Sex addiction is hazardous in general
The standard ten criteria for sex addiction listed under the “defining addiction” tab above illustrate the many possible detrimental results when out-of-control sexually addictive behaviors gain a hold on your life. Some of the criteria suggest that sexual addictive behavior has a negative impact on the addict’s relationships and occupational functioning. Obviously spending hours a day looking at pornography or hooking up for anonymous sexual encounters costs people their marriages, jobs and connections to people in their lives.
The more severe varieties of sexual addictive behavior such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, stalking, and molestation carry the additional risk of arrest and incarceration.
Sex addiction is physically and emotionally hazardous to you (and others)
Other defining criteria for sexual addiction point to the direct negative effects on the addict’s mind and body that such behavior can have. Three of these defining criteria jump out at me:
- Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior
- The need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk level of behaviors in order to achieve the desired effect; or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number, or risk
- Distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior
Mental and Physical Diseases
Physical hazards include first and foremost exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. The sexual addictive behaviors which involve multiple sexual partners, anonymous sex, or sex with prostitutes etc. involve the possibility of unprotected sex which could lead to the addict contracting HIV, HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The indiscriminate sexual contact with a number of partners could also lead to the exposure to other diseases as well. These diseases are then potentially transmitted to the partners and spouses of the sex addict as well. I know of one particularly sad case in which an addict unknowingly exposed his pregnant wife to a pathogen that caused a birth defect in his child.
Mental distress and depression are common among people with sexually addictive behavior patterns. I have encountered any number of sex addicts who have been suicidal due to their addiction at one time or another. Recently a man in his 50’s who had been arrested for viewing child pornography died while awaiting sentencing. He died of a heart attack but my suspicion is that the stress of his situation was the precipitating factor.
By definition, an addiction involves a process of gradual desensitization, a numbing of a specific pleasure response in the brain. As more and younger men who are addicted to internet porn exhibit ED, it is clear that the process of desensitization to sexually addictive behaviors operates in exactly the same way as any drug.
Affects on Women
Women are affected from two directions. (1) More women are becoming sex addicts (although still fewer than men) and (2) images of women in the media are becoming increasingly sexual across the board. Sexualized images of women are everywhere in media, film, advertizing etc. These are images that are:
- Increasingly pornographic
- Increasingly violent
- Increasingly idealized (thin, airbrushed)
- Increasingly intended to look extremely young or even childlike
It is well documented that the dissemination of idealized images of women has many negative impacts on women and girls such as eating disorders, emotional disturbance and lack of sexual self protection. Body dissatisfaction is common and from 2002 to 2003 the number of girls 18 and younger who got breast implants tripled.
Affects on Children
As adults become accustomed to being bombarded with sexual imagery, they are likely to be more lax about protecting their children from it and are even coming to see it as OK for children. Sexualized images of children are becoming much more prevalent than ever and sexualized clothing such as thongs and high heels for young children has led to the coining of the terms “prostitot” and “kinderwhore.” It remains to be seen what the ultimate affect of all this will be on the development of the current generation of children.
Recovery is not Prudery
If you are inclined to take the issue of sexually addictive behavior seriously and you help others to do so you are helping to push the social agenda in a healthy direction. There is still pressure in the sexually addictive direction from many people who see recovery as “sexual repression.” It is important for sex addicts to get help and for those around them to get help and to carry the message. This is not being against sex. There is nothing liberated or liberating about being caught up in sexual addiction.