When Does A Love Of Sex Turn Into A Sex Addiction?

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Shorter Version

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“People ask me a lot about my drive. I think it comes from, like, having a sexual addiction at a really young age. Look at the drive that people have to get sex – to dress like this and get a haircut and be in the club in the freezing cold at 3 A.M., the places they go to pick up a girl. If you can focus the energy into something valuable, put that into work ethic.”

~ Kanye West

What causes sex addiction?

The reason why a love of sex develops into a sex addiction for some young adults and not others is unclear. However, research suggests that hormones, genetics, and/or changes in brain chemistry and/or activity may play a role in this development. The ability of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs (i.e. anti-anxiety drugs) to mitigate or reduce the effects of a sexual addiction lend credence to the belief that changes in the brain may be one reason why a love of sex develops into a sex addiction for some people in their 20s.

What kind of changes in the brain could lead to sex addiction? Well, studies suggest that the brain views certain vices, such as illegal substances, food, sex, and sexual activity, as “rewards” that trigger the brain’s reward system. Once triggered, sex affects a person’s ability to process information, perform higher-thinking functions, and engage in logical reasoning and sound judgment. In other words, the brain tells a young adult that sex feels good, similar to how sleep feels good after a long day at work. Therefore, it could be that this flurry of brain changes and activity causes the love of sex to transform into full-blown sex addiction.


This is especially true if this preoccupation or obsession with sex causes the young adult to forego most or all other activities in his or her life. A person with an obsession or addiction to sex doesn’t care about undesirable consequences; all they care about is the feeling that sex and sexual activity gives him or her. Sex addicts describe the feeling they receive from sex as ‘euphoric’ and ‘out-of-this-world;’ to a sex addict, it isn’t about love or intimacy. Sex and sexual activity to a sex addict are simply a means to an end; it’s a way to ‘escape’ the perils of daily life.

Seeking help

Many, if not most, sex addicts have tried to stop at some time but were unable to. In contrast, those who simply enjoy a lot of sex and sexual activity can stop whenever they want. It’s not the focus of their life. Now, a 20-something, who loves sex, may not want to stop having it but they can if they want to. Those with sex addiction no longer have that choice – without help. The addiction takes over their lives. At this point, sex has become a “reward” for the person – one that his or her body constantly craves. The only true way he or she can break this addiction is to seek help with a trained addiction counselor or addiction specialist.

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Actionable Steps


Avoid risky people and situations

One way to break a sex addiction is to avoid risky people and situations. How? By identifying people, situations, places, thoughts, and feelings that provoke sexual feelings in you. Once you have a good idea of your “triggers,” write them down in a journal or post them in your bedroom to remind you to stay away from them.

Next, develop boundaries, so you don’t “accidentally” end-up around one of them. For instance, make a vow to sit-out parties and other events where there will be other single-and-ready-to-mingle young adults. Why? Because, there is an increased risk that you’ll wind-up drinking and having sex with one or more of the attendees. It’s just easier to engage in risky sexual behaviors when you are in social situations (i.e. bars, parties, festivals, concerts, etc.), especially if you are alone when you arrive.
Your sexual addiction could be “triggered” by the influx of available young adults there. Also, if possible, stay off the computer or away from porn sites. Don’t have the willpower? Download or install a tool that blocks your access to pornographic material. When it is difficult or nearly impossible to engage in sex, the activity loses some of its appeal. It also makes it easier to break the cycle of addiction.


Adopt healthier coping mechanisms

You’ll also need to adopt healthier coping mechanisms. In other words, find other ways to manage your sexual urges. For example, when you feel an urge to have sex with multiple people, redirect your attention towards something else that makes you feel “euphoric.” Perhaps, you love movies; well, then go to the movie theater and make a full day out of seeing movie after movie. Or, if spending quality time with your partner makes you feel good – do that.
If none of those suggestions sound appealing, then start a new exercise routine (exercising can also cause you to feel “euphoric,” stimulated, and energized – and it’s healthier for you), or find a hobby (i.e. cooking, knitting, crafting, painting, playing an instrument, writing, playing a sport, etc.) that sparks joy in your life and focus your attention on that.
Another healthy coping mechanism is to talk with an addiction counselor or specialist, family and friends, a religious leader, etc. This person or these people can help you sort out your feelings and get a better grasp on your urges so you aren’t tempted to given into them.


Seek counseling or go to support meetings

If all else fails, it’s probably time to seek counseling, or at the very least start attending support group meetings (i.e. SAA) for your sex addiction. Seeking counseling can be quite nerve-wrecking, I understand. So, if you’re not ready to sit down with an addiction counselor, or any counselor for that matter, there are a variety of support group meetings you can attend. `These meetings are conducted in a group-setting so you don’t have to feel “on the spot” to share your story – until you are ready to.
The great thing about speaking to a professional is you learn different coping mechanisms, strategies, and techniques that can help you recover from the addiction and remain “clean” once therapy has ended. An addiction counselor can provide you with the tools to live a happy and healthy life.
The great thing about support group meetings is they provide you with some much-needed support. You learn different coping pitfalls and strategies by listening to the stories of other attendees. Because other young adults are also dealing with a sex addiction, you feel less alone and more confident about recovery. It’s a less stressful form of addiction treatment that is often appealing to younger addicts. You can attend these meeting whenever you want – without having to schedule an appointment with a counselor. This really works for young adults that have limited time or money to attend counseling sessions. Plus, support group meetings are typically free to the public.

Lastly, counseling and support group meetings add a layer of accountability to the mix. Once you have acknowledged that you have a problem and shared that fact with someone else, it’s harder to quit the treatment process. Why? Well, because, others will call you out on your BS. As a result, you’ll be less likely to repeat destructive behaviors (i.e. promiscuity, unprotected sex, etc.) because of how it will make you “look” to others.


Read the longer version

You can learn more about sex addiction by reading the following articles: What Causes Sexual Addiction by Psych Central, What is Sex Addiction by Healthline, Causes of Sexual Addiction by Healthy Place, and Coping with Sexual Addiction Urges by Sexual Recovery.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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