Sexual Addiction

Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.

When one is dealing with something pleasurable like sex there is a risk of getting lost in it. Sex involves pleasure, and it can seduce a person into wanting it more and more. For many people the desire never rests. In a culture where having more is always encouraged, one can get lost in his or her obsession with sex. At some point the desire to have sex can consume a person to the point of losing control and it turns to full-blown addiction. Sex addiction can be defined as having a pathological relationship to sex, which causes life-damaging consequences. A person suffering from sex addiction cannot stop his or her acting out sexual behaviors. He or she might be preoccupied a great deal of the time with sex.

Sex fulfills different functions for different people. Some individuals seek sex as way to cope with their painful emotions. Life offers mixed experiences. Some are painful and force us to notice them, and painful emotions can be experienced as a result of these difficult life events. Most sex addicts are unable to face life on life’s terms, and they substitute compulsive sex for dealing with their life suffering. Many of them are in denial about their sex addiction and blame others for their problems. Not being able or willing to face life challenges can force one to look for escape. Unfortunately, the hell of addiction is far more painful than ordinary life suffering. No one said life was going to be easy and free from difficulties. As long as one cannot deal with his or her present life situation one is at risk for getting hooked on something in order to cope.

Sex addiction and behaviors associated with it can put one at risk. For example, legal problems, contracting sexually-transmitted diseases, lack of control over one’s life, damaging one’s relationships, jeopardizing one’s career, and emotional injury are risks associated with sex addiction. A sex addict deals with guilt and shame as a result of his or her acting-out behaviors. The solution to this problem starts with getting help and stopping the acting-out behaviors. As long as a person is in denial about this sex addiction, he or she cannot stop.

A way to protect oneself from the greed of wanting more sex or looking to use sex as escape from life realities is by having a conscious relationship with one’s erotic desire. It takes work to have a healthy relationship with one’s sexual desire. The work can involve reading educational materials on healthy sex, going to 12‑step meetings, undergoing psychotherapy, participating in couple counseling, embracing spirituality, and in some cases abstaining from sex until one learns how to have healthy sex.

This article is copyrighted by Dr. Payam Ghassemlou, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Counselor/Psychotherapist) in private practice in Los Angeles, California.

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