Sex addiction. Many of us can feel that it’s only an “issue” that plagues the rich and famous (issue is in quotation marks because many people believe it isn’t even real), and that said rich and famous are just doing what anyone with tons of money and status would do: partying their a**es off and enjoying all of the attention. But, why then, are not all celebrities sex addicts? Why, then, doesn’t every single gorgeous star who could have anyone they wanted sleep around? Because that type of access to sex is only a problem for those who already had issues before gaining fame and money. I heard a wonderful quote once about how money just makes you more of what you already were: if you were sick, you become sicker, and if you were good, you become better. We know that to be true from all of the celebrities that donate most of their income to charitable causes. Money tends to only enhance behaviors that were already present, which is why some celebrities are sex addicts, and some are not. But on a related and important note, it’s not just the stars who are plagued by sex addiction. We just don’t hear of it as often amongst our peers. But it’s there, and it’s often misunderstood. Here are myths and realities about sex addiction.
Myth: It’s not a real problem
Some believe sex addiction is not even a thing. They may say that sex feels great, everyone is highly attracted to sex and driven by a desire to have sex, and so everyone is a bit sex addicted meaning nobody is sex addicted.
Truth: If it causes destructive behavior, it’s a problem
Think of what characterizes an issue with anything. Whether it’s drinking, gambling, or having sex, many people around the world are capable of doing all of those things without having a problem. It becomes a problem when those behaviors lead to destructive behaviors. Like when drinking leads to DUIs, when gambling leads to gambling away one’s home, and when sex leads to sleeping with someone very inappropriate to sleep with. Sex addiction doesn’t simply mean loving sex. It means having an unhealthy relationship with it.
Myth: Sex is the only issue
So, once we acknowledge that sex addiction is a real issue, some might think, “So then all the person has to do is refrain from having sex, and she’s cured.” If we apply the same thinking of alcoholism or gambling addiction to sex addiction, it’s easy to see how one might think that.
Truth: Sex is just a symptom
Like with drinking in excess or gambling, people don’t necessarily do it just because they love the activity: the activity is often just a symptom of a deeper issue. Things like repressed memories of trauma and abuse or clinical depression can lead to drinking heavily, gambling, or having sex with strangers. The action of having sex is only a symptom, and a therapist would get to the root of the issue. If the cause isn’t addressed, then the sex addict will just find a new destructive behavior.
Myth: If it’s within a relationship, it’s not a problem
Many people don’t realize they have a sex addiction because they’re in monogamous relationships. How can one have a sex addiction if they’re having sex with the same person, in a safe manner?
Truth: Codependency often envelops sex addiction
Codependency is an effective mask for sex addiction. One carries the other. Some people don’t realize they’re sex addicts because they also have codependency issues, always jumping from one relationship to another. The issues can go hand in hand, but really, the codependent individual is just covering up her sex addiction within the shelter of a “committed relationship.”
Myth: If you’re super sexually active, you are one
It’s common for people to casually throw around the term “Sex addict.” If one has a friend who just has a lot of sex with a lot of people, she may say that person is a sex addict.
Truth: It’s about the cause and effect
Again, doing a lot of the thing doesn’t mean someone is an addict. You may have a friend who has two glasses of wine every night. Do you call her an alcoholic? Probably not. It is perfectly possible for an individual to just truly enjoy sex, and not for any misguided or unhealthy reasons. If the destructive behavior and patterns are not there, then that person is likely not an addict.
Myth: Excessive sex is the only issue
Having tons of sex is the only type of addiction/issue surrounding sex…is a grand misconception about sex-related mental illness.
Truth: Some people deprive themselves
Some individuals deprive themselves of sex, or punish themselves in some way after having sex, or will only have sex with complete strangers in the dark at sex parties but not with their spouse. There are a lot of compulsive and unhealthy sex-related behaviors people can exhibit, that are symptoms of underlying issues.
Myth: A professional must diagnose it
Determining whether or not someone has a sex addiction can be complicated. It’s a tough issue for therapists to identify, especially since it can often be wrapped up in other issues such as codependency or alcoholism. A therapist may tell you that you do not have a sex addiction. But, is that good enough?
Truth: If you feel you have a problem, then you do
You know yourself well. You know if you have a problem with a behavior. You now that anxious, guilty, sticky feeling that comes when you participate in something to which you know you’re addicted. If you believe you struggle with sex addiction, there is a good chance that you do. It’s important to share these feelings with a professional therapist, since you may see something she doesn’t, but she can help once you open up.
Myth: Sex addicts are just alcoholics
Everyone loses their inhibitions when drinking. Most people have engaged in some sexual activity, while drunk, that they wouldn’t have while sober. That’s why there is a misunderstanding that sex addicts are just alcoholics, and if they stop drinking, the unhealthy sexual behavior will stop, too.
Truth: The substance is just a trigger
While alcohol may often be present at the times of sexual misconduct, that doesn’t mean someone is “just an alcoholic.” It’s complex but, some individuals need a substance to act out their compulsive behavior, but those impulses would still be there, with or without alcohol. In other words, the alcohol brings out the sex addiction.
Myth: Sex addiction is always present
Someone who has sexual addiction issues cannot have a healthy sexual interaction until those issues are cured. Those issues are present, 24/7.
Truth: Those with BPD struggle in phases
Individuals with borderline personality disorder, formerly called bipolar disorder by the psychology community, can go through phases of exhibiting sexual addiction, and phases of having healthy sexual interactions. When those with BPD have a handle on their symptoms, and have the proper combination of medication and talk therapy, they can have a clear understanding of what a healthy sex life is, and even engage in one. But when they do have episodes, they may then retreat to addictive behaviors.