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Sexual Addiction (cont.)

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What are causes and risk factors for sexual addiction?

No one factor is thought to cause sexual addiction, but there are thought to be biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to the development of these disorders. For example, the intoxication associated with sexual addiction is thought to be the result of changes in certain areas and chemicals in the brain that are elicited by the compulsion. Research differs somewhat in terms of gender-based patterns of sexual addiction. For example, some studies describe males who are introverted and highly educated as more inclined to develop an Internet addiction, including sexual Internet addiction. Other studies indicate that middle-aged women using home computers were more at risk for Internet sexual addiction.

Psychological risk factors for sexual addiction are thought to include depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The presence of a learning disability increases the risk of developing a sex addiction as well. As people with a history of suffering from any addiction are at risk for developing another addiction, being dependent on something else makes it more likely for sexual addiction to occur.

Sufferers of these disorders tend to be socially isolated and have personality traits like insecurity, impulsivity, compulsive behaviors, trouble with relationship stability and intimacy, low ability to tolerate frustration, and a tendency to have trouble coping with emotions. People who are sexually abused are at somewhat higher risk of developing a sexual addiction.

What are sexual addiction symptoms and signs?

While the DSM has yet to describe specific diagnostic criteria for nonparaphilic sex addictions, some researchers have suggested symptoms and signs that are similar to other addictions for both paraphilic and nonparaphilic sex addictions. Specifically, sex addicts have been described as suffering from a negative pattern of sexual behavior that leads to significant problems or distress that may include the following:

  • A need for more amount or intensity of behavior to achieve the desired effect (tolerance)
  • Physical or psychological feelings of withdrawal when unable to engage in the addictive behavior
  • The person making plans for, engaging in, or recovering from the behavior more or longer than planned
  • Desire or unsuccessful attempts to decrease or stop the behavior
  • Neglecting important social, work, or school activities because of the behavior
  • Continuing the behavior despite suffering physical or psychological problems because of or worsened by the sexual behavior.


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