Sex addiction is identified separately from substance use disorder and we will focus on the area alone, although it can be connected and induced by illicit substances. While substance abuse can reroute brain function based on reward satisfaction, the addiction to sexual acts whether through self-satisfaction or involving others, replaces the focus on substances.
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders reviews a few sexually based dysfunctions but still does not specifically identify sex addiction. However, there are people all over the world who struggle with their sexual fantasies that turn into obsessive behaviors that become addictive.
What distinguishes obsession with sex from addiction to sex?
When you exhibit control over your sexual urges, this is normal, but what identifies sexual addiction for therapists is the inability to tame these urges and to act on them by any means necessary. Statistics show that over half of those convicted for sexual abuse are sex addicts that never sought out treatment. Again, addiction isn’t based entirely on drugs and alcohol. Addiction is the brain’s affinity for an abused substance or behavior that eventually displaces all other necessary functional life needs. When it comes to sex addiction, you’ll likely think of how these obsessions with sex escalate over time. Someone who is addicted to pornography, for example, watches porn compulsively and may then act on these pornographic scenes with their partner or engage in risky sexual relations with complete strangers.
There are many issues connected to pornography addictions such as the disconnect from romantic relationships based on the unrealistic need to act out the sexual fantasy. One’s partner may feel uncomfortable or disrespected in the process, and it ruins the relationship. Should a sex addiction continue to escalate beyond the obsessions with pornography or masturbation, things can become complicated. Life’s balance between family members, work responsibilities, finances, and communication can fall by the wayside without care. Once the individual loses all inhibition to find sexual satisfaction in voyeurism or prostitutes, while in a committed relationship, there are also health-related concerns that put others in danger as well.