Sexual Addiction in Women

Dr. Patrick Carnes, the director of sexual disorders services at Arizona's Meadows Treatment Center, is the first physician credited with using the term sexual addiction.

He's part of a rapidly growing segment of the medical community that acknowledges that an addiction to sex is just as real an addiction as one to drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. NBC reports that an estimated 16 million American women and men suffer from sexual addiction. PJ Carnes, author of the book Don't Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction says that about three to six percent of Americans suffer from sexual addiction.

Jennifer P. Schneider, MD, PhD wrote in Postgraduate Medicine that "addiction to sexual activities can be just as destructive as addiction to chemical substances." She says that even though the addict may jeopardize their family relationships, marriage, careers or endanger themselves, they're unable to stop their compulsions without intervention even though they realize the consequences.

This holds true for both men and women.

Unfortunately, although the condition is real and destructive, not everyone in the medical community considers sexual addiction a medical problem. The diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association doesn't list sex addiction as a disorder.

Why Women Become Sex Addicts

Psychologists don't know why some women become sex addicts and some don't. One theory is that female sex addicts didn't get a chance to learn emotional intimacy in non-sexual ways when they were younger.

Sexual abuse can also cause sex addiction in women. The sexual abuse doesn't need to be full penetration. It doesn't even need to involve touching to cause some women to become sex addicts.

Some studies show that simply an inappropriate heightened sense of sexuality can cause some women to become sex addicts. A heightened sense of sexuality could include sexually explicit material easily available, lack of bedroom or bathroom privacy, or regular sexual comments. An example of sexual comments would be a father making inappropriate comments about the size of his daughter's breasts, hips or buttocks.

According to statistics, many female sex addicts grow up in a dysfunctional family that's rigid and emotional disengaged.

An Addict or a Sex Lover?

So, how do you tell if you're an addict or if you simply like sex?

The simple answer is that a sex addict has an insatiable need for secret sex to fill an unexplainable emptiness. Women sex addicts describe the experience of succumbing to the insatiable need as a type of raw excitement or a high, much like that which a drug addict experiences.

The high doesn't last. After the sexual encounter, the addict often feels a sense of shame. One woman sex addict was so certain that the only way to stop her problem was to commit suicide. The married mother thought the only way to stop acting out sexually was to end her life.

Signs of Sex Addiction in Women

It's common for women to refer to their sexual addiction as love addiction because it creates a more positive, nurturing impression. Calling oneself a sex addict is comparable to calling oneself a slut, prostitute of nymphomaniac. Calling oneself a love addict sounds like a quest for romance and affection, even though the euphoria (or high) experienced and yearned for has little to do with love.

Possible signs of sex addiction in women include:

· Promising never to get involved with another man, but then breaking that promise when the "right" lover comes along

· Changing relationships in an effort to control sexual fantasies or sexual activities

· Doing everything possible from overeating to over-working to reading excessive amounts of steamy romance novels to try to replace the desire for secret sex

· Breaking promises to fulfill sexual fantasies and behaviors

· Terror or shame because of the sexual activities chosen

· Neglecting relationships, careers or family because of the preoccupation with sex


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