Sex, love, and intimacy are natural and inextricable parts of our lives – maybe some of the most important ones. Society gives us all sorts of expectations regarding these things, and it’s normal to think of them as a big deal.
But how can you tell if it’s going too far?
Sex and love addiction are controversial diagnoses, but anyone who has experienced them firsthand or through a partner can tell you that they can be very real.
It’s perfectly normal to pursue love and sex. However, if the pursuit or practice begins to cause distress or interfere with one’s life, they have become problems. At this point, they may qualify as addictions.
If you worry that your relationship with sex or love is negatively affecting you or you’d just like to learn more about sex and love addiction, read on.
What Are Sex and Love Addiction?
When we think of addiction, we normally think of addiction to substances – alcohol, tobacco, drugs. However, behaviors can also be addictive.
Addiction can be defined as a compulsive need for a substance or behavior having harmful physical, social, or psychological effects. It also generally causes undesirable symptoms upon withdrawal.
Like drugs, sex and love are things that can provide bursts of pleasure chemicals in the brain. For some people, these feelings can create addiction, both psychologically and physiologically.
Sex and love addiction are compulsive sexual and romantic behaviors that cause distress or disruption in an individual’s life.
Both types of addiction can have negative impacts on one’s life. They might lead to self-destructive behaviors, toxic relationships, relationship abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, or other problems. There might also exist co-occurring difficulties with alcohol or drugs, or an eating disorder.
Signs of Sex Addiction
Many cases of sex addiction begin with experiencing family dysfunction and/or violence, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, the addiction develops over time as a need for greater sexual stimulation grows.
Many sex addicts don’t realize they have a problem. They might think that their behaviors are normal or that they simply have a healthy sex drive.
The key to recognizing sex addiction is identifying whether one’s sexual behaviors interfere with one’s life and recognizing they are unable to stop. Are they struggling to get things done because of sexual pursuits? Are sexual behaviors causing relationship troubles?
Let’s look at some common signs of sex addiction.
Problematic Sexual Behavior
Many sex addicts engage in risky or unhealthy sexual behaviors. Examples of these might be anonymous sex, frequent unprotected sex with multiple partners, or regularly cheating on romantic partners.
No one has designated what frequency of masturbation is considered “normal.” However, there are some signs that it has become unhealthy.
A sex addict might be unable to resist the urge to masturbate or do so at inappropriate times. It will often get in the way of their work or daily life.
Disruptive Sexual Fantasizing
Having sexual fantasies is normal, but sex addiction can take them too far. A sex addict will often spend too much time preoccupied with fantasies.
If fantasizing is causing someone difficulty concentrating on daily or professional tasks, they may be struggling with addiction.
Sex addicts often use engaging in sexual behavior to escape other problems. They may compulsively seek sex when feeling anxious, depressed, or lonely.
Other signs of sex addiction might include frequently paying for sex, keeping sexual activity secret, or prioritizing sex over social interactions.
A hallmark of sex addiction is an inability to stop or control one’s sexual behaviors. For more details on the signs of sex addiction, click here.
Signs of Love Addiction
Like sex addiction, love addiction often stems from experiencing abuse or family dysfunction while growing up. In particular, it may be related to neglectful or smothering parenting.
The term “love addict” can be a bit misleading. Love addicts don’t exactly seek long term relationships, or intimate love, although that’s what they tend to think they want. Instead, what they seek is the neurochemical rush associated with the early stages of a new relationship.
The behaviors associated with love addiction are often similar to sex addiction. Love addicts often use sex as a way to seek connection with or hang onto a partner.
As with sex or any other type of addiction, love addiction is based on pleasant feelings that most people experience. The issue, again, arises when this goes too far and begins to interfere with one’s life.
Let’s talk about common signs of love addiction.
Mistaking Sex for Love
Love addicts tend to read deeply into sex. One for this may take assuming that initial sexual encounters mean more than they do. Another is that the individual may believe they’re in a loving relationship simply because their partner has sex with them.
A love addict will often seem obsessed with relationships. When they are not in one, they often compulsively seek the next romantic relationship, falling in love easily. They frequently feel desperate and alone until they find a new relationship.
This also might take the form of keeping an eye out for a new relationship while still in one.
In the same vein, love addicts will often stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships even after telling themselves or others that they will leave.
Relationship-seeking behavior that is interfering with someone’s mental health, or personal or professional commitments is a strong sign of love addiction.
When a love addict is in a relationship, they are often desperate to please their partner.
The addict might give up on personal interests or friendships to spend more time with their partner. They may also participate in activities that don’t interest them or that go against their beliefs only for their partner’s sake.
Love addicts also frequently struggle to maintain intimate relationships once the “puppy love” phase has ended.
How to Handle Sex and Love Addiction
These addictions can cause serious distress to people who experience them as well as those around them. Thankfully, there are ways to help.
Support groups for sex and love addicts can be helpful in the recovery process.
Alternatively, therapy specifically for sex and love addiction exists and is very effective in helping addicts recover. If you’re looking for help with addiction treatment or information on dealing with sex or love addiction, try consulting a specialist.