What is sex addiction

The simplest and broadest definition is that it is any pattern of out-of-control sexual behaviour that has a significantly negative impact upon a person’s life. It is a pattern of behaviour that cannot be stopped, or does not reliably stay stopped.

Sex is a normal and important part of life, and people express themselves sexually in very diverse ways. It is not the behaviour itself that is the problem, but the relationship to the behaviour. Sexual addiction or compulsivity occurs when sex has come to assume a disproportionately high priority, so that more and more time is spent planning, engaging in or recovering from the chosen sexual activity. The negative consequences of this extend not just into relationships, but work, finances, health, the law, and your sense of personal values and worth.

Psychological dependency is now recognized as a significant contributory factor to addiction and compulsive behaviours. It is now accepted that activities/behaviours like substances, can directly affect our brain chemistry. Repeated behaviours reinforce the brain chemistry linked to those behaviours. Sex addiction, like gambling and gaming, is known as a ‘behavioural addiction’.

The arousal chemistry of sex is particularly potent, associated with the limbic system of the brain, which is sometimes called ‘the old brain’ – that is, associated with instinctive drives – hunger, aggression, sex, survival. When this is activated, the newer prefrontal cortex, or cognitive brain, responsible for thinking things through and assessing risks and consequences, is over-ridden.

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