Have you ever wondered if you or your partner might be just a little too interested in sex? The term “sex addiction,” or hypersexuality, can get bandied around a lot. Sometimes it’s warranted and other times it may just be that you have a higher sex drive than the average person – or than the average person talks about.
Everyone has a different sex drive, and some people enjoy sex a lot more than others (or are a lot more open about it). But if that enjoyment gets to the point that it’s interrupting a person or other people’s lives it might be time to consider whether they’re hypersexual, or have a sex addiction.
Hypersexual disorder is more than just a high sex drive – it’s considered to be a kind of addiction. It tends to cause feelings of distress to the person with the disorder it as it gets in the way of ordinary living. It involves “excessive” or compulsive sexual behaviors.
It’s not a new thing. Terms for an overzealous sex drive have been around for thousands of years, including nymphomania, Juanism, excessive sex drive, satyriasis, and many more. What this shows us is both that sexual desire and activity is an entirely human thing, and that sometimes it does get in the way of leading an ordinary life in society.
As a clinical diagnoses, it’s controversial. This is largely because the empirical evidence is limited. Defining what counts as “excessive” is difficult to measure and be objective about. It’s often be impacted by subjective viewpoints, like personal world views, culture, and the views of a particular society.
Sex addiction as an official disorder is viewed in a similar way, although it’s a more commonly used term. It refers more specifically to someone with strong sexual compulsivity, seeking out acts without self control – like compulsive masturbation, viewing of pornography, or even more socially unacceptable sexual behavior.
The problem with the term “sex addiction” is that it has strong negative social connotations. It’s not clear whether or not to view this kind of compulsive sexual behavior like an addiction that’s similar to drug addiction. Many people believe that a term with less moral connotations is more helpful, and that’s where the term “hypersexuality” can be more constructive. It might not induce the feelings of shame that can sometimes get in the way of seeking treatment.
The causes of hypersexual disorder or sex addiction are not understood, but it’s often linked to a person’s general mental state and sometimes to hormone levels.
In some cases, a bipolar person will be hypersexual. Impulsive sexual behavior can be part of a manic episode, those dramatic mood swings that characterize bipolar disorder. It can be a symptom of bipolar or just exist on its own.
Similarly, there are some links between hypersexuality and depression. Sexual behaviors can be a way to seek some relief, however temporary, from a mire of dark emotions. Hypersexuality can mask other issues like anxiety, stress, and depression.
To count towards a diagnosis, the symptoms of hypersexuality must be present for at least six months. They include:
This includes sexual fantasies, urges, and actual sexual action and behavior. Most people will experience sexual desire and act on it, but when it becomes intense and just keeps happening it could be a sign of obsession leading to a hypersexuality disorder. Some people might argue that the desire for multiple partners is a sign, but in actuality not all those with a sex addiction desire multiple partners – not to mention that the idea that more than one partner is wrong is a moral judgement.
The time spent engaging in fantasy and hypersexual behavior gets in the way of leading an ordinary life. It can interrupt social life, work, and simple daily rituals.
Fantasies and behaviors occur in response to stressful events or low moods (like anxiety, boredom, depression, irritability).
Although they may try, a person with hypersexuality just can’t control the impulses. However, it’s important to remember that hypersexuality is never an excuse for hurtful or damaging behaviors, including cheating.
They may act out their impluses with little consideration for any physical or emotional harm it might cause to themselves, or to other people. This can be something as simple as compulsive masturbation to the point where it causes physical discomfort, or it could be more extreme, like flashing, public masturbation, or even in extreme cases rape.
The frequency causes personal distress in some form. Often this comes with feelings of guilt and shame, which can be barriers for someone seeking support. However, it could also be sheer awareness leading to anxiety that sexual desires are getting in the way of achieving other things in life.
Frotteurism is a paraphilic disorder (which means sexually arousing) where someone enjoys rubbing themselves (usually the genitals) against another person without their consent, specifically to achieve sexual pleasure. Unsurprisingly, it’s illegal – and not just because it’s a sexual act in public, but because it’s involving another person in a sexual act without their consent.
Often it occurs in younger males (who might have seemed quite shy, up till that point) between 15 and 25, but it is also seen in older men. It’s quite rare among females, although it can occur.
Normally frottage takes place in busy public spaces, like trains, elevators, and even crowded streets. We’d like to repeat, this is a form of nonconsensual sex.
It is diagnosed as a mental health disorder if the urges and behavior continue for more than 6 months, and it’s definitely something to seek help about. Any strong compulsions to engage in sexual activity without someone’s consent should be spoken about with a health care professional. They can provide support and help.
Sex addiction is generally focused on activities with real people. It tends to involve activities or fantasies concerning other people – for example, having multiple partners, flashing, frottage, and so on.
Porn addiction is more focused on screen (at least these days of the internet). It’s about the visual feed, and includes that ongoing search for more porn. And in these digital days, it’s so easy to access porn which can make things even easier for someone with a predilection to develop an addiction.
Another key difference is that a porn addiction can actually lead to sexual performance difficulties, whereas a sex addiction tends not to.
Like so much around sexual choices and behavior, there can be a lot of moral judgement around pornography. While there are definite issues with a lot of the easily accessible porn online, it’s not by default a bad thing to enjoy.
If you’re worried that you or someone you know might be addicted to porn, consider these questions:
Do they lose track of time when looking at porn?
Do they watch porn throughout the day to the point where it may interrupt their other activities or things they should be doing?
Do they worry about not having access to pornography?
Do they look at porn while doing other things, like watching TV?
Do they spend more time viewing or downloading porn than spending time with real people, or engaging in non-sexual activities?
Do they feel like their porn habit is getting in the way of their life?
Do they secretly wish they didn’t want to watch porn as much as they do?
If yes was the answer to three or more of these questions, maybe it’s time for this person to reconsider the relationship they have with porn. Basically – just like identifying a sex addiction or hypersexuality – if watching porn is getting in the way of leading an ordinary life, consider seeking help.
Treatment will generally come in the form of counselling or cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is because a lot of the time paraphilic disorders tend to be about mental state and how a person responds to compulsions.
If there’s an underlying issue, that can also be treated – for example, managing depression or stress, or bipolar disorder. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms can also sometimes benefit from treatment.
Identifying triggers for compulsive sexual behaviors or thoughts. The person affected should spend the time getting to know themselves and their responses – and if they have a partner, it’s important for the partner to be involved in this process too.
Help with rebuilding relationships. Sometimes sexual addiction can disrupt relationships. It’s important to be willing to communicate. If the person with a sex addiction has a partner, it may be worth considering sex therapy.
Finding techniques for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. And also shame – because, like we’ve mentioned, shame can really get in the way of dealing with the issue.
Finding alternative behaviors and ways to channel thoughts that are less destructive.
Sexuality is a part of a healthy, enjoyable life, and everyone’s pleasures will be a little difficult. The main thing to remember is sexuality shouldn’t be getting in the way of anyone living their life. If you’re worried about your urges or behaviors, the first thing to do is take the time to really get to know yourself and identify what it is that’s making you uneasy. If it’s not actually harming yourself or others – maybe there’s nothing wrong.
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