In a recent study, researchers found that people with compulsive sexual behavior often have changes in certain brain pathways. These changes may make the reward circuits in their brains more sensitive, which can cause them to seek out higher-intensity sexual content and activities to get satisfaction. These behaviors can lead to risky situations, such as having inappropriate or unprotected sex with multiple partners or engaging in sexual behavior that exposes them to the possibility of infection by HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
People with sex addiction might also seek out sexual activity with anyone who will satisfy their desires, even when the person is already involved in a committed relationship. They may neglect work, family or other responsibilities and prioritize sexual fantasies and urges over their daily lives. Their sexual behavior could also become obsessive and trigger frequent episodes of heightened sexual excitement or a sense of pleasure after sexual encounters.
Although sex addiction is not considered a mental health condition or a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, many people who struggle with sexual addiction say their behavior causes them severe distress and negatively affects their lives. Like other behavioral addictions, such as eating disorders or gambling problems, sex addiction can lead to significant physical consequences and a decline in personal relationships, work performance and overall quality of life.
There are several treatment options for sex addiction, including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychosocial therapy and mindfulness techniques. These therapies can help a person identify and cope with the thoughts, feelings and impulses that contribute to their addiction. They can also teach the person a variety of strategies to manage their compulsive behaviors, such as mindfulness exercises and learning how to better regulate emotions.