Sex addiction may present itself in different ways. While some people may seek out multiple sexual partners, others may feel a need to view pornography or put themselves in stimulating situations. Someone with sex addiction will likely have to alter their lifestyle to make time to satisfy their urgers multiple times a day.
Much like with other impulse-control disorders such as pathological gambling or pyromania, there must be a distinction made between sex addiction and someone who may be more sexually adventurous or active than the average person. Someone who has multiple sexual partners or cheats on a spouse is not necessarily a sex addict. A person who is genuinely suffering from sex addiction will have a compulsive need to perform sexual acts that will be next to impossible to resist.
Although it lacks the research put into many other impulse control disorders, sex addiction may be one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. A recent national study suggested that up to 8% of adults in the United States reported symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior, and 10% of men and 7% of women reported levels of stress as a result.
Sex addiction can be dangerous if left untreated. If someone suffering from sex addiction is in a relationship, the strain that the disorder can put on both parties can be immense. Additionally, sex addiction often causes behavior that can spread sexually-transmitted diseases or legal trouble.
Love addiction is a disorder that causes an excessive interest or fascination towards a romantic partner. Unlike sex addiction, love addiction causes a fixation on an individual and goes beyond physical interaction. While a sex addict will try to find ways to perform sexual acts whenever they may be able, a love addict will only want to be romantic with the one person they are fixated on.
Love addiction is also based on a relationship in which both partners share feelings for each other. However, the party suffering from love addiction will often be experiencing more intense emotions than their partner. If a person feels this fixation for someone who does not have any feelings for them in return, that is considered a delusional disorder called erotomania.
Whereas sex addiction is commonly compared to an impulse control disorder or a substance use disorder, love addiction can be compared to a mood disorder. This would suggest that someone with love addiction is experiencing moods that are not natural for most relationships, comparable to the euphoric or hyper feelings caused during manic episodes.
Also, similarly to sex addiction, love addiction might be more prevalent than some assume. An estimate of 5% to 10% of the United States population may suffer from a case of love addiction serious enough to cause “extreme, radical brain processes.” Love addiction is also more commonly found in young people, with up to one of every four college students experiencing some feelings of pathological love.
The causes of sex and love addiction are not fully understood. Both disorders can be attributed to brain chemistry and how the body reacts to certain stimuli. Similar to a behavioral addiction like pathological gambling, the brain recognizes the dopamine release caused by a set of circumstances.
The euphoria created by this endorphin release can cause the brain to crave this feeling again, leading to compulsive behavior. With sex addiction, the dopamine release is made by either having sex or being in sexual situations. In contrast, in love addiction, it is caused by being around and receiving affection from a specific individual.
Sex addiction can be a co-occurring disorder with other mental health conditions. Bipolar disorder or neurological disorders such as dementia or epilepsy are known to cause episodes of hypersexuality that could develop into a sex addiction.
Trauma, especially when experienced at a young age, can lead to sex addiction and love addiction in later years. Both disorders are related to low self-esteem and depression, which traumatic experiences or unhappy childhoods can cause.
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