What purpose does sex addiction serve?

Addiction and compulsion has a function, or psychological purpose. It is a coping mechanism, a way of managing life. It is a strategy used to alleviate negative emotions and create positive ones. It is a way of feeling better. However, while it may be pleasurable when the behaviour first starts, as a person becomes addicted, the sexual activities (or drugs, or alcohol) create the very problems they were trying to escape. The pleasure becomes harder to achieve. This in turn can escalate the behaviours in an attempt to get what you need. A person can find themselves needing more and more sex, or pushing the boundaries of their sexual behaviour to get the same ‘hit’.

It is normal human behaviour to want to escape negative feelings and only have positive ones. We have a variety of ways and techniques for cheering ourselves up or calming ourselves down. The trouble with compulsion is that it becomes the only way a person can cope. For someone with sex addiction, rather than finding appropriate and healthy ways of regulating emotion, preparing for sex, thinking about sex, or having sex has become their primary coping mechanism. It is the only method they have for managing life.

Some of the common behaviours involved in sexual compulsivity are:

  • Compulsive use of porn
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Compulsive use of sex workers
  • Sexting
  • Chemsex
  • Phone & online sex
  • Multiple affairs
  • Chatrooms and webcam sex
  • Exhibitionism or voyeurism
  • Repeatedly and compulsively becoming sexually ‘intrigued’ by a person and pursuing him or her
  • Dangerous sexual practices
  • Illegal sexual practices

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