When sexual behaviour crosses over to sexual addiction

Increased sexual frequency is not addiction or problematic sexual behavior.

Increased sexual frequency is not addiction or problematic sexual behavior.

What you need to know:

  • Sex addiction is not really about the type of sex one partner prefers or the amount of sex they ask for.  It is about having sex for purposes other than pleasure and intimacy.
  • Sex addiction can sometimes go hand in hand with other addictions such as substance abuse.

In a relationship, a man’s greatest needs are said to be sex and respect. The frequency, type, and manner of sex can become a form of addiction. It is possible to mistake problematic sexual behaviour that borders on sex addiction for manliness. Not many admit that they are suffering from sexual addiction.

What really is sexual addiction and how does it differ from normal sexual behavior?

What it is and what it’s not

Increased sexual frequency is not addiction or problematic sexual behavior. Thaddeus Birchard, a psychologist and the author of Overcoming Sex Addiction says that this is not always the case. “Sexual addiction is not really about the type of sex one partner prefers or the amount of sex they ask for,” he says. It is about having sex for purposes other than pleasure and intimacy. “The term sex addiction ought to refer to the kind of sexual behavior that is not for recreation, pleasure, or intimacy, but as a compulsive form of relief similar to the kind of 'fix' a drug addict gets,” he says. Sex addiction is usually a compulsive need to engage in sexual acts to achieve a certain goal. It is different from sexual disorders and sexual criminalities such as bestiality.

According to Alexandra Katehakis, a sex addiction therapist and the author of Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation, sex addiction can sometimes go hand in hand with other addictions such as substance abuse. In most cases, shame is a key driver for sex addiction. “Unwanted sexual behaviours make space for more unwanted sexual behaviours. Each of these behaviours creates a link that keeps the chain of addiction running,” says Katehakis.

Sex addiction is not the same thing as porn addiction. However, porn addiction can be qualified as a component of sex addiction in some cases. According to Dr. Birchard, sex addiction usually starts to show after adolescence. “During adolescence, it can be a reliever of problematic feelings which can subside but show up later in life as a response to stress or trauma,” he says.

The symptoms

According to Professor Joachim Osur, a sex medicine expert, sex addicts are known to averagely experience more than seven sex releases in a week. “The mind of a sex addict is dominated by sexual thoughts to an extent of these thoughts interfering with their daily chores, jobs, and social interactions and relationships,” he says. In addition, these sexual urges are so strong that they can force him to miss work or engage in sexual relations that expose him to sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

“The regret comes after the action. But the addiction makes him unable to muster sexual control over his body, and this cycle repeats itself over and over,” he says. He explains that a sex addict will tend to have sex in whichever form is available to him at the spur of the moment. In all of these sexual forms, the addict will suffer a heavy bout of shame and guilt after achieving a climax. “Within the relationship, sexual intercourse will tend to be dry and without any emotion or feelings attached. The sex addict will be primarily engaging in intercourse to achieve a climax or to release his stress. Not for love, pleasure, or intimacy,” says Professor Osur.

Treatment

According to Dr. Birchard, treatment for sex addiction usually involves multiple therapy approaches. “A sex therapist will identify and eliminate inappropriate behaviours, check the addict’s past to see if there are any experiences that might be triggering current sexual behaviour, or experiences that might have caused the addiction in the first place,” he says. In some cases, sex addiction is driven by hormones. Professor Osur says that in such instances, an addict is required to undergo clinical laboratory tests to determine if there are hormones fueling his problematic sexual behaviours.

During treatment, a therapist attempts to shift how an addict meets his needs. “This approach causes an addict to realise that he can get his needs met by other people as opposed to only himself or through unhealthy behaviour,” says Katehakis.

Support

If you’re an addict going through therapy sessions, it is advisable that your partner is present and involved. There are also anonymous sex addiction therapy groups that both the addict and their partner can attend. Anonymous sex addiction groups in Kenya include Sexaholics Anonymous and SAPTA. Groups that are dedicated to partners of sex addicts include Co-Dependence Anonymous Nairobi Group (Nairobi CoDa Group). These groups provide face-to-face meetings, phone meetings, and online meetings to addicts and their partners.


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