We all know someone who has struggled with addiction. Be it cigarettes, or alcohol, or gambling...But not many of us can say we know someone who is addicted to sex. Unless, you count celebrities: Tiger Woods, David Duchovny, and Michael Douglas! Woods, Duchovny and Douglas have all been treated for sex addiction, otherwise known as "compulsive sexual behavior," "nymphomania" or "hypersexuality." Skeptics like to call it an excuse for cheating husbands. But according to the medical community, sexual addiction is a real disease that impacts both men and women. Some statistics estimate that as many as six to eight percent of all Americans are sex addicts. So what exactly is a sex addict? Someone with a sex addiction is obsessed with sexual thoughts, feelings or actions. They have a compulsive need to act on their sexual urges, even if it leads to negative consequences. Sexual thoughts and behaviors dominate their daily life to the point where it squeezes everything else, like work, school or family relationships, out of the picture. Addicts are abnormally preoccupied with sex, and may engage in frequent and compulsive masturbation, porn, cyber sex, phone sex, unsafe sexual activity, multiple partners and extramarital affairs. Like drug abuse, sex for an addict is used as an escape from problems like loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress. As a result, people with sex addictions sometimes derive little pleasure or satisfaction from their sexual activity. They also sometimes fail to form emotional bonds with sexual partners. Sexual addiction can escalate to increasingly risky behaviors. As with other addictions, sufferers develop a tolerance to their activities and look for other ways to satisfy their compulsion. They lose perspective and control of their actions. As their addiction progresses, it could even involve illegal activities, such as prostitution, exposing oneself in public, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking, molestation and rape. It is important to note that not all sex addicts are sex offenders and not all sex offenders are sex addicts. According to the Sexual Recovery Institute, 55 percent of incarcerated sex offenders are diagnosable sex addicts. While the disease is progressive, not everyone with a sexual addiction resorts to predatory behaviors. Because of the shame and stigma, the majority of sex addicts do not seek treatment. Many don't even realize they have a problem. Most people with an addiction remain in denial until a significant event forces them to face the issue. This could include getting caught in an extramarital affair, losing one's job or spouse, or being arrested. If you believe you, or someone you care about, could have a sexual addiction, talk to a trusted friend or professional. There are many organizations dedicated to helping sexual addicts, including treatment centers and sex addicts anonymous.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012