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Sexual Compulsion

Updated: DECEMBER 3, 2018

Sexual compulsion is a mental condition which sees individuals lacking control of their own sexual behavior. People with sexual compulsion feel compelled to have sex often, especially under specific conditions or when they’re exposed to certain stimuli.

Some people use the terms sexual compulsion and sex addiction interchangeably. However, psychiatrists agree that people cannot be addicted to sex in the same way they can alcohol or narcotics, so sexual compulsion is a more accurate term for the condition.

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More About Sexual Compulsion

Many people with sexual compulsion think of the condition as a disease with physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms. Physically, sexually compulsive people engage in sexual encounters that may be unhealthy or place them at risk. Emotional symptoms include a kind of euphoria when considering engaging in sex, followed by an emotional low when the act concludes. Spiritually, sexually compulsive people typically feel disconnected from the people they know and care about, especially those they want healthy relationships with. These symptoms help differentiate sexually compulsive people from people who simply enjoy sex and engage in it frequently without problems.

Sexual compulsion can make the lives of people with this condition very difficult, but treatment options exist. Many people with this condition say they need to accept it, then move through a 12-step recovery program, similar to the 12-step program alcoholics use to rid themselves of their addiction, to stop their compulsive behavior. While people cannot be truly addicted to sex, a program like this can provide companionship, support, and a sense of structure and accountability that’s valuable to sexually compulsive people trying to change their relationship with sex. Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful. Some doctors have also found treating sexually compulsive people with antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs beneficial. All treatment options aim to help sexually compulsive people enjoy sex in a healthy way.

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