which oftentimes leads to an increase in risky or extreme behaviors to try and satiate their needs. Sex addiction is a real disorder carrying severe consequences to the addict and those that love them.
Signs of sex addiction can include:
Misuse or excessive use of porn
Having an abundance of sexual partners
Engaging in numerous affairs even though you’re in a committed relationship
Paying for sex (using prostitutes)
Engaging in extreme forms of sex or fetishes, such as bondage or masochism
Excessive use or misuse of sex chat lines and/or webcams
While the above activities are mostly harmless and done in moderation, people with sex addiction can become so obsessed that it affects their everyday lives. Sex addiction can also have a grave impact on a person’s work life, finances, and, most commonly, on their romantic relationships. Spouses and partners of sex addicts can find it very difficult to cope with, as it may bring up intense feelings of jealousy, mistrust, and betrayal. People suffering from sex addiction oftentimes hide it from the ones they love, as they know that their addiction will likely cause them tremendous pain if they find out. However, as an addict, they are unable to stop due to their mental illness and will do anything to achieve that euphoric high, leading them to neglect their own well-being and the well-being of those around them.
People who suffer from love addiction have an overwhelming need to feel loved and the desire to love, generally in inappropriate situations. Love addicts will do anything to search for and find love or go to extreme lengths to please their partner, often adversely affecting their own well-being and needs. Love addicts become obsessed with the idea of being in love and commonly stay in toxic relationships due to having extreme co-dependent issues. Over time, they can cause the addict to lose sight of themselves and not find balance or maintain any healthy relationship.
Having an addiction to love can be correlated to having an attachment disorder and, like most other addictions, stems from an imbalance in the brain. People suffering from love addiction often have terribly low self-esteem, leading them to believe they are worthless if they’re not in a romantic relationship and will sometimes stay in an abusive relationship as they’d rather be with someone than be alone. Most people who suffer from love addiction don’t realize it’s an illness and treatment available.
Admitting that you have an addiction to sex and love and need help can be hard. Sex and love addiction are increasing problems, causing those suffering from addiction to experience depression, anxiety, or worthlessness. Many characteristics may help you determine if you or a loved one is suffering from sex or love addiction and need professional help.
Engaging in sexual activity with more than one partner
Requiring an inappropriate amount of sexual activity or engaging in extreme forms to feel the same pleasure
Disregarding personal and financial responsibilities to engage in sexual activity
Being unable to be intimate with your spouse or partner because it doesn’t give the same level of euphoric high or provokes feelings of shame or guilt
Engaging in sexual activity even though it causes problems in everyday life, such as at home or work.
Falling in love and committing to someone without knowing them
Being overly jealous and possessive when your partner talks to or spends time with others
Continually moving on from one relationship to the next in search of love
Becoming obsessed with and/or overly reliant on your partner
Never feeling satisfied in a relationship
When not in a relationship, compulsively engaging in sex to fill the loneliness
Frequently returning to previous toxic relationships after committing not to
Like most addictions, having an addiction to sex and love can affect anyone. Due to a lack of research, there is no real answer to what causes someone to have an addiction to sex and love. It is said that women are more likely to become addicted to sex and love, but again, more research needs to be done to determine why this is efficient. However, some people are more likely to develop and suffer from addiction than others.
Some of the circumstances below can contribute to a person being at higher risk to develop and suffer from an addiction to sex and love:
Sex and love addictions can be learned behaviors; for example, if a child grows up in a home where one or both of their parents are addicts, they may learn that addictive behavior is normal, continuing the addiction cycle.
People who have suffered emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, especially in childhood or early relationship experiences, are usually more likely to develop sex or love addiction. For example, if you were sexually abused as a child, you could glorify your abuser and justify staying in a toxic relationship because of the trauma.
Individuals who have previously been in unhealthy relationships often feel unworthy of receiving love or over obsess about the idea of being in love, which leads them to constantly search for relationships, as they are desperate to feel and give love. Usually, when someone carries the baggage from one relationship to the next, they cannot form healthy relationships, whether it be friendship or romantic.
Admitting that you have an addiction to sex and love can be scary, but once you or someone you love comes to this realization, they can begin their road to recovery. Those recovering from sex and love addiction, like most addicts, usually manage best when they’re supported by the ones they love. It is always important to talk to your doctor before starting any treatment plan, especially if it requires prescription drugs.
There are many ways to get help for your addiction to sex and love. Some of these include:
Online counseling has become wildly popular in 2020; with the hit of COVID-19 and Shelter-In-Place ordinances, seeing a Licensed therapist became quite impossible. Online counseling gives patients similar and just as effective counseling opportunities, making it easy and convenient to seek sex and love addiction treatment. Online counseling offers you the ability to talk to a therapist specializing in sex and love addiction from the comfort of your own space. There is also no travel time, no need to arrange for a babysitter if you have children, and one of the best benefits is that you can speak to an online therapist at any point during the day.
A few online therapists include:
Those suffering from sex and love addiction tend to do best when supported by others who are also experiencing addiction and on the road to recovery. This makes group therapy an ideal course of action, so addicts can find a group focused on sex and love addiction, helping them realize that their problems are not unique. This realization can help ease the shame, guilt, and remorse they feel about their addiction.
This type of care focuses on the individual's problems. After one person shares, other people in the group are encouraged to share their similar thoughts and experiences, leading to a mutual understanding that other people also struggle with sex and love addiction -- that you don’t have to face this journey alone.
Group therapy options include:
Every sex and love addict’s road to healthier, happier, and more emotionally fulfilling relationships is different. Each person chooses their treatment plan based on their unique life history and views on romantic relationships. If you’re not sure where to start, know that you’re not alone and that there is hope for a full recovery. With the proper treatment, you can live the life you desire, full of loving and healthy relationships.