Reprinted with permission: The Meadows/Willow House Blog Are men or women more likely to be addicted to sex? Most would probably say men. While men do make up a...
Reprinted with permission: The Meadows/Willow House Blog
Are men or women more likely to be addicted to sex?
Most would probably say men. While men do make up a larger percentage of those struggling with life-disrupting sexual behaviors, women actually make up 40% of those dealing with these issues, according to NBCNews.com. In fact, a 2018 JAMA Network survey of more than 2,000 American adults revealed that 7% of women and 10% of men reported distress and difficulty controlling sexual feelings, urges, and behaviors.
Greater expression and frequency of sexual behaviors tend to be less socially acceptable for women than men, which may easily hinder women from seeking treatment for compulsive sexual behaviors. As a result, we have less research on Compulsive Sexual Behavior in women; the female population is underrepresented in studies pertaining to compulsive sexual disorders and related conditions. As more studies are conducted, treatment professionals hope to better understand and treat women addicted to sex.
The good news is that treatment approaches like psychodrama, Somatic Experiencing (SE), Internal Family Systems (IFS), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and 12 step groups can help both women and men who are struggling with life-disrupting sexual behaviors. Additionally, treating any trauma, co-occurring addictions, and other mental health conditions may reduce symptoms and help individuals readjust to healthy patterns of sexual behavior.
“Women are not immune from sex addiction, hypersexuality, and compulsive sexual behaviors. In fact, more women struggle with these issues than previously thought.”
What Is Compulsive Sexual Behavior?
“Sex addiction” is not a condition you’ll find in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5). However, this term and others (like hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behaviors) may be used by treatment professionals to help identify when a person’s sexual thoughts and habits become obsessive, intrusive, and an impairment to daily functioning. And in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) began classifying compulsive sexual behavior as a mental health condition in its International Classification of Diseases list known as the ICD-11.
It is characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges, resulting in repetitive sexual behavior over an extended period (e.g., six months or more) that causes marked distress or impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
Diagnostic Requirements of one or more of the following 4 criteria:
Engaging in repetitive sexual activities has become a central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities
The person has made numerous unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce repetitive sexual behavior
The person continues to engage in repetitive sexual behavior despite adverse consequences (e.g., repeated relationship disruption, occupational consequences, negative impact on health)
The person continues to engage in repetitive sexual behavior even when he/she derives little or no satisfaction from it.
Sex addiction is a label that may be applied to a set of compulsive sexual behaviors that feel difficult or impossible to control. Some people may be relieved to learn there is a classification for their obsessive tendencies; others may be horrified to have this kind of label applied to them.
Shame, apathy, depression, and even anxiety are not uncommon among those who find themselves addicted to sex and sexual behaviors.
Common Co-occurring Issues include:
Anti-social and Narcissistic Personality
Disruptive sexual issues can be a symptom of other issues related to self-image, intimacy, love, and control that come from someone’s history and experiences.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are symptoms of sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior:
- Recurrent, intense sexual fantasies and behaviors that are time-consuming and feel out of control
- A compulsive desire to act on certain sexual urges, even if you feel guilt and remorse afterward
- An inability to control your symptoms in spite of negative consequences
- A habit of using sexual behavior to cope with or escape from other problems, such as loneliness, depression, or stress
- Difficulty establishing healthy or stable relationships
If you find that your sexual tendencies are disrupting your life, damaging your relationships, and causing severe distress, it’s time to speak to a professional about treatment options so that you can regain a healthy balance in your life.
Compulsive Sexual Behavior in Women
Women are not immune from sex addiction, hypersexuality, and compulsive sexual behaviors. In fact, more women struggle with these issues than previously thought. Women seeking treatment for sex addiction may be best described by any number of labels depending on their specific presenting symptoms:
Sex & Love Addiction
Complex / Developmental Trauma
Some instances of compulsive sexual behavior in women may be connected to childhood sexual abuse or trauma, as is frequently the case with men. A 2020 National Library of Medicine (NLM) review of studies on the relationship between child sexual abuse and compulsive sexual behaviors found that most studies supported a connection, both for women and men. One study on college women prompted the reviewers to suggest that “prevention efforts should be aimed toward students with [child sexual abuse] histories reporting risky sexual behaviors or [compulsive sexual behaviors], including problematic pornography use.”
While not all manifestations of compulsive sexual behavior are related to abuse, those who have experienced trauma may have more success curbing their sexual coping behaviors after healing from their trauma. Treatment for other conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders can certainly aid a person’s recovery from sex addiction.
Help for Women with Compulsive Sexual Behavior
If you are struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors or intimacy disorders, you can find a safe haven for healing at Willow House at The Meadows. Willow House treats the whole person — mind, body, and spirit — using a comprehensive treatment approach that is research-backed and evidence-based. They have experience treating love, sex, and intimacy issues as well as mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Contact Meadows Behavioral Healthcare at 877-472-6760 to learn more about how they can help you find the path to healing. Visit www.willowhouseforwomen.com