Written by: Nicki Hari
Medically Reviewed by: Dr Mateen Durrani – MBBS, DPM, MSc, BCPsych
Last Updated: January 16th, 2023
Sex and Love Addiction
Addiction to sex and love is a common manifestation of the illness of the mind, and just because this does not involve a substance, this does not mean it is any less harmful to the sufferer, their family, or their loved ones.
Most individuals assume that addiction only ever involves alcohol or drugs. However, it is possible for an individual to become addicted to almost any behaviour, engaging in it compulsively despite the negative consequences.
On this page, we will be exploring sex and love addiction, how it manifests, and what to do if you or someone you love is showing signs of this affliction.
What is sex and love addiction?
Sex and love addiction is classified as a behavioural addiction, and involves an individual becoming consumed by sexual behaviours, urges or desires, to the point where they begin to take control of all aspects of their daily lives. Often referred to as ‘the disease of more’, sex and love addicts are recognised by seeking behaviours in extremes, constantly looking for more to achieve the same thrill or euphoric high induced when engaging with their dependence.
While there are some similarities between sex and love addiction, it is important to note that they differ in underlying ways, and it is essential that you know how to tell the difference.
Sex addiction is characterised by uncontrollable sexual activity, with the sufferer noticing their affliction causing detrimental impact to all areas of their life, resulting in great emotional pain, heartache, or loss. Despite wanting to stop and having suffered negative consequences as a result of their behaviours, they are compelled to continue their destructive and sometimes deviant behaviours.
Those that suffer from love addiction have an overwhelming need to feel loved, often to their own detriment and to the detriment of those that love and care for them. They will go to extraordinary lengths to search out love or please their partners, even if it means compromising their own needs and wellbeing.
Those that are affected may become obsessed with the idea of being in love, taking part in numerous dangerous relationships as they have difficulty being on their own. Over time, love addiction can cause serious consequences to the individual; they can be left unable to find a balance or maintain a healthy relationship for any reasonable period of time.
Love addiction is an attachment disorder in which the sufferer becomes dependent on the attention of a romantic partner. Much like any other addiction, the crux of the problem centres in the individual’s mind. Those affected often suffer from cripplingly low self-esteem and believe that they are worthless if they are not in a relationship.
They may tolerate harmful behaviour from their partner, as they believe that is all they deserve, and it is preferable to being on their own. Many that suffer from love addiction do not even realise it is an illness and that there is treatment and help available.
Why do people become addicted to sex and love?
Every person is unique, and it is impossible to tell exactly why someone would become addicted to behaviours associated with sex and love, especially if you do not have a deeper insight into their circumstances. However, some people can be more predisposed to developing an addiction than others, and there are certain contributing factors which can put someone at a heightened risk of sex and love addiction. Some potential reasons that people can become addicted to sex and love are discussed below:
Sex and love addiction can develop from learned behaviours; and if a child is brought up in a home where one partner is displaying these behaviours, that child may go on to believe that this is normal and so continue the cycle.
Those who have suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse, either in childhood or during their first encounters with relationships, may be more prone to developing a sex or love addiction. This is because that traumatic experience is likely all they have to go by in terms of what a relationship should look like. Low self esteem and self worth can drive the individual to seek out love and sex in the wrong places, and with the wrong people.
Individuals whom have previously suffered at the hands of a bad relationship may feel unworthy or obsessed with the idea of being in love. They might then seek out numerous relationships, desperate to feel loved; or they may stay too long in unloving and unkind relationships, feeling that is all they deserve. By carrying the baggage of their past experience, they will struggle to form healthy relationships with others as a result.
Genetic disposition can play a big role in the development of sex and love addiction. The genetic traits you inherit from your parents can greatly influence how vulnerable you are to becoming addicted. Some individuals also have higher hormone levels than others, which can affect their sex drive. Those with high levels of sex hormones may be compelled to engage in excessive sexual activity, as all they can think about is sex and seeking gratification.
Signs and symptoms of sex and love addiction
It can be difficult to admit to yourself that you might be suffering from sex and love addiction, especially when it is a condition so often stigmatised. However, it is essential that you know how to spot the characteristics of sex and love addiction, as this is the first step to getting the support that you deserve.
Some of the symptoms of sex addiction include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling that you need more extreme forms of sexual activity to experience the same pleasure
- Fantasising about sex compulsively
- Continuing to engage in excessive sexual activity, even if it is beginning to cause problems in other facets of your life
- Feeling unable to get intimate with a partner because it does not induce the same pleasurable sensations
- Trying to stop having sex compulsively but finding it impossible to do so.
Next, some signs present in love addiction can include:
- Feeling the need to constantly be in a relationship
- Moving quickly from one partnership to another in hopes of finding more fulfilling love
- Becoming obsessed, or overly reliant on a partner
- Neglecting your needs, or the needs of your family to stay with a partner
- Becoming jealous, or possessive of your partner when they spend time with other people
- Isolating from friends, or neglecting personal responsibilities when with a partner
I think I am suffering from sex and love addiction. What should I do now?
As with any addiction, individuals can eventually stop feeling satisfied by the activity they are addicted to, often resorting to riskier and more extreme variations of the behaviour to keep themselves on an even keel. For this reason, it is essential that, if you or a loved one is displaying signs of sex and love addiction, you seek help immediately and begin the path to healing.
Unfortunately, those with sex and love addiction can often feel a deep sense of shame or guilt around their condition. Fear of being mocked or judged often delays them in seeking the help that they deserve.
However, our team at Primrose Lodge want to assure you that our facility is a compassionate and judgement-free space, where all our residents work together to overcome their dependencies in a collective environment.
Get in touch with us today
We offer sex and love rehab to those who need support, aiming to get to the root cause of their addiction, whilst also providing a number of workshops to prevent relapse.
Primrose Lodge is a CQC registered centre, dedicated to offering comprehensive addiction treatment and detox for an array of alcohol, drug, and behavioural addictions. At our facility, we believe in the power of a wide-ranging, person-centred approach, employing holistic methods to target all aspects of our clients’ needs – mental, physical, and spiritual.
Sex and love addiction can feel like a debilitating condition, but it important to remember that our staff have seen countless others in the same position, leaving our doors with the courage and tools necessary to break their addictive habits, once and for all.
If you would like any more information about addiction to sex and love, do not hesitate to contact us right away.