I think it’s fair to say that sex crosses just about everyone’s mind at some time, maybe fairly often, and that’s not abnormal. But if you have an overwhelming need for it and are so intensely preoccupied with this need that it affects your job or relationships, you may have a problem.
You may spend so much time in sexually related activities that you neglect important aspects of your day-to-day life in social, occupational and recreational areas. You may find that you fail repeatedly at attempts to keep your sexual desires or activities under control.
This potentially serious condition is sometimes called hypersexuality, nymphomania (mostly women), erotomania, perversion, sexual obsession or even sexual addiction, just as when one is addicted to a drug.
Whatever the name attached to it, the condition is a very real affliction that interferes with everyday living. Men are more commonly affected than women, as I’m sure you all expected.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
If your sexual behavior is considered compulsive, it may be displayed in a number of ways including:
• Having multiple sexual partners or extramarital affairs.
• Having sex with a succession of unknown partners or prostitutes, and treating them as objects to be used for sex.
• Engaging in excessive masturbation, as often as five to 15 times a day.
• Using pornographic materials frequently.
• Exposing yourself in public. Luckily we don’t see them in Dominica except in the mentally ill.
• Feeling compelled to have sex when you’re stressed, anxious, or depressed.
• Experiencing sexual excitement by receiving pain during sex (masochism), or by inflicting it (sadism).
CAUSES OF COMPULSIVE SEXUAL BEHAVIOR
Most experts believe that psychological disorders are at the root of the problem, involving emotional problems, including mood and personality disorders.
For example, they say that if you grew up in a dysfunctional family or were sexually, emotionally, or physically abused as a child, you may have developed an unhealthy attitude toward sex. These early experiences may lead you to feel shameful and unworthy, emotions that can inhibit normal sexual expression and intimacy and can result in extremes in sexual activity.
If you feel lonely and depressed, you may think of your sexual compulsions as a way of filling the voids in your life. But even if your sexual behavior brings you short-term relief, your negative feelings will likely return, often at an intensified level.
Sometimes, your sexual behavior may be caused by diseases such as epilepsy or Alzheimer’s disease.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE
Most people with this problem need professional treatment, because attempts at self-care are usually unsuccessful.
There are some questions you can ask yourself. For example:
– Can I control my sexual behavior?
– Is my sexual behavior hurting my relationships with friends and family, affecting my ability to work, or causing me to get in trouble with the law and getting arrested?
– Is sex constantly on my mind, even when I don’t want to be thinking about it?
– If you think you could be obsessed with sex, look for a doctor who specializes in treating sexual disorders. You may need the services of a psychiatrist or psychologist. Your family doctor (general practitioner) can refer you to them if you prefer not to go directly.
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS
Among the complications of compulsive sexual behavior are that you may:
• Neglect your partner or become deceitful in you marriage of other primary relationship. This can jeopardize or destroy the relationship.
• Accumulate large financial debts spending money on prostitutes or pornography.
• CONTRACT SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES, INCLUDING HIV, and place other partners at risk.
• Lose your focus at work, risking your job.
• Cause an unwanted pregnancy.
• Engage in other high-risk behavior, such as abuse of drugs or alcohol.
• Feel guilt and shame about your inability to control sexually unacceptable behaviors that interfere with normal relationships.
HOW IS THIS DISORDER TREATED?
• As mentioned before, psychological treatment is often going to be necessary. Individually or with a group, therapy can help many people manage their sexual obsessions. One can be treated as an inpatient, but more often, outpatient treatment is sufficient. Support from family and friends can assist in the recovery process.
• Marriage counseling is often necessary to help resolve the relationship problems that arise from compulsive sexual behavior.
• Antidepressant medications, such as Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft may be prescribed to reduce the anxiety of depression that are often associated with sexual obsession.
In our culture, many men and women will not accept that there can be such a thing as sexual obsession or compulsion – addiction. It is thought that the more one has, the merrier. Even the marital and relationship problems that result are often considered as just the way we do things in this part of the world. The attitude is, “it happens, so what, that’s our way of life, our culture, our heritage.”
I invite you to start thinking differently. By making things better in your little world, and someone else doing the same thing in their own world, we can eventually create a better whole world for us to live in.
Think about this problem if you have signs of it. See your psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor. They can help. Take care.
See you next week.