Sex Addiction: A chronic brain disorder?

Medical professionals are beginning to expand the definition of addiction in order to bring many addictive and damaging behaviors into the public consciousness. Sex addiction definitely falls into this group. The rationale behind expanding the definition of addiction is mostly down to how the brain reacts, and becomes addicted to, certains certain risky or pleasurable behaviors.Almost everyone can understand addiction in principle. But they generally think in terms of drug and alcohol addiction; behavioural addictions like eating disorders, sex addiction or love addiction, gambling addiction and codependency are not so commonly understood. The easiest way to define  sex addiction is this:

If someone’s sexual behaviour is having clear negative consequences, yet they continue to engage in the behaviour, especially if they become secretive or deceitful about it, then that person may well be a sex addict.

As recently reported on this site, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has released a new definition of addiction as “a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavioural problem involving too much alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.”

At the next Toranfield House NEAR (Neuroscience and Evidence-based practices for Addiction and Recovery) Conference, to be held in Enniskerry in November, experts will meets to discuss the ramifications of this redefinition of addiction. Speaker Dr Susan Campling said: “It’s believed that anything that causes a surge of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens of the brain can become addictive.”

There are several forms of sex addiction, from an affair to sex with strangers. The excitement of risks associated with a sex addict’s behaviour is also seen in other addictive behaviours such as gambling or drug abuse. Risk stimulates the sex addict’s nervous system to create a natural “high”. Some sex addicts avoid risky sexual contact entirely, and are addicted instead to fantasy, pornography and masturbation. But this can be isolating and lead to other problems such as depression and anxiety.

Dr Campling points out that sex addiction often brings people to the internet to satisfy their desires; once there, they discover a countless variety of websites catering to fetishes and sexual fantasies, often with direct online links to contact information, message boards for arranging meetings, or advertisements for paid sexual services.

The gradual increase in tolerance associated with all addictions also holds true in the case of sex addiction. Sex addicts and love addicts require increasing stimulation as time goes by, just to maintain their addiction. This can eventually lead to far more risky, and even criminal, behaviour.

Life Works provides first rate support and guidance in the treatment of sex addiction. To discuss how we can help you, please call 01483 745 066 or click here to complete a short enquiry form.


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