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Am I A Sex Addict? The Truth About Sexual Compulsivity REVEALED

Cliche Wynter
by Cliche Wynter Published on August 29, 2014

How many times have you heard the phrase "sex addiction" casually thrown around? Probably way too many times to count, right? Many people view sexual addiction as a quick and convenient excuse for infidelity and we can't say that we blame them either. But in an attempt to bust the myths from the facts, we spoke with an expert who gave us the TRUTH about sex addiction. Her response might surprise you.

Just think about it for sec. How often have you heard a cheating celebrity cry, "I'm a sex addict"? It's no wonder we've become a bit jaded and in turn have began questioning its legitimacy.

As it turns out, we're not the only ones who are raising an eyebrow. Professionals have their own take on the matter.

We spoke to Dr. Shannon Chavez, a sexual health expert and sex therapist, who explained there is no clinical diagnosis for sex addiction. In fact, she said it isn't a disease at all; as the addiction model suggests.

Surprising, huh? Here's what else she had to say.

It's Less Of An Addiction And More Compulsive

The flat out truth? The expression "sex addiction" is a misnomer.

According to Dr. Chavez, "The American Psychiatric Association has rejected the diagnosis in the new diagnostic and statistical manual (DSMV). The term to use is sexual compulsivity." She also went on record saying it's less of an addiction and more of a "compulsive drive similar to what we would see in eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder."

In essence, saying someone is addicted to sex is inaccurate. It's not the same process as alcohol or drugs.

The Different Types

Professionals who view sex addiction as compulsive sexual behavior separate it into two categories: paraphillic and nonparaphilic.

"Behaviors that are unconventional, compulsive, and lack love and intimacy, are viewed as paraphilic," Dr. Chavez told us. "Common paraphilias include voyeurism, sexual sadism, pedophilia, and frotteurism."

As for the more conventional sexual behavior that becomes compulsive, they can include, "compulsive masturbation, compulsive fixation on a partner, love relationship or sexuality in a relationship."

What Causes It

Sexual compulsivity can be linked to a series of factors, "including a mechanism for coping with intolerable emotions associated with anxiety and depression."

Recent developments in the understanding of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) hint at most paraphillic and nonparaphillic compulsive sexual behavior being similar to OCD.

However, Dr. Chavez stated it can also be caused by other psychiatric or neurologic disorders, early childhood abuse, abandonment, trauma, and neglect.

The Signs And Symptoms

What are some signs and symptoms you should be looking out for? Well, sexual compulsivity is often coupled with a few other conditions like anxiety disorders, depression, and alcohol and drug dependence.

Emotional Signs Include:

  • Dysthymia (depression)
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Withdrawal
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Our expert says this is when "sexual behavior becomes a coping mechanism to reduce the intolerable emotions that accompany anxiety and depression."

Physical Signs Include:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to relax
  • Hypervigilance (easily startled, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability)
  • Autonomic hyperactivity (dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, shortness of breath)

The Number Of People Affected

It's difficult to pinpoint an exact number of people who are affected by sex addiction/compulsivity because there isn't a standardized diagnosis or treatment. We were informed that there is a considerable amount of people who are untreated and diagnosed under different conditions.

The National Association of Sexual Addiction Problems says that, "6% or 1 out of 17 Americans are sex addicts." However, Dr. Chavez contests that this number could be overreported, "due to our social culture that is quick to label someone a sex addict before doing a thorough assessment."

Another thing of note? Many people might be too ashamed and embarrassed to seek treatment; making it all the more challenging to put an accurate number on those affected.

The Effects

Sexual compulsive behavior effect a person's ability to work and ultimately lead to isolation and avoidance of family and relationships. It can also cause an "increase in sexually transmitted infections, legal consequences, and financial problems."

Those are all things you should probably try to avoid at all costs

Treatments Available

For those who suffer from sexual compulsivity, treatment requires cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoeducation that explores intimacy, healthy sexuality and relationships, and trauma resolution. According to Dr. Chavez, this helps address early childhood experiences. There is also a short-term and long-term therapy model that is as follows.

Short-Term Therapy Model:

  • Incorporate behavior containment
  • Support groups
  • Couples work to build skills around boundaries, communication, and integrating new concepts of sexual behavior and intimacy.

Long Term Therapy Model:

  • Address early childhood trauma focusing on family systems
  • Attachment styles
  • Processing relational dynamics

Do you view sex addiction and sexual compulsivity as two separate entities? Tweet us @wewomenUSA.

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by Cliche Wynter

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