By Dr. Sumanth T P, Psychiatry
Sexual addiction, in traditional terminology, is synonymous to compulsive sexual behaviour, hyper sexuality, hypersexual disorder or nymphomania. It is most often an ordinary, pleasurable sexual experience which has turned into an obsession of sexual thoughts, urges or compulsions, eventually leading to a disruption in your self-esteem, career, relationships or others aspects of your life, and may be potentially harmful for you.
Some of the symptoms of compulsive sexual behaviour include:
• Uncontrollable sexual impulses
• Sex becoming an escape from other problems like depression and anxiety
• Inability to find suitable substitutes for sexual activities
• A continuous engagement in sexual behaviours without any considerations
• Trouble maintaining and establishing emotional intimacy
The causes of sexual addiction are highly ambiguous, but they are usually mental or psychological in nature and may happen due to the following reasons:
• When there is an imbalance in the different levels of certain neurotransmitters which regulate your mood, such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
• When certain diseases like Huntington’s disease, epilepsy and dementia affect your sexual behaviour
• Sex addiction may be caused by changes in brain pathways, resulting in the brain signaling positive feedback when you engage in sexual behaviour, and negative reactions once it is stopped.
Complications and consequences that may arise as result of sexual addiction are numerous, such as:
• Contraction of harmful diseases and viruses like HIV or other sexually transmitted infections
• May result in an arrest due to sexual offences
• Burning of family ties because of deception and lies
• May pave the way for depression and crippling anxiety
• A constant struggle with oneself because of feelings of shame and guilt
Drugs and treatments
Treatments for sexual addiction are complex in nature but can be handled in the following ways:
• Psychotherapy, in the form of psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, may prove to be very helpful for your sense of control of irresistible sexual impulses or urges.
• Through the use of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, naltrexone, antiandrogens or luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone.
• Self-help groups and support groups are beneficial, which help you cope with the different issues of compulsive sexual behaviour.