Is Sex Addiction Similar to Drug Addiction?

Compulsive sexual behavior or addiction to sex is similar to drug addiction in a variety of ways.  Each of these conditions is the result of brain activity about a particular stimulus.  Studies show that as many as 1 in 25 adults have an obsession with sexual feelings, images, thoughts, and behavior.  Some of these adults suffer adverse effects on their personal life and their career.  Their inability to control their sexual behavior can result in depression or suicidal ideations.

How are Addiction to Sex and Drug Addiction Similar?

Drug addiction is the result of chemical changes in the brain that affect mood, pleasure, or pain.  The chemicals flood a person’s brain with high levels of dopamine.  The high dopamine level results in a euphoric state, and it is the driving force that creates intense cravings for more of the drug.

Sexual arousal affects the pleasure center of the brain.  In clinical studies, researchers determined that a person with compulsive sexual tendencies shows similar reactions in the brain as seen in drug addicts.  For instance, when a sex addict is shown pornography, their brain is affected in three distinct areas, just as a drug addict’s brain responds to drug stimuli.  The three areas of the brain affected are:

  • The ventral striatum (processes reward and motivation)
  • The dorsal anterior cingulate (anticipates rewards and drug craving)
  • The amygdala (processes the significance of emotions or events)

Furthermore, the studies found a correlation between age and brain activity.  In other words, the younger the person, the stronger the activity in the ventral striatum in response to porn.  Part of the reason for this reaction has to do with the frontal control regions of the brain that control our compulsivity and risk-taking behaviors.  This portion of the brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties and could account for the increased impulsive behavior of young people.  In summary, the study suggests that the ventral striatum is involved in sexual acts as it is in drug addiction.  However, more testing is needed.

Signs, Symptoms, and Complications of Sex Addiction

Preoccupation with sexual fantasies can be an early warning sign of possible addiction to sex.  Especially if the fantasies lead to an inability to control one’s sexual behavior.  Many sex addicts cannot control their behavior regardless of the negative consequences of that behavior.

People who are addicted to sex find themselves seeking risky sexual activity just as a drug addict will seek more powerful drugs. The euphoria is weaker each time and they need more powerful doses.  Unfortunately, with both sex addicts and drug addicts, their compulsion often leads to unprotected sex, prostitution, multiple sex partners, and extramarital affairs.

Additionally, there are other signs to watch for if you are concerned about your sexual compulsions:

  • Excessive masturbation or pornography use
  • Obsession with dating
  • Having sex often with one-night stands or anonymous partners
  • Engaging in repeated phone sex or cyber sex

Furthermore, you should look at how you handle close relationships and determine whether you are deliberately avoiding any serious commitments with a partner.

Complications of an addiction to sex can include loss of job, ruined relationships, depression, and suicidal thoughts.  In addition to those problems, you could also find yourself in legal trouble or in prison as a result of your uncontrolled behavior.  For instance, some of the things sex addicts become involved in can include the following:

  • Health problems such as HIV/AIDS, STDs
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Compulsion to commit illegal acts such as:
    • Making obscene phone calls, emails, etc
    • Exposing genitals to others in public
    • Public masturbation
    • Committing sexual abuse, sexual assault, child molestation, rape
    • Stalking
    • Sexual harassment
    • Watching other people have sex without their knowledge (voyeurism)

Obviously, as you can see from all the above information, addiction to sex can become a serious problem for the person and for many others he or she involves in the behavior.  Find out how we can help you overcome this addiction and return to living a healthy, productive lifestyle.  Call our toll-free number now.

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