Many of the substances or practices that generate addiction are assumed to be negative: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, spending too much time connected to the internet. On the other hand, having sex is something positive and desirable, with Many health benefits. This is largely due to the difficulties that often arise in recognizing or accepting that there is a sex addiction.
This addiction – also called compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexuality – is characterized by “a high frequency and intensity of sexual fantasies and behaviors, a high sexual desire and risky sexual behaviors that are related to impulsive or compulsive elements, and that cause discomfort in the person”. So the explain specialists from the Dexeus University Hospital, from Barcelona.
It is a subject that has given rise to many discussions among researchers. In fact, hypersexuality no this included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, because the American Psychiatric Association considers that the scientific evidence is not sufficient. A decision that, after the last edition of the Manual, in 2015, has generated answers and, of course, controversy.
How to recognize hypersexuality
Beyond the debates, the problem exists. And it can often be difficult to identify the line – sometimes very thin – that separates an intense (but normal) sexual desire from a compulsion that can cause many damages for the person who suffers it and for those around her.
Based on the symptomatic descriptions of the specialists of the Dexeus University Hospital, the most important signs to pay attention to are:
1. Not being able to control fantasies and impulses
Having sexual fantasies is without a doubt normal and even healthy. Such fantasies are often an important part of the erotic game of individuals and couples. But sometimes such fantasies become time-consuming and the person feels that they cannot control them, no matter how hard they try to reduce or keep them at bay. And such fantasies generate impulses that the person feels as unstoppable.
Hypersexuality often leads to practices such as masturbate very often, having multiple sexual partners (one study published in 2012 by scientists from Barcelona analyzed the case of a 16-year-old girl who went for a run in a park and “voluntarily forced trips with men”), spending a lot of time consuming pornography or practicing virtual sex and pay for sex. Those are, in general, the most visible symptoms, although not the only ones.
2. Sex only to hide problems
One of the biggest benefits of having sex is a drop in stress levels. In addition, it promotes neural development, benefits the heart and allows better sleep and rest, among other positive effects. The downside is that, in the case of sex addiction, the search for sexual relations becomes almost exclusively an attempt to escape the loneliness, anxiety and depression symptoms.
What happens, consequently, is that with their sexual behaviors the person experiences a release of tension and temporary relief from discomfortBut very soon you also feel guilt or remorse, shame, low self-esteem, anguish and dissatisfaction. This is another of the symptoms of hypersexuality: a kind of constant “withdrawal syndrome”, a discomfort that only seems to be able to be resolved through new sexual practices.
3. Difficulty establishing and maintaining affective relationships
The practices derived from hypersexuality (exacerbated sexual desire, search for new sexual partners, consumption of pornography, etc.) and the general discomfort that it generates usually generate, in turn, new negative effects. They are often reason for problems with one’s partner -if you have- or difficulties in establishing links with other people.
The situation also harms the relationship with family and friends, due to this almost permanent state of dissatisfaction, shame and anguish, on the one hand, and the increasing time that the person dedicates to their sexual practices. Therefore, the deterioration of ties with close people could also, on occasions, be the result of a loss of control of sexual desire.
Economics in trouble and health at risk
Compulsive sexual behavior can cause financial problems for several reasons. Considerable spending on sexual products and services can be a sure sign of hypersexuality. Another possibility is to lose control and start consuming pornography or even have sex in the workplace, or during the working day, or using the computer or other technological devices corresponding to work. Consequently, this compulsion can lead to job loss.
And also health is at risk, because relationships with multiple people increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseasessuch as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and the human papillomavirus. Taking this risk (which not only concerns the person with hypersexuality but also their sexual partners or partners) and moving forward can be another sign of loss of control.
What to do if hypersexuality is suspected
Given the negative consequences mentioned so far, and other even more serious ones (drug use or abuse, depression, suicide attempts, possibility of committing sexual crimes), the most advisable thing is seek professional help as soon as possible, This is recommended by the experts at the Dexeus University Hospital, who say that it is very difficult to overcome without help as soon as the first symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior are detected. Especially if the person himself realizes that he wants to avoid his fantasies or behaviors and he does not succeed.
Keep in mind that the causes of compulsive sexual behavior are not known exactly: according to Mayo Clinic Library They could range from an imbalance in neurotransmitters and other physiological problems to risk factors such as other addictions, family conflicts, or a history of sexual or physical abuse.
The treatment in general consists of individual or group therapy, and in certain cases the doctor also prescribes drugs (antidepressants or anxiolytics, especially), with the aim that the patient can overcome withdrawal and acquire healthy habits. While therapy lasts, clinical psychologist Encarni Muñoz Silva proposes:
- Make an on-board journal: Every time we feel the urge or need to have sex or masturbate, we must ask ourselves “do you feel like it or are you doing it for another reason?”, “What is wrong?”, “What concerns us ? ” Detecting the cause of the need to have sex in order to work on it is essential.
- Solve aspects of our life that we do not like: On many occasions the symptoms serve as a deterrent function, that is, while we think about the desire for sex, we are not thinking about the anger that the boss has thrown at us, since thinking this hurts more than thinking that I want to have sex. Thus, solving the aspects of life that are not going well, detecting dynamics that are repeated and we do not like them, generating goals that make us feel better, are fundamental aspects so that the compulsion does not make sense.
- Look for distracting activities: When we feel sexual desire, let’s focus on doing activities that prevent us from thinking about something else, distracting ourselves with something we like, practicing hobbies that we have a little forgotten, etc.
- Delete mobile applications that facilitate meetings: Social media and apps to meet new people make it harder to overcome hypersexuality. The objective is that we think before acting. Of course, a commitment to yourself is necessary to not want to contact.
- Postpone the compulsion: A strategy that can help to perform the compulsion fewer times is to postpone it. Every time we feel the sexual impulse, we will use a mantra-type phrase: “not now, in an hour” and we will start to do something, that is, replace the activity with another such as practicing sport for example, since mechanisms of the brain similar to those activated by sex. If we can endure an hour and continue with the desire, let’s repeat the phrase to ourselves.
- Putting ourselves in your partner’s shoes: Let’s think about how our partner can feel used, exhausted or frustrated by not being able to satisfy our sexual appetite. Let’s find something to do together as a substitute for compulsive sex.
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