Sex and love addiction

When we think of addiction, we typically think of substances like alcohol or drugs. However, addiction can take many different forms. Sex and love addiction is a type of behavioural addiction that is defined by a compulsive need for sexual or romantic encounters. Like other addictions, it can cause serious damage to physical and mental health, as well as relationships. Those suffering from this condition often struggle to maintain healthy boundaries with their partners, leading to feelings of guilt.

Sex and love addiction sign

What is sex and love addiction?

Sex and love addiction is a behavioural or ‘process addiction’, whereby an individual becomes addicted to the act or behaviours associated with sex or love, to the point where it causes significant distress or impairment. It is characterised by an obsessive need for intimacy, leading you to compulsively seek out sex or love regardless of any negative outcomes that may occur.

Sex addiction specifically is a disorder defined by an obsessive need to engage in sexual activity. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, such as compulsive masturbation, preoccupation with sexual fantasy, excessive use of pornography and risky sexual behaviour. Sex addiction is often driven by a need for validation and approval and sufferers often have difficulty forming healthy relationships.

Love addiction, on the other hand, is a term that is used to describe a range of behaviours that are associated with an obsessive, compulsive or unhealthy need for love and approval. You may find yourself in a never-ending cycle of relationships, or you may become fixated on one person. You may idealise partners and put them on a pedestal, or you may be constantly chasing the ‘high’ of new love. It is possible that you may also be afraid of intimacy, or you could become overly dependent on a partner for validation and self-worth.

How does sex and love addiction develop?

Woman struggling with anxiety

There is no one answer to how sex and love addiction develops. Instead, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of these addictions.

For some people, underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can lead to compulsions around sex or love. For others, a history of trauma or abuse may be a contributing factor as sex or love may used as a way to fill a void or as an attempt to find comfort.

In addition, certain personality traits such as impulsivity or difficulty regulating emotions can also make someone more vulnerable to developing an addiction to love or sex. Environmental factors such as exposure to pornography or having friends who engage in risky sexual behavior can also play a role.

Ultimately, it is important to remember that there is no single cause of sex or love addiction. Rather, it is typically the result of a combination of personal, psychological and environmental factors.

Am I addicted to sex or love?

It is normal to enjoy sex and feel attachments to others but when these feelings become all-consuming, they may be indicative of an addiction. Individuals who are addicted to sex or love often prioritise their habit over other aspects of their life, including work, school and relationships. They may spend excessive amounts of time thinking about sex or their love interest and they may engage in risky behaviors in order to pursue these activities.

If you are wondering if you have a sex or love addiction, consider taking the following quiz:

  1. Do you feel like you cannot control your sexual or romantic behaviour?
  2. Do you continue engaging in these activities even though they are causing problems in your life?
  3. Are you preoccupied with thoughts of sex or your love interest?
  4. Do you hide your behaviours from others?
  5. Do you feel shame or guilt around your behaviours around sex or love?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be struggling with an addiction. If you are concerned about your behaviour, pick up the phone and speak to our team for more guidance.

The negative impact of sex and love addiction

Like other types of addiction, sex and love addiction can lead to several negative consequences, both for the individual struggling with the addiction and those closest to them.

For example, individuals with a sex and love addiction may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy, they may neglect their personal hygiene and they may develop financial problems due to spending money on prostitutes or dating services. In addition, sex and love addiction can take a toll on relationships, often leading to infidelity, divorce or estrangement from family members.

Your physical health may also be impacted as sex and love addiction leaves you at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. It also leaves many vulnerable to domestic abuse as you may choose to stay with an abusive partner in the hopes of fulfilling your desire for love.

If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with sex and love addiction, it is important to seek professional help in order to develop coping mechanisms and healthier patterns of behaviour.

How are sex and love addictions treated?

Therapy session for sex addiction

If you’re struggling with a sex or love addiction, you may be feeling isolated and hopeless. But it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Sex and love addiction is a real and treatable condition. Inpatient rehab programmes offer a safe and structured environment where you can begin to heal and recover.

During sex and love addiction treatment, you will work with a team of specialists who will help you understand your compulsions and develop tools for recovery. Individual sex and love therapy sessions will give you the opportunity to address the underlying causes of your addiction, and group therapy can provide support and guidance from others who are on the same journey. You’ll have access to a wide range of other therapies at Sanctuary Lodge, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), solution-focused therapy, family therapy, mutual aid and self help, lectures, workshops, yoga, mindfulness and more.

Recovery from sex and love addiction is possible but it takes time and effort. If you’re ready to take the first step, there are many resources available to help you find the right treatment programme for your needs.

Toughest challenges in overcoming sex and love addiction

Overcoming any addiction is fraught with challenges, and sex and love addiction is no exception. Becoming aware of the challenges you may face will better aid you in your recovery as you can prepare yourself for the feelings and emotions that may arise.

Social triggers

One of the most difficult aspects of addressing these addictions is the fact that they are so closely intertwined with our society and culture. From an early age, we are bombarded with messages that equate love and sex with happiness and success. This can make it difficult to understand what a healthy and sustainable relationship looks like. Sex and love rehab will help you to manage triggers once you leave, learn healthier relationship patterns and come up with a plan to prevent relapse.

Learning to trust yourself

For those who have been harmed by their sex and love addiction, it can be even harder to trust yourself and your instincts. Self-doubt and low self-esteem can damage your well-being and can act as a trigger for further addictive behaviours, for example, substance abuse. In sex and love rehab, you will work on rebuilding your confidence and developing a healthy relationship with yourself. This is another essential step in the journey to recovery.

Coping with mental health issues

Many people who struggle with these addictions also suffer from other mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, which can make treatment more complex. However, there is hope for recovery, and by seeking out professional help and support, individuals can begin to build a foundation for a healthy and fulfilling life. Sanctuary Lodge is experienced in dealing with mental health and addiction (dual diagnosis) and with a range of different therapies can provide you with the comprehensive care you need to overcome them.

Managing emotions

Another complex challenge many may face during sex and love recovery is learning how to manage emotions. Past trauma or chronic stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as numbing emotions with sex or love. In treatment, you will learn how to process and manage emotions in a healthy way and find new ways to cope with any uncomfortable feelings that may present themselves in the future.

The benefits of sex and love rehab

Many people think of rehab as a last resort – something to try when all other options have failed. But isn’t it worth doing it now, to improve your relationships, feel more fulfilled and even increase your overall health?

By focusing on addressing unhealthy patterns of behaviour, our clients can learn to have healthier, more fulfilling relationships. They can also expect to see an improvement in their mental and physical health. With the help of a skilled team of therapists, our Sanctuary Lodge clients gain the tools they need to build a new life – one that is more satisfying and rewarding.

Frequently asked questions

Is compulsive sex disorder the same as sex addiction?
According to the World Health Organisation, compulsive sexual behaviour disorder is characterised by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour. While there is some debate over whether this is technically an “addiction”, the two terms are frequently used interchangeably to describe the same condition.
How much sex is normal?
The question of how much sex is “normal” is a difficult one to answer, as normalcy is relative. Some people may consider having sex every day to be perfectly normal, while others may only have sex once a month and feel perfectly satisfied. If someone feels that they are unable to control their sexual urges, however, and it is negatively impacting their life, they may be suffering from sex addiction.
How do I stop love addiction?
The best way to get help for your love addiction is to reach out for professional help. Attending an inpatient rehab facility like Sanctuary Lodge, away from triggers and in the care of experienced staff, is the most effective way to overcome your issues surrounding love and learn healthy boundaries.
What makes sex addictive?
As with any other addictive substance or activity, the increased levels of neurotransmitters (notably dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin) when we have sex trigger the reward system in the brain. Our brain links this to a pleasurable experience and encourages us to seek more of it. For some people, this can lead to compulsion and addiction.
What percentage of the population is addicted to sex?
While there is little data on the subject, a recent study in the US found that 10.3% of men and 7% of women reported distress and difficulty in controlling their sexual urges.
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