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What is a Sex and Love Addiction?

Couple with tied together hands depicting sex and love addiction

Both sex addiction and love addiction are mental disorders characterized by an impaired ability to engage in healthy emotional intimacy. Men or women suffering from either disorder typically have obsessive thoughts and compulsions leading to unhealthy behaviors.

A sex or love addiction may negatively impact a person’s health, personal relationships, job, and ability to function responsibly in their life.

Sex Addiction

Sex addiction, called hypersexual disorder by some experts, is the compulsive need to engage in sexual acts to achieve a sense of euphoria, similar to that produced by mind-altering substances.

Sexual acts may include obsessively looking at pornography, compulsive masturbation, voyeurism, exhibitionism, paying for sex, and having multiple, often anonymous, sex partners.

Because sex addiction often worsens over time, it is important to seek professional treatment.

According to Mayo Clinic, some signs of compulsive sexual behavior include:

  • Intense sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors that feel as if they are beyond your control.
  • A drive for certain sexual behaviors, a release of tension afterward but also guilt or remorse
  • Unsuccessfully attempts to reduce or control your sexual urges or behavior
  • Use of sexual behavior to escape from other problems, such as loneliness, depression, anxiety, or stress
  • Sexual behaviors that may result in giving or contracting a sexually transmitted infection, damage relationships, or cause work, financial or legal problems.
  • Trouble establishing and maintaining healthy and stable relationships

Love Addiction

Love addiction is often a pattern of intense infatuations and obsessive relationships, as well as a tendency to be desperate and insecure in relationships. A person suffering from a love addiction often seeks the excitement and sexual “rush” of a new relationship but cannot maintain a lasting feeling of attachment.

Signs of love addiction may include achieving a sense of euphoria from the fantasized relationship, feeling desperate or uneasy when separated from the partner, excessive interest in the new relationship to the exclusion of other interests, or using the relationship to hide from negative feelings or situations.

Finding Help for Sex or Love Addiction

When a person addicted to love experiences a break-up or when a person addicted to sex cannot express the desired sexual behavior, withdrawal symptoms may occur. These symptoms can include anxiety, depression, mood swings, restlessness, or other symptoms. To feel better, the addicted person will often return to compulsive behaviors.

It is difficult to recover from any addiction without help. Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist for resources and guidance.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is a 12-step program to educate and support those with either disorder. See their website for more information, including their 40 Questions for Self-Diagnosis.

Many problems with emotional intimacy stem from negative relationships and patterns established in childhood. Working with a therapist to uncover and resolve deep-rooted issues, in combination with a 12-step program, offers the best chance for long-term recovery.

Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.