Compulsively pursuing sex might mean you are addicted to sex, and the same goes for love. Are you really in love or addicted to the notion of love?
In Singapore both sex addiction and its counterpart, love addiction, are on the rise yet most people suffering from either do not recognise their behaviours as an addiction. Extramarital affairs, incessant visits to prostitutes or excessive amounts of sexual relations with different people can all be classified as symptoms of sex addiction.
Love addicts are a little more complex to diagnose and may also display symptoms such as indulging in serial sexual relationships – along with clingy behaviour, staying in harmful relationships and having extreme difficulty coping when relationships end.
Both addictions are considered process addictions because certain behaviours trigger the reward part of the brain and overtime behaviour has to be amplified in order to gain the same reward from the process. However, since love is such a complex emotion, how can you tell if you are addicted it?
What is a Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is, as the name suggests, an addiction to sexual behaviour and the gratification received from indulging in it. There is no difference between the genders when it comes to this description nor between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Because sex, like food, is often part of everyday life it is harder to recognise an addiction or to control it through complete abstinence.
The most common features of sex addiction are constant thoughts about sex, excessive time spent pursuing or engaging in sexual activities, spending excessive amounts of money engaging in sexual behaviour, an increasing need to increase the intensity or types of sexual activities and a sense of frustration, anger or anxiety when unable to satisfy sexual needs or desires. There are also negative feelings such as shame and guilt in relation to their behaviour.
Often sex addicts pursue their sexual desires to the detriment of all other aspects of their life – be it personal health, relationships, finances or reputation.
What is a Love Addiction?
While sex addicts focus more on the act of sex itself, love addicts focus more on relationships and become addicted to the feelings attached to them. Love addictions can be classified by the following behaviours:
- Going through multiple short term relationships in order to stay in a relationship
- Craving the ‘high’ of being in lust or love
- Using relationships to avoid real life problems
- An inability to end relationships that are mentally or physically damaging
Love addiction may be harder to diagnose as the symptoms are commonly classed as normal behaviour in most societies including Singapore. However if there is an excessive element or if there are intense negative feelings when someone is not in a relationship then it is likely that they may be suffering from a love addiction.
While sexual addiction is rooted in the physical expression of lust and sexuality, love addiction is a bit more intense. It is not just the desire to have sexual relations with another individual. Rather, it is the need and desire to feel truly loved. Those with love addiction signs are not in relationships for the sexual gratification alone. Rather, there is something deeper at play, a desire to feel “true” love as they imagine it to be, that they have never had the opportunity to experience before. While love addiction can go hand in hand with sexual addiction—and usually does—the two are not always joined. There can be those that are suffering from love addiction who are not sex addicts, but use sex as a means to find the love they are searching for.
Why Do People Become Addicted to Sex and Love?
There is no set reason behind what makes someone become addicted to sex or love. Often, especially in the case of love addiction, the cause is rooted in the person’s childhood. Insufficient emotional nurturing, neglect, witnessing one’s parents breaking up or childhood abuse can lead to serious issues of self-worth, fears of rejection or abandonment and a distorted perception of ‘love’. These outcomes can lead a person to obsessively and destructively pursue love to validate their existence.
With sex and love addictions there are desires and feelings being unmet, and addicts become increasingly unaware of their real feelings and may be trying to avoid other uncomfortable feelings. Apart from the physiological addiction to the ‘high’, often addicts engage in excessive sexual behaviour or multiple relationships as a means of self-medicating emotional wounds.
How to Overcome Sex and Love Addiction
If you or someone you care about is suffering from sex and love addiction, then it is important to understand how valuable recognition of the problem is. Admitting to yourself that you may be suffering from such an addiction, or even pointing it out to someone, is the first step toward recovery.
After that seeking professional help is the best option – because unlike substance addictions, abstinence is rarely a long term solution. Learning about what feelings or events are triggering your compulsions and what are you substituting excessive sex for or serial relationships for is key to healing. At The Cabin Singapore we offer confidential treatment for both sex and love addiction using a treatment model that is specially designed to address addictions where abstinence cannot be practised lifelong.