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Addicted to Sex

Addicted to Sex
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Peter R. Martin, MD, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the Vanderbilt Addiction Center in Nashville, Tenn., says the root causes of problems related to sex aren't known, just as there are still questions about how people become addicted to drugs.

He says scientists are starting to believe it has something to do with how the brain processes our drives and that there may sometimes be problems with the "reward centers" of a person's brain.

It's unclear how sexual addictions fit within the realm of mental illnesses, says Martin. Because of this, he prefers to call the disorder "problematic hypersexuality" rather than "sex addiction."

It's interesting, he adds, that a lot of problems in which the brain is obsessed with one activity -- whether it's sex, drugs, or alcohol -- tend to occur together.

Scientists are now studying medications that could possibly treat addiction to love and sex. In the meantime, doctors like Martin use psychotherapy and techniques used for treating other addictions to help people who have life-disrupting sexual thoughts and actions. This may involve prescribing drugs for problems that go along with it, like depression or anxiety.

Twelve-step programs use meetings and the sharing of stories to provide comfort for the troubled. The idea is that there are other people who are trying to deal with the same problems.

Jim says his salvation came through being in the company of people whose lives had also spun out of control.

On its web site, the group Sexual Compulsives Anonymous lists some characteristics most of its members have in common:

  • They use compulsive sex as a drug, to escape from feelings like anxiety, loneliness, anger, and self-hatred, as well as joy.
  • They become immobilized by romantic obsessions. Becoming addicted to the search for sex and love makes them neglect their lives.
  • They try to bring intensity and excitement into their lives through sex, but feel themselves growing steadily emptier.
  • Even when they get the love of another person, it never seems enough, and they're unable to stop lusting after others.
  • They try to conceal their dependency demands, growing more isolated from themselves, from God, and from the very people they long to be close to.

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