Sex Addicts, Anxiety and Depression

How Sex Addiction relates to Depression and Anxiety Disorders

Sexual addiction (sometimes called sex addiction) is a way to think about and explain some forms of hypersexuality.  Hyper-sexuality consists of sexual urges, behaviors, or thoughts that appear extreme in frequency or feel out of one’s control, and in this way resemble what are thought of addictive processes, or being addicted to sexual activity.

Hypersexuality is often associated with addictive or obsessive personalities, escapism, psychological disorders, low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, lowered sexual inhibitions and behavioral conditioning. Alcohol, hormonal imbalance and change of life hormone levels (puberty, adulthood, middle age, menopause, seniors), as well as behavioral conditioning and many types of drugs, may all affect a person’s social and sexual inhibitions.  Typically people with sexual addictions have difficulties forming close attachments and emotional intimacy. Addiction is the state of behavior outside the boundaries of social norms which reduces an individual’s ability to function effectively in daily aspects of life or develop healthy sexual relationships.

Sex addiction is often related to separation anxiety.  It is also related to a need for validation and a fear of being abandoned.  This could be related to having a dysfunctional family during childhood.  Having a depressed, alcoholic, hyper-sexual or over-stimulating parent(s) during childhood may be related to the development of sexual addictions.  Though this is not the case for all cases of sex addicts, it serves as an example to show the relationship between childhood development, anxiety and the addiction.

This separation anxiety can cause the anxiety that drives a sex addict to commit unemotional acts of sex.  On the other hand, according to some theories, parents can be overly caring or excessively stimulating in childhood, and the child may view this as seductive and this can result in sex addiction as well.  Because the parent was unable to set good boundaries the sex addict later has issues developing sexual boundaries.  Sexual addictions may also develop as a result of childhood sexual abuse.  Children who were sexually abused as children are often confused about love and sex, and subsequently become involved in repeated sexual activities in an attempt to secure love.  Essentially, the sex addict seeks fulfillment of unmet needs from their childhood.  Unfortunately, the end is typically the same as it was in childhood; disillusionment, guilt and despair.

The sex addict creates a fantasy world to avoid anxieties that they face in real life.  As long as they have multiple partners to soothe them and help them escape from reality they feel able to cope with life.  But once the sexual activity is done and the stress of life intrudes, of when one faces the loss of a sexual partner, then the separation anxiety re-surfaces and the addict quickly begins to seek another partner.  This becomes an endless cycle one that can only be broken by seeking out help to put an end to the sexual addiction and find a better way to deal with the anxiety, emptiness and depression they may be feeling.

The sex addict could also be acting out of depression as well.  The sex addict could be seeking fulfillment when other parts of life are not going well.  They fell that this pleasure will make things go better or just seek the pleasure so that something is going well.  This relief is only temporary however and causes the addicts problem only to get worse.

Sex becomes the primary confirmation of self for the sex addict in the above cases.  Negative feelings of inferiority, inadequacy and worthlessness disappear as though by magic, while the addict is sexually active.  These feelings are temporarily soothed by the sexual acts, but will resurface again when one is alone.

Like any other addiction sex addiction is influenced greatly by feelings of anxiety and  depression.  As with all other addictions, it is crucial to get help for the one affected by the addiction.  Fortunately, there is now an Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of addictions, including sexual addictions.   Our programs provide services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of sexual addiction, depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for sexual addiction, depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.

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