Hypersexuality refers to an increased sexual drive for sexual activities, whether it involves masturbation, sexual intercourse with another person, or any other sexual behavior. Over time, hypersexuality can lead to sexual addiction. Elevated sexual desire in men is called satyriasis, and in women, it’s called nymphomania.
While in today’s conditions, some may find this appealing because people often complain about reduced sexual desire under the influence of stress, on the other hand, hypersexuality can be a symptom of a serious psychological disorder in terms of sexual functioning, with the tendency to gradually impair all other mental capacities of an individual.
Sexual addiction is a relatively new construct in the field of psychosexual therapy, but it is increasingly used in scientific and lay circles to explain the obsessive-compulsive sexuality of an individual.
Sexual addiction involves the progressive or continuous presence of imposed, unwanted sexual thoughts (images) or actions that the client cannot prevent. It is essentially the “forced” sexuality of an individual, to their detriment. Over time, as with other addictions, the harm is much greater, affecting both the partner and the immediate environment of that person.
Any activity that brings pleasure can lead to addiction. The same goes for sex, an activity that leads to increased levels of endogenous opioids, such as endorphins and serotonin, as well as oxytocin (the “bonding” hormone).
Recognizing sexual addiction in a timely manner is necessary and very significant to break the cycle of dysfunctional understanding of one’s own sexuality as soon as possible.
With addicts, we will always find a lower score on the sexual intelligence test, indicating insufficient sexual education, poor communication outside and within sex, as well as insufficiently developed “sexual self.”
Like any addiction, sexual addiction ultimately leads to the destruction of a person’s integrity, with a tendency to ruin an individual’s life in all its aspects.
Therefore, it is necessary to approach sexual addiction seriously, activate all social mechanisms through healthcare and education systems, public seminars, and specialized workshops, with highly educated experts in the field, to identify it in a timely manner and increase the chances of recovery while shortening the therapeutic treatment.
The causes of sexual addiction lie in the specific psychosexual development of an individual. What is common to all individuals prone to a certain type of addiction are the emotional traumas they experienced during their upbringing, especially during childhood.
In other words, as children, these individuals “suffered” due to the environment in which they lived. These traumas created a “scar,” so addicts seek to alleviate these wounds through various modalities of behavior. Some will drink excessively, others will smoke, gamble, etc. Of course, in the population, there is a certain group for whom sex is the most interesting, so it will be at the top of their priority list.
However, to become an addict, one does not necessarily have to have a difficult childhood or adolescence. In any case, “psychological crises” are necessary for addiction to occur. The pleasure and relaxation provided by sexual pleasure can gradually lead to addictive behavior, without a deeper and more visible reason.
Sex does not directly damage the brain, but every addiction, including sexual addiction, eventually leads to changes in neurotransmission in the brain, so sex is no longer perceived as pleasure but rather as an obligation. This means that addicts have a need (increased anxiety) to engage in sexual activities, but after doing so, they do not feel better. And that is precisely the “neurosis of sexuality” or paradox of the neurotic person who does something that does not bring them satisfaction, and if they don’t do it again, they won’t be satisfied.
Apparently, this is not about positive sexual arousal or transient negative tension of the organism where the individual tries to relieve themselves through sex, but rather about a lasting personal lack of true love and intimacy towards oneself, which they try to compensate for or achieve through sex.
Sexual addicts seek an outlet in sex, not realizing that sex is not a solution to any crisis (although it has a relaxing character), but rather an opportunity to share true intimacy that we have built with ourselves and with our partner.
Diagnosing sexual addiction is not easy based on the information provided by the client. Clients usually come to doctors or therapists with relationship problems, erectile dysfunction, a lack of genuine excitement, etc. If the clinical picture is not examined more broadly, there is a risk of making a wrong diagnosis. Then the focus shifts to treating something that is not a priority, instead of addressing sexual addiction. Sexual addicts rarely recognize their addiction, and due to strong denial, a key defense mechanism present in them, they are often uncooperative. They are unaware that they have a problem because it takes a long time before they start jeopardizing themselves and their environment. Unlike alcohol and drugs, where there is a certain societal response to the consumption of these substances, it is not the case when it comes to sex. Society does not adequately address individuals struggling with sexual addiction.
Like any addiction, sexual addiction requires serious treatment. This treatment is complex and involves working on all aspects of an individual’s functioning, and only then focusing on the sexual aspect. After all, sex is just a reflection of our experience of ourselves and our partner outside the bedroom.
Therapy includes a specialized program that systematically works on reducing addictive activities through continuous education and finding significant alternatives that the individual can use during the abstinence crisis. In this process, sexual resocialization is inevitable through the formation of a new sexual identity and improving communication with oneself and with the partner.
Forming new behavior or habits is a long process, so it is necessary to constantly encourage the patient and increase their patience.
When the patient learns to feel good in ways that are not “sexual,” they increasingly accept that possibility, and with that, new and more functional sexual behavior develops, leading to genuine and expected satisfaction.
The goal of therapy is always to teach the patient to enjoy sex rather than fulfill various motives that always carry a negative emotional connotation.
Author – Jovana J.