Compulsive sexual behavior is sometimes called hypersexuality, hypersexuality disorder or sexual addiction. It’s an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that is difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.
It may involve a variety of commonly enjoyable sexual experiences. Examples include masturbation, cybersex, multiple sexual partners, and use of pornography or paying for sex. When these sexual behaviors become a major focus in your life, are difficult to control, and are disruptive or harmful to you or others, they may be considered compulsive sexual behavior.
No matter what it’s called or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated hypersexuality disorder can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career, health and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can learn to manage compulsive sexual behavior.
Although the causes of hypersexuality disorder are unclear, they may include:
- An imbalance of natural brain chemicals. Certain chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine help regulate your mood. High levels may be related to compulsive sexual behavior.
- Changes in brain pathways. It may be an addiction that, over time, might cause changes in the brain’s neural circuits, especially in the reinforcement centers of the brain. Like other addictions, more-intensive sexual content and stimulation are typically required over time in order to gain satisfaction or relief.
- Conditions that affect the brain. Certain diseases or health problems, such as epilepsy and dementia, may cause damage to parts of the brain that affect sexual behavior. In addition, treatment of Parkinson’s disease with some dopamine agonist medications may cause hypersexuality disorder.
Compulsive sexual behavior can occur in both men and women, though it may be more common in men. It can also affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Factors that may increase risk of compulsive sexual behavior include:
- Ease of access to sexual content. Advances in technology and social media allow access to increasingly intensive sexual imagery and information.
- Secrecy and privacy of compulsive sexual activities tend to allow these problems to worsen over time.
Also, an increased risk of it may occur in people who have:
- Alcohol or drug abuse problems
- Another mental health condition, such as a mood disorder (such as depression or anxiety), or a gambling addiction
- Family conflicts or family members with problems such as addiction
- A history of physical or sexual abuse
How do you know if what you – or someone you love – is struggling with compulsive sexual behavior? While they vary in severity as well as type, here are some common symptoms:
- Escape – Using compulsive sexual behavior as an escape from problems such as anxiety, stress, loneliness, or depression
- Difficulty with closeness – An inability or difficulty establishing or maintaining closeness in a relationship – even if you are married or otherwise committed to a partner
- Continued sexual behavior despite consequences – Continuing to engage in risky sexual behaviors despite serious negative consequences, such as losing a job, trouble at work, legal problems, jeopardizing an important relationship, the potential to give someone a sexually transmitted disease
- No satisfaction in the behavior – Continuing the sexual behavior that you feel driven to do despite the fact that you derive no satisfaction from the activity
- Loss of control – Sexual thoughts and impulses intensify to the point where you feel you no longer have any control
Compulsive sexual behavior can have many negative consequences that affect both you and others. You may:
- Struggle with feelings of guilt, shame and low self-esteem
- Develop other mental health conditions, such as depression, suicide, severe distress and anxiety
- Neglect or lie to your partner and family, harming or destroying meaningful relationships
- Lose your focus or engage in sexual activity or search internet pornography at work, risking your job
- Accumulate financial debts buying pornography and sexual services
- Contract HIV, hepatitis or another sexually transmitted infection or pass a sexually transmitted infection to someone else
- Engage in unhealthy substance use, such as using recreational drugs or drinking excessive alcohol
- Be arrested for sexual offenses
Diagnosis of compulsive sexual behavior
Your doctor or other mental health professional can do a psychological evaluation, which may involve answering questions about your:
- Physical and mental health, as well as your overall emotional well-being
- Sexual thoughts, behaviors and compulsions that are hard to control
- Use of recreational drugs and alcohol
- Family, relationships and social situation
- Problems caused by your sexual behavior
With your permission, your mental health professional may also request input from family and friends.
Determining a diagnosis
There’s an ongoing debate in the psychiatric community about exactly how to define compulsive sexual behavior because it’s not always easy to determine when sexual behavior becomes problematic.
Many mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, as a guide for diagnosing mental health problems. Because compulsive sexual behavior doesn’t have its own diagnostic category in the DSM-5, it may be diagnosed as a subcategory of another mental health condition, such as an impulse control disorder or a behavioral addiction.
Some mental health professionals consider compulsive sexual behaviors as sexual activities taken to an extreme with significant and negative consequences. Although more research is needed to clarify and classify all the criteria, diagnosis and treatment by a mental health professional who has expertise in addictions and compulsive sexual behaviors will likely yield the best results.
Treatment for Compulsive Sexual Behavior
Treatment for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder usually involves medications, psychotherapy and self-assist groups. The main goal of medication for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder is to assist you control desires and lessen excessive performances while upholding healthy sexual activities.
Certain types of psychotherapy, moreover called talk treatment, may assist you study how to control your hypersexual disorder. These comprise of:
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder focuses on intensifies your knowledge of unconscious feelings and behaviors, increasing new impending into your inspirations, and resolving conflicts.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder helps you recognize unhealthy, pessimistic beliefs and performances and restore them with strong, positive ones.
Medicines of compulsive sexual behavior
Medicines to treat hypersexual disorder is frequently prescribed mainly for other illnesses like depression, OCD or anxiety. They include:
- Antidepressants. These are SSRIs – selective serotonin & reuptake inhibitors. These comprise of paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac) and others.
- Mood stabilizers. These treatments are normally used to treat bipolar disorder, previously named manic depression, however may reduce wild sexual desires. E.g. lithium (Lithobid).
- Naltrexone for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder is a naltrexone (Vivitrol, Revia) is normally used to doctor alcoholism plus obstruct the section of your brain which feels enjoyment with certain compulsive behaviors.
- Anti-androgens for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder help in decreasing the natural consequences of sex hormones (or androgens) in men.
- Luteinizing hormone or releasing hormone for compulsive sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder is a treatment which reduces compulsive sexual feelings by reducing the development of testosterone in men.
Support groups or self-help groups could be beneficial for individuals with hypersexual disorder and in favor of handling with all the problems it can trigger. Many groups are formed following a 12-step plan of AA or Alcoholics Anonymous.
Additionally to assisting you make transforms exactly; these special aid units can help you:
- Discover about your disorder.
- Find assist and accepting of your condition.
- Identify supplementary treatment options and materials.
These self-help groups possibly will be based on Internet or comprise in local person get-togethers, or both.
Prevention of compulsive sexual behavior
Because the cause isn’t known, it’s not clear how it might be prevented, but a few things may help keep this type of behavior in check:
- Get help early for problems with sexual behavior. Identifying and treating early symptoms may help prevent compulsive sexual behavior from getting worse over time or escalating into a downward spiral of shame, relationship problems and harmful acts.
- Seek treatment early for mental health disorders. Compulsive sexual behavior may be worsened by depression or anxiety.
- Identify and seek help for alcohol and drug abuse problems. Substance abuse can cause a loss of control and unhappiness that can lead to poor judgment and may push you toward unhealthy sexual behaviors.
- Avoid risky situations. Don’t jeopardize your health or that of others by putting yourself into situations where you’ll be tempted to engage in risky sexual practices.