SEX & LOVE ADDICTION
Sex and love addiction likely have the same origins – the lack of emotional security and attention at an early age. These disorders are broadly classified as disorders of intimacy. In sex addiction, intimacy issues are acted out by being aloof, unattached and using relationships simply to have sex; whereas, those with a love addiction tend to continually seek impossible relationships, or perfect relationships, pushing away and pulling in intimate partners, never being satisfied.
Love addicts also tend to get into relationships that are fundamentally flawed and stay in the relationship to try to “fix it”.
Outside of the obvious emotional turmoil and instability cause by sex and love addiction, these addictions have been known to lead to violence, murder, and medical problems, specifically STDs. The other problems cause by sex and love addiction mirror those of other addictions, including drug addiction and alcoholism. Problems will arise in financial, legal, relationship, work, mental health, and other areas.
Despite the negative consequences, those with a sex or love addiction continue to engage in addictive behaviors and are unable to cut down or stop seeking inappropriate sexual encounters or relationships. Interestingly, those with a sex and love addiction end up avoiding what they crave the most, and that is an intimate, stable and healthy relationship. Instead, they typically end up in superficial or chaotic, ephemeral relationships that ultimately only deliver loneliness, isolation and grief.
Whether one is depressed and anxious because of low self-esteem, or is arrogant and aloof because of low self-esteem and uncertainty, mood disorders and personality disorders are common in those affected by sex and love addiction. What’s more, many who suffer from an addiction to sex or love also are affected by other addictions, or are even codependent. The other common addictions that sex and love addicts have are alcoholism, cocaine and opiate addiction, benzo addiction and addictions to the internet, pornography, and sometimes gambling.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF SEX ADDICTION
- Engaging in sex more often or with more partners than intended
- Unable to cut down or stop having sex even when genuine attempts are made
- Increased intensity, frequency, or boundary testing with sex
- Spending an excessive amount of time participating in, preparing for, or seeking out sex
- Experiencing negative consequences from sexual activities, such as relationship, legal, financial, work, medical, emotional or other problems
- Persistently craving sex
- Sleep problems, anxiety, depression and irritability when unable to engage in the desired amount of sex with the desired number of partners, or when unable to engage in sex with the intensity desired
- Neglecting other relationships and obligations in the pursuit or practice of sex
- Having sex with partners that one does not find desirable solely to have sex
- Repetitive sexual affairs outside of one’s primary partner
- Frequent use of pornography
- Taking substances or other risk-taking behaviors that increase the intensity of sexual gratification
- Multiple sexual partners
- Practicing unsafe sex
- Frequent use of prostitutes
- Hiding or denying sexual allegations, even though they are true
- Frequent one-night stands
- Unrelenting masturbation
- Sexual voyeurism, exhibitionism, or cybersex
- Frequent sexual harassment
- Molestation, rape, incest, or sexual activity with minors
It is not uncommon for the sexual trysts of sex addicts to be well outside the norm for the general population. Risk-taking behavior is commonplace for sex addicts, with potential disregard for harm to self or others, including the risk of receiving or transmitting sexual transmitted diseases. An unhealthy sexual obsession may also develop between a sex addict and his/her partner(s).
Not far from what sex addicts experience, love addicts also enter relationships in a risk-taking manner, with little regard for self or others. An obsession with one or more partners may also develop, sometimes even into a love triangle, which can be dangerous or even deadly. Love addicts are frequently involved in chaotic, harmful, emotional unhealthy relationships with little to no lasting value. The actions of love addicts do untold harm to self and to others, either those involved in the relationship or innocent bystanders.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF LOVE ADDICTION
- Avoidant of healthy relationships
- Seek relationships with demanding, controlling people who work to decrease their partner’s self-esteem and/or with quiet, withholding, unable to give love types of people
- Involved in multiple break-up with the same person or multiple people in a cycle
- Feelings of loneliness, despite having plenty to do and other friends and family, when the love addict is away from his/her partner
- The love addict has firsthand information and awareness (from self and others) that the partner of a love addict is not “good” for them, but continues in the relationship regardless of the consequences
- Feels “completed”, “intoxicated”, and “excited”, during times of reconciliations and make-ups after verbal and physical altercations and other disagreements
- Depression, inability to care for self, and severe mood swings when separating from or the threat of separating from a partner occurs
- The constant craving for emotional intensity that is gained through relationships
- Placing oneself in harm’s way due to relationship issues, including through sexual activity
- Intense fear of being alone or rejected
- Becoming obsessed with a potential partner, previous partner, or current partner, even though your advances are unwanted or too intense for the other person
- Feelings of emptiness when the partner cannot or does not want to be available
- Pushing a partner away when they get close and then pulling them back into the relationship
- A skewed perception of the value of the relationship or status of the relationship
It is important that love addicts may also exhibit the above behaviors with close friends and family as well, because this disorder is primarily a disorder of intimacy. There are many associations between love addiction and alcoholism and drug addiction. Per Earp, Et. al., in a 2017 research article, it is stated that the similarities are exhilaration, ecstasy, craving, irregular physiological response and obsessive patterns of thought. Because of this, it is thought that the same psychological, chemical, and anatomical processes may be involved in both substance addiction and love and sex addiction.
SEX & LOVE ADDICTION TREATMENT
Because there is considerable overlap in the presentation of sex and love addiction and drug addiction, the treatment for both diseases is similar. Many of those with sex and love addiction also have problems with drug addiction and/or alcoholism. As such, it is commonplace for those with sex and love addiction to be treated in a residential drug rehab, or other type of multidisciplinary treatment center.
At the core of sex and love addiction treatment is the examination of core schemas, cognitive behavioral therapy and frequently mental health treatment for emotional and psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders and PTSD.
If you suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism and sex and love addiction, a quality residential drug rehab, which provides dual-diagnosis health services is an appropriate first step to healing. Remember, regardless of the amount and intensity of services that are received in a drug rehab, a full recovery from sex and love addiction may take years, and a robust aftercare plan is necessary for continued treatment and maintenance of the progress that was achieved during intensive treatment.