When Love and Sex Turn into Addictions
It may seem strange that sex or love could be an addiction, as they are positively valued in most cultures. Here we will examine sex addiction and love addiction, and their harmful effects, based on an article published on Psychology Today.
When considering a classification of sex addiction, the following criteria are usually considered:
- Constant thoughts about sexual behaviour
- Excessive amounts of time spent pursuing sexual activities, in sexual encounters, or recovering from sexual behavior
- A need to increase the frequency, intensity, or danger associated with sexual activities
- Excessively unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, frustration, anger, or depression resulting from inability to satisfy sexual desires
Sex addiction differs from love addiction in that the former focuses on sexual behaviour, while the latter focuses on relationships. The following are indicators that a person may have a love addiction:
- Inability to stop seeing a person even though it is harmful to you
- Having serial relationships because you like the “high” or feeling of “falling in love”
- Using relationships to deal with or escape from life stress
- Feeling desperate or other intense negative feelings when person of interest is not present
For those with either a sex addiction or love addiction, it can be difficult to satisfying engage in life and maintain healthy relationships. Sometimes this is not immediately apparent, as both sex and love are considered highly valuable in most cultures. What matters most is the degree to which healthy functioning is impaired, and the overall happiness of the individual.
Two cases serve to illustrate the ways in which sex and love addictions differ, as well as how they can disrupt healthy functioning.
Robert, a 35-year-old interior designer, began compulsively masturbating at the age of nine to numb negative feelings stemming from verbal and psychological abuse from his parents. Later, as an adult, he engaged in random sexual encounters with strangers. These behaviors ultimately led to the end of his romantic relationship and threatened his career.
Clarissa, an executive in her early thirties, ended her first marriage in order to continue pursuing a stream of short and intense romantic encounters. Thrilled with the “high” she gets from the chase, she withdraws her affection when her romantic partner becomes seriously interested in her. Her feelings, thoughts, and eating behaviours are largely linked to her cycles of pursuing relationships.
While Robert suffers from sex addiction, and Clarissa from love addiction, both experience excessive negative feelings, loss of control, and disruptions to their work and/or relationships.
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