Sexual addiction fits into a category known as a behavioral addiction. (e.g. gambling, shopping) While this type of addiction does not involve ingesting a substance, (e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs) it still involves engaging in a pleasurable activity which becomes compulsive for many people, and interferes with mental health, healthy relationships and responsibilities. Initially, sex addicts may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and/or damaging to themselves (and others), which is common amongst most people who develop an addiction.
Due to the hyper-sexualized culture we live in, many people young and old have developed an apathy towards sexual addiction and deny its’ destructive traits. Some even question whether or not it is an addiction. Yet, in a very general sense, to be “addicted” is to surrender oneself to something towards an unhealthy extreme. Much research has shown that an obsessive desire for sexual activity/stimulation often leads to harmful actions and consequences. The sex addict becomes hooked on the neurochemical response of the brain during sexual behavior. This craving can develop into hazardous behavior such as compulsive masturbation, extra-marital affairs, prostitution, swinging (exchanging partners), voyeurism, exhibitionism, and sometimes even rape. Once a tolerance is established for excessive amounts of ‘pleasure chemicals’ (dopamine), attempting to quit can even lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to substance abuse.
A 2016 Barna study revealed that 67% of male teens/young adults (13-24) and 47% of male adults (25+) frequently seek out porn. While females are significantly less likely to use porn, 33% of female teens/young adults frequently seek out porn and 12% of female adults. Despite the wide gender margin, two things are qualitatively true about porn: 1) Pornography conditions both men and women to treat sex as a commodity; something to consume for personal pleasure as opposed to a loving, committed union. 2) It is poisonous to relationships on many levels; at ‘worst’ it leads to other egregious sexual acts, (e.g. infidelity, pedophilia) at ‘best’ it provides an unhealthy emotional escape that can destroy intimacy.
Although this piece only scratches the surface of this harmful condition, the good news is there is adequate, professional help available. Whether you are a teen, young adult, spouse, or parent, therapy is often an integral step towards breaking free from this addiction. The therapeutic relationship provides a safe, non-judgmental space to discuss a sensitive problem that often involves much shame and discouragement. In fact, half the battle is revealing your struggle to a caring, non-biased counselor that can provide a compassionate ear. Additionally, our professional counselors are equipped to provide education, direction, and accountability that can help foster healing and restoration. Instead of struggling in secret, allow therapy to be God’s instrument for your freedom from sexual addiction.