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Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse – Connections May be Many
Drugs, alcohol, sex: Addictive, progressive and coming into view as similar conditions with serious consequences.
Forthcoming editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders may include hypersexuality or hypersexual disorder as a recognized disorder, a term that can be interchanged in some setting with sexual addiction.
A recent study explored symptoms and problems related to sexual addiction for 200 people. The findings suggest that 134 of the study participants had symptoms related to sex addiction, and these may be similar to drug or alcohol addiction symptoms, including:
- Sex addiction means being unable to stop acting on urges for sexual behavior, even when the consequences are known and severe
- People with sexual addiction may experience dramatic mood swings or behavioral changes when their access to sex is interrupted or uncertain
- Over time, the brain’s pleasure centers are affected by the sexual activity until the person must engage in more or more intense levels of activity to achieve the same level of escape or “high”
- Contrary to stereotypes, sexual activity for people with the addiction isn’t often pleasurable, but instead becomes a way of avoiding negative emotions or stress.
Sex doesn’t always have to be the manifestation of the addiction or of having hypersexual disorder. Some people report obsessive viewing of pornography or compulsive masturbation, even in inappropriate places, and being unable to stop. Additionally, people with sex addiction may also have co-existing substance abuse problems or addictions.
The feelings of shame, depression or hopelessness that can accompany sex addiction may also perpetuate substance abuse. Other research suggests that people with sexual addiction may have obsessive-compulsive tendencies or may have similar pre-existing factors that are often present when substance addiction develops.