Sex addiction and love addiction are mental health disorders that cause compulsive urges that can significantly impact a person’s relationships. There is some controversy around the classification of these addictions, as the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, excluded both as mental health conditions. Regardless of the lack of DSM-5 classification, sex and love addiction continue to be studied and are most often compared to a substance use disorder or impulse control disorder.
Sex addiction is a disorder that causes a person to feel an irresistible urge to perform sexual acts. In the same way, someone suffering from a substance use disorder seeks the “high” they feel from drugs, a person with a sex addiction feels that they need to either perform sexual acts or be in sexually stimulating circumstances to feel a sense of relief.
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.
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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.
When treating sex or love addiction, it is crucial to find the underlying root causes. If the addiction disorder is caused by underlying depression or anxiety, certain medications can be helpful tools in treating symptoms. Any medications prescribed, however, should be one aspect of a broader treatment plan based on psychotherapy.
Due to the strain both sex and love addiction can have on a person’s relationships, couple therapy may be necessary during the treatment process. Sex and love addiction are directly based on the relationships a person has. They need to be upfront and open about how these disorders affect them and their significant others.
Talk therapy options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can be used to better avoid triggering events. These addictions, specifically sex addiction, can be dangerous to a person’s health and harmful to their relationships. Cognitive behavioral therapy works to take the negative emotions that lead to unhealthy behavior and reframe them to avoid dangerous actions in the future and find better coping methods.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms associated with sex or love addiction, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible. At Warner Park, we are here to find the best treatment option to fit your needs. Reach out to us today at 866-623-6095 to learn more about how we can help you.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues around mental health or addiction, contact us for a full evaluation and treatment options. We understand that it is not a process that any individual should tackle alone, and that is why we have a team of qualified personnel who are available to offer you the help you need.