Addiction is more than a physical dependence – it is any behavior that can be pleasurable, but leads to compulsive behavior and an inability to stop despite negative consequences to both work and personal responsibilities.
In the case of a sex or love addiction, a patient struggles with maintaining a healthy relationship towards emotional and/or physical intimacy and uses it compulsively as a way to manage stress or experience joy. While both physical intimacy and emotional intimacy are healthy behaviors, sex/love addicts seek intimacy outside of their relationships out of an emotional need for gratification, with an inability to stop at will.
What is a Sexual Addiction?
A sexual addiction can be diagnosed as compulsive sexual behavior, often to the point of major consequence. Much like other forms of addiction, a sexual addiction can cause serious harm to personal relationships and can cost someone their job.
Common behaviors in a sexual addiction include:
- Excessive masturbation
- Constant fantasizing/daydreaming
- Anonymous or paid sex
- Unhealthy obsession with pornography
A sex addict does not simply have sex frequently or with different partners – the key distinction between someone with a high libido and someone with an unmanageable disorder is the inability to stop or manage the behavior.
What is a Love Addiction?
A love addiction is more insidious than it sounds and is characterized by an obsession with the strong emotions felt during infatuation. Someone struggling with a love addiction may intentionally manipulate people in order to feel the euphoria of an intensely emotional relationship, to the point where they may start to endanger themselves and engage in toxic and unhealthy relationships just to feed their addiction.
Someone struggling with a love addiction may:
- Stay in unhealthy, abusive relationships
- Actively enable co-dependencies
- Manipulate partners to elicit certain emotional responses
- Cycle through relationships looking for excitement
A love addict will potentially harm themselves to avoid abandonment, loneliness or rejection. Instead, they seek to fulfill a maladaptive need for passionate romantic feelings, despite possible short- or long-term consequences.
Treatment and Recovery
Both sexual and love addictions are characterized by a cycle of compulsive behavior, and symptoms such as anger, fear, guilt, and loneliness. We recognize that patients who struggle with these disorders struggle with emotional intimacy, and therapy is the first course of action. Behavioral addictions are typically a form of coping, and therapy involves helping patients understand their thought processes, and identify what it is that drives them to crave intimacy at a compulsive rate. Effective therapies include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
At the Heights Treatment Houston, we strongly believe that support is a critical part of the recovery process. While one-on-one sessions are important to help a patient better understand themselves and their impulses, it’s the support of a patient’s family and friends that help them reinforce and embed that understanding, and overcome their disorder. If you think you or your loved one is struggling with one of these conditions, then don’t hesitate to call in – we’re ready to help you find a way toward healing.