If you’ve followed any celebrity news in the past few years, especially celebrities who have gotten caught cheating on their spouses, you have most certainly heard the term “sex and love addiction.”
You may have thought this was just an excuse that the celebrity was using to justify their infidelity, but some researchers say that sex and love addiction is truly a disorder.
Let’s have a look behind the scenes at what it means when someone says they are a sex and love addict.
What is “sex and love addiction”?
Typically, when we think of addictions, the first words to come to mind are smoking, drugs, alcohol, gambling and maybe food and shopping.
But sex and love? How can those two pleasant states be thought of as addictive?
The operative word here is “pleasant.”
So, what are the characteristics of sex and love addiction ?
For someone who lives with an addiction, it is anything but pleasant. Just like the smoker who “swears” this will be his last cigarette, or the drinker who tells their family that this will be their final scotch and soda, the sex and love addict finds themselves returning again and again to the source of their addiction, all the while the behavior wrecks havoc on their lives and the lives of those around them.
Unlike the non-addict who can enjoy and thrive on love and sex, the person who suffers from a sex and love addiction, struggles with the urge to indulge in their addiction no matter what the consequences.
And the consequences are always ultimately negative.
As Linda Hudson, LSW, co-author of Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts, states: “a sex and love addiction describes a pattern of relationship behavior that is compulsive, out of control, and continues despite the consequences.”
Symptoms of sex and love addiction
How can you identify someone with a sex and love addiction, and what is different from a person who just likes to be in love and enjoy sex? Here is more on the symptoms of sex and love addiction.
The love addict will do the following
- Stay in a relationship, seeing it as “good” or “good enough”, despite the reality being very different. They are unable to leave a toxic relationship.
- Stay or go back again and again to an abusive relationship, just so the addict does not have to be alone.
- Refusal to claim responsibility for their own well-being, mental health, and happiness. Constantly outsourcing this to the love object, no matter how abusive that love object may be.
- A need for constantly renewing love relationships; inability to remain in a stable relationship.
- Has a pattern of feeling emotionally dependent on their partner.
The sex addict will
- Exhibit promiscuous behavior; seek sex with many different partners, suitable or unsuitable
- Masturbate excessively
- Seek sex with sex workers, such as prostitutes, strippers, or escorts
- Use pornography excessively
- Deal with life’s problems through sexual interaction
- Establish their identity through sex
- Gets a “high” from sexual activity, but it won’t last long and needs to be renewed constantly
- Feel they must hide their sexual activities
Characteristics of love and sex addiction
The two main characteristics of love and sex addiction is that of compulsivity and behavior that is detrimental to the addict’s well-being.
As with any addiction, the addict is drawn to whatever they are using to buffer life’s pain, but satisfaction is always fleeting and never permanent. They can no longer control the impulse to have sex, despite the consequences.
Other characteristics of love and sex addiction include
- A desire to stop the behavior but feeling helpless to do so.
- Being preoccupied with seeking love and sex, above all else, and neglecting other aspects of life (job responsibilities, family commitments, etc)
- The behaviors escalate, becoming more risky and dangerous
- Inability to fulfil non-sexual obligations. Missing work due to sexual liaisons, for example, or not paying bills because of money spent on sex workers or porn subscriptions
- Withdrawal symptoms. When an addict tries to stop or is prevented from acting out, they might experience irritability, anger, restlessness, and extreme frustration.
Sex and love addiction treatment and recovery
One of the first actions to take when considering treatment for sex and love addiction is medical screening and assessment.
Sexual acting out, especially rapid onset, can be masking a serious health issue, such as a brain tumor, dementia or psychosis. If a doctor has ruled out such a disorder, here are some ways for the sex and love addict to seek treatment and recovery.
The antidepressant naltrexone has shown promising results at reducing the addictive behavior displayed by sex and love addicts.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective at helping the addict identify the triggers that set off the addictive behaviors and stopping them by helping the addict focus on other more healthy coping mechanisms.
Expect to live at the treatment center for a predetermined period of time, often 30 days.
The benefit to these residential programs is that the addict learns he is not alone in his compulsive behavior. Group and individual therapy sessions are part of the day, helping people feel less isolated and allowing people to be confronted with their “broken” way of thinking and behaving. New coping and communication skills are acquired.
Other support groups
- Sex Addicts Anonymous: For those who want to reduce or eliminate their use of pornography, masturbation, and/or unwanted sexual activity.
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: Similar to the above.
- Sexaholics Anonymous: For those who want to eliminate their use of pornography, masturbation, unwanted sexual activity, and/or sex outside of marriage. Has a stricter definition of sexual sobriety than its competitors.
- SMART Recovery is an international non-profit organization that provides assistance to individuals seeking abstinence from addictions.