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Sexual Addiction: Do You Know the Signs?

It can be difficult to know from within a media swirl of headlines related to celebrities and sex addiction what the facts and realities are of this powerful, consuming addiction. Sex addiction is believed to affect at least three to five percent of the U.S. adult population.

Although public perception may vary, professional addiction experts offer a list of signs that could indicate the addiction is present.

Signs you, or a partner, may have a sexual addiction:

  • Being unable to stop compulsive urges related to sex, such as sex with multiple people
  • Being unable to stop acting on obsessive thoughts related to sex, even in inappropriate settings
  • Excessive and unwanted thought patterns about sex
  • Engaging in sexual behaviors despite the danger or risk, such as in the workplace or despite risk of sexually transmitted disease
  • Mood changes, such as aggression or irritability, if the behavior can’t be engaged in
  • Withdrawing or avoiding social and family environments to pursue sex-related activities
  • Feeling of being trapped, and shame or guilt following the sexual behaviors

As sexual addiction progresses, the person becomes more and more unable to control their cravings and urges and needs more of the behavior to get the same “high.” Experts are learning more about the ways the brain is connected to sexual addiction, including the ways the brain’s reward system may change during the addiction process.

More intense forms of the sexual behavior may be needed to achieve a sense of high or a sense of escape over time, similar to the addictions of drugs and alcohol.

Sexual addiction is complex, serious and life-consuming; often symptoms can exist for months or years as a person hides the addiction from their partner. The factors causing the addiction are often similar to other addictions, such as past experiences of high stress or trauma, deep emotional problems and a need to escape negative feelings.

Professional help is needed to reach recovery, and is often most successful when both partners work through the treatment together to address the anger, shame, guilt and depression that accompanies the condition.

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