Sex is something very natural. You would not immediately expect an addiction to sprout from it. Yet, the opposite is the case. If we are to believe Freud, sex comes from basic desires, also called libido. These desires are instinctive and can cause great pleasure when fulfilled. Sex is thus part of our nature and not something to feel embarrassed about.

Sex, however, can also become a fixation or an obsession: you can no loner do without that 'kick', that pleasure which fulfilling your sexual desires can give you. This can evolve to such an extent that your sexual desires start taking over your life and play such a large role in your life that you feel as though fulfilling you sexual desires becomes one of the most important elements in your life.

As with other kinds of addiction, a sex addiction can have a large influence on your life, with major consequences. It can start to dominate your daily functioning, but also affect different areas of your life. Examples would include your relationships, your job, hobbies,... It is not a given that, because you suffer from a sex addiction, there will be major consequences in all of the aforementioned areas. What is inevitable, however, is that your sex addiction influences your life and will start to dominate it after a while.

Sex addiction? How many people suffer from a sex addiction?

Recent research shows that about 1.5 per cent of the Flemish population which is sexually active, has a very high libido and thus extreme levels of desire on a sexual level. This research also proposed the following hypothesis: the risk of sex addiction will continue to rise as a result from the increased amount of people who are sensitive to developing this type of addiction.

Furthermore, it was noted that sex takes a more and more central place in society. Recently articles appeared which compared taking nude 'selfies' with receiving a certain social status; an occurrence which seems to become more and more ingrained in the younger generations in Belgium.

Sex addiction? How do I recognize a sex addiction?

A sex addiction is characterized by several elements and symptoms, which can be divided into three categories, namely a pattern, the loss of control, and suffering as a result of the sex addiction. We will discuss each category individually below.

What is the pattern of a sex addiction?

It is said sometimes that when one has a steady partner, a certain pattern develops. For example, you might have certain rituals around foreplay, or even have a preference regarding position. A sex addiction is also characterized by a pattern, meaning a pattern of your choice, which allows you to fulfill your sexual desires. This could for example be having sex after dinner, or only having sex outdoors. This pattern can also go beyond this and include 'bonding', for example.

We must note that patterns in people with a sex addiction are often different from normal patterns regarding sex. If you suffer from a sex addiction it might, for example, be so that you masturbate excessively, or even frequently make use of prostitutes.

What about the loss of control in a sex addiction?

Since we are talking abut a sex addiction, there is also a loss of control. You feel that you are being steered by your addiction, by the desires that need to be fulfilled. Free choices regarding sex related subjects become more and more difficult and even your day-to-day life is affected by your sex addiction. You thus no longer have the feeling that you are capable of free choice or breaking the sex pattern anymore.

Furthermore, people with a sex addiction often feel like they experience an increased amount of sexual stimuli, which can push them to act on their thoughts. This increases the chances of the obsession regarding sex increasing, completing the vicious cycle.

Suffering from a sex addiction?

If a sex addiction is at play, there will be suffering present. The sex addiction namely becomes an obsession and a way of handling negative feelings. Through losing control and the influence on your daily life, the sex addiction can have major consequences.

Furthermore, it is likely that the sex addiction not only causes your suffering, but also suffering for your partner or certain people in your environment.

Sex addiction? What are the consequences of a sex addiction?

The consequences of a sex addiction can have a large impact on your life. Also, these consequences can appear in different areas. First of all people with a sex addiction often are in debt, because they often include 'professionals' in their sex addiction. This is often paired with a larger risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, which can be one of the physical consequences of a sex addiction.

When it comes to mental health, a sex addiction can have many consequences. It becomes a way of dealing with negative emotions, but such an addiction in its turn is also often linked to negative emotions such as shame or guilt. Furthermore, if a sex addiction is a manner of glossing over certain negative emotions, these will come back stronger when you stop having sex. You thus do not solve the problem, but temporarily put it away. Moreover, it becomes difficult to stay in touch with the people around you when you suffer from a sex addiction. This often leads to isolation or the worsening of several relationships for someone who suffers from sex addiction.