Though research continues to explore its effects on the human mind and body, addiction is one of the least understood conditions that affects people around the world. Recent strides in science surrounding substance abuse has radically changed the prevailing opinion of the medical community – no longer is drug abuse seen as a choice best treated by punitive measures, but rather the condition has become known as the physical dependency that it is.
Once that change in popular opinion happened, rehab centers became an acceptable form of treatment for those struggling with substance abuse. However, there are still other forms of addiction that have not received the proper medical recognition and, therefore, treatment. Sex addiction is one of those conditions.
Despite rumors and myths surrounding sex addiction, separating fact from fiction can mean the difference in getting help for a loved one in the throes of the condition.
Sexual addiction myths
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, an estimated 12 million Americans suffer from some form of sexual addiction, and because of the increasing availability and accessibility of pornography and other similar materials, those numbers are expected to increase.
With so many people living with the condition, it may prove crucial for family and friends who suspect a loved one is suffering from sex addiction to separate what it is from what it is not.
The Sexual Recovery Institute outlined a list of several common misconceptions that surround sex addiction. Just like the popular conception of substance abuse decades ago, most of these myths serve to attack the person rather than address the addiction.
While some people may believe that those struggling with sex addiction suffer from a lack of a strong moral compass, the SRI explained that this simply is not true. Just like those with substance abuse issues, sexual addiction causes people to act in ways that they actively know are outside of their comfort zones. Because the brain may be dependent on certain hormones and chemicals released during the act of sex, the pursuit of that feeling may lead some to act in ways they normally would not.
There is also a prevalent conception that only men can become addicted to sex, though according to the SRI, nearly 15 percent of all those who seek help in addiction treatment centers are women. These numbers may be even higher, however, because some women may be deterred from seeking treatment due to the social stigma attached to overly promiscuous activity.
Finally, the SRI explained that there is no higher percentage of homosexual men or women who suffer from sex addiction than their heterosexual counterparts. Whereas some heterosexual promiscuity may be normalized, the opposite still faces heightened attention in some areas of the country. While the activities of those who suffer from sex addiction may vary, the underlying causes of seeking a certain reaction often do not.
Linking sex addiction with other conditions
While it is important to identify what sex addiction is not, determining what it is can prove just as difficult as the inverse. According to Psych Central, sex addiction is most commonly seen in conjunction with other conditions such as substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual and gender identity confusion, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder.
Sometimes, sex addiction arises as a way to fill a gap left behind by former drug users who, having gone through a treatment program and achieved a level of sobriety, seek a sexual high to mimic past experiences. Also, PTSD caused by a childhood trauma can drive some people to take sexual risks as a way to gain ownership over the events of their pasts.
Whatever the cause, sex addiction should not be confused with anything other than what it is – a condition that requires professional treatment.