Sign up for a free Medical News Today account to customize your medical and health news experiences. Other terms for sexual addiction are sexual dependency, hypersexuality, and compulsive sexual behavior.
It is also known as nymphomania in females and satyriasis in men. While sexual addiction shares some features with substance addiction, the person is addicted to an activity, not a substance. Treatment may help, but without treatment, What is sex addiction like for a female may get worse. An estimated 12 to 30 million people in the United States U. It affects both men and women. The American Society of Addiction Medicine describes addiction as "a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.
A person with sexual addiction is obsessed with sex or has an abnormally intense sex drive. Their thoughts are dominated by sexual activity, to the point where this affects other activities and interactions. If these urges become uncontrollable, the person can have difficulty functioning in social situations. In some cases, a person with a healthy and enjoyable sex life may develop an obsession.
They may find themselves stimulated by acts and fantasies that most people do not consider acceptable. In some cases, the person may have a paraphilic disorder, such as pedophilia.
This is a diagnosable disorder. A paraphilic disorder involves sexual arousal caused by stimuli that most people do not find acceptable, for example pedophilia.
It involves distress and dysfunction. Sexual addiction has not been fully established as a medical condition, although it can adversely affect families, relationships, and lives. One difficulty with identifying sexual addiction is that people have different levels of sex drive, or libido.
One person may consider their partner a "sex addict" only because they have a higher sex drive. Some attempts to define the characteristics of sexual addiction have been based on literature about chemical dependency. Sexual addiction may share the same rewards systems and circuits in the brain as substance addiction.
However, people with sexual addiction may be addicted to different types of sexual behavior. This makes the condition harder to define.
It also suggests that the disorder stems not from the individual acts, but rather an obsession with carrying them out. Sexual addiction also appears to involve making rules to feel in control of the condition, and then breaking them to make new rules. Studies have demonstrated a strong link between alleged sexual addiction and risk-taking.
Sexual addiction may cause a person to persist in taking risks even if there may be health consequences, such as sexually transmitted infection STIphysical injury, or emotional consequences.
Untreated, compulsive sexual behavior can leave the individual with intense feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Some patients may develop severe anxiety and depression. Addiction takes root in the reward center of the brain. It may occur when certain parts of the brain mistake pleasure responses for survival mechanisms. The midbrain is the section of the brain that handles the body's reward system and survival instincts.
As sexual activity creates a rush of dopamine, the "feel-good" chemical in the brain, this triggers the feeling of pleasure. The midbrain then mistakes this feeling of pleasure as being central survival. One possibility is that, in people with sexual addiction, the frontal cortex, or the brain's center of logic and morality, is impaired by the midbrain. Studies on rats have linked lesions of a section of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex mPFC with compulsive sexual behavior.
This may shed some light the causes of hypersexuality in humans. Some studies have a higher frequency of addictive sexual behavior in people from dysfunctional families. A person with sexual addiction is more likely to have been abused than other people. A significant number of people recovering from sexual addiction have reported some type of addiction among family members. It can occur alongside another addiction.
Symptoms of sexual addiction may resemble those of other addictions, but the diagnostic criteria for sexual addiction remains in dispute. For this reason, there are different sets of criteria for diagnosing the condition. The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA, suggested in a What is sex addiction like for a female that to in order for a sexual addiction to qualify as a mental health disorder, an individual must:.
As more examples of sexual addiction and its consequences have emerged, the disorder has become more widely accepted as a legitimate mental condition. A qualified psychiatric doctor will be able to distinguish between an advanced libido and a pattern of dependency on sexual stimulation or other paraphilic disorder that requires medical attention. Aviel Goodman, director of the Minnesota Institute of Psychiatry, has proposed criteria similar to those used in substance addiction.
The criteria would diagnose sexual addiction when significant damage or distress is caused by a pattern of behavior. To receive a diagnosis, a person should show at least three of the following traits during a month period.