Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment.
Sexual addiction has been called sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity. By any name, it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict's life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addict's lives. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.
Sexual addiction or compulsion can be understood by comparing it to other types of addictions. Individuals addicted to alcohol or other drugs, for example, develop a relationship with their “chemical(s) of choice” – a relationship that takes precedence over any and all other aspects of their lives. Addicts find they need drugs merely to feel normal.
In sexual compulsion/dependency/addiction, a parallel situation exists. Sex – like food or drugs in other addictions—provides the "high" and addicts become dependent on this sexual high to feel normal. They substitute unhealthy relationships for healthy ones. They opt for temporary pleasure rather than the deeper qualities of "normal" intimate relationships.
Sexual addiction follows the same progressive nature of other addictions. Sexual addicts struggle to control their behaviors, and experience despair over their constant failure to do so. Their loss of self-esteem grows, fueling the need to escape even further into their addictive behaviors. A sense of powerlessness pervades the lives of addicts.
Facts About Sexual Addiction
Sex addiction and/or sexually compulsive behavior is a trauma-based addiction. Research conducted during the past fifteen years has consistently shown the prevalence of emotional, physical and sexual abuse in this population. Highly restricted and rigid sexual belief systems, dysfunctional attitudes about sex and intimacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression are all contributors to sexually compulsive behavior. People suffering from sex addiction and sexually compulsive behavior experience tremendous amounts of shame and guilt.
- According to research at the National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity, anywhere from 6% to 8% of all Americans can be classified as addicted to sex. This represents an astounding 18-24 million people.
- A recent study by Stanford University for MSNBC reported that 25 million Americans spend between 1 and 10 hours a week looking at pornography online, and that another 4.7 million individuals spend over 11 hours per week view porn sites.
- Studies have found that the fastest growing 12-step programs in the world involve sexual addiction, including: Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
Recent studies have shown:
- 97% have experienced emotional abuse
- 81% have experienced sexual abuse
- 72% have experienced physical abuse
- 75% of Americans have been through a traumatic event, and nearly 7% of those individuals have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- 40-60% of individuals with a sexual addiction also meet the criteria for alcohol or drug addiction