“I have to actively stop myself from having affairs. I fail a lot.”
When most of us hear the words ‘sex addiction‘, we almost immediately envision a sleazy, excessively horny man.
But in reality, women make up an estimated 12 percent of sex addicts – potentially much more, due to underreporting, as a result of stigma attached to the disorder, which has almost nothing to do with being horny or sleazy.
“The symptoms associated with sex addiction have less to do with sex, and more to do with limited coping skills for what is often an intense amount of pain,” explains marriage and family therapist, Marie Woods in her blog, Why Sex Addiction Isn’t About Sex.
“Unwanted sexual behaviors are more about activating a part of the brain that allows them to numb out, dissociate, fantasize, or even feel deprived in order to provide some temporary relief from their emotional pain.”
But while sex addiction is recognized as compulsive engagement in sexual activity, despite negative consequences, it’s still widely questioned in terms of its validity as an actual disorder. However, a study led by University of California Los Angeles research psychologist, Rory Reid, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine concluded the suggested criteria for ‘hypersexual disorder’ are indeed valid, and thus fit for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In spite of this, sex addiction remains absent from the DSM as a clinical diagnosis today, largely due to concerns that applying medical models such as addiction to human sexuality could serve to pathologize normal behavior, and thus perpetuate harmful gendered sexual stereotypes.
Unfortunately, the truth is, while sexuality is a normal part of human behavior that can often result in pleasurable and rewarding experiences, for sufferers of sexual addiction, there is nothing healthy or fun about their relationship with sex. In fact, sex addicts are far more likely to contract an STD or be raped or assaulted as a result of their regularly self-destructive, risky behavior, and the urge to quench the need for sex can be so debilitating it can often impact a person’s ability to carry on their job, maintain relationships, have a healthy social life, and even sleep.
So why don’t we talk about sex addiction in terms of viewing it as a genuinely crippling disorder? And more importantly, why do we continue to classify it as a men’s issue, leaving women largely confused, ashamed and compelled to conceal their behavior?
Here, six women at different stages of recovery, reveal the often ignored heartbreaking realities of living with sex addiction as a woman…
1. Sweet poison
“I was like a kid in a candy store [before I went into rehab]. Too much was never enough. I would engage in unsafe sex with multiple partners, find new partners, destroy relationships, chasing that all elusive feeling that I can’t even put into words. I also sought help from the 12-step program and I exhibit 19 of the 20 attributes of a sex addict.” –Violet_Azure
2. Constant craving
“I have to actively stop myself from having affairs. I fail a lot. If I don’t have sex at least three times a day, and get myself off every hour or so. I’m late to everything because I need to cum before I go anywhere.” –ThrowawayLemon7
3. The need to feel loved
“I am in therapy and have been classified as a sex addict. It can be overcome but its not so easy…I think it’s the feeling of being wanted. Knowing that someone wants me and, I like to think, needs me to feel good, gives me a huge rush…I also have depression, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and bipolar disorder.” –sororityslut
4. A need for control
“I was 10 or 11 when I discovered porn, and eventually chat rooms. I used to talk with older men online and meet them and engage in mild petting… Relationships don’t usually last very long for me. They are few and far between… When I’m not that desperate I have a longer buffer period and have more time to seek out partners who are attractive. When I’m feeling hungry then I don’t really care. Seduction has become a sort of defense mechanism for me. It makes me feel powerful; if I seduce you first, you lose.” –paprika00
5. Living in shame
“When I’m in the moment, I don’t care about anything. But afterwards, I am terrified of judgment and often carry shame in secret. I have to be careful not to be too flirtatious with men, because if they want more, I can’t say no. This makes me paranoid, distrustful, and suspicious of the opposite gender even though it’s not their fault. Though I have plenty of good platonic male friends in addition to fuck buddies, I still haven’t had a boyfriend. I’ve built up walls.” –Anonymous
6. A different kind of drug
“It’s actually a facet of my bipolar mood disorder. When manic – the term for the opposite “pole” from depressed – I’m hypersexual and meet the criteria for sex addiction: the pursuit or activity of sex interferes with me taking care of the expected day-to day activities of a normal person. You can like sex, a lot, and not be a sex addict. It’s got to be just like an addiction to alcohol or drugs where you place it before basic needs in order to qualify as an addiction.” –Christy Clark
Image via shutterstock.com. Quotes via reddit.com and quora.com; edited for length and clarity.
Comment: Do you suffer from sex addiction? How has it affected you?