“Get Psyched” explores the complicated process of human thoughts and behavior to help you understand who we really are. I write this series in the belief that understanding psychological theories will make your life easier, or at least, teach you why life could be so hard. After reading my stories, you’ll get psyched.

By: Anju Miura

You may have experienced an irresistible desire for the thing you’re craving most. The powerful, unexplainable urge can be toward sweets, alcohol, gambling, nicotine, drugs or sex.

We rarely think of sex as addictive, but sex addiction is a disorder involving depression and anxiety that any one of us could develop.

Why are addictions so addicting?

Known as the “brain reward system,” the limbic system is responsible for addiction. This reward system makes us seek further pleasure by releasing dopamine that produces our feelings of pleasure.

If the same pleasurable behavior is repeated often, the human brain interprets that the behavior is necessary for survival. Those behaviors are then turned into unconscious habit loops, and eventually we become addicted.

Whatever brings you that pleasure becomes all you can think about, and no matter what you do, you won’t be satisfied unless you fulfill your craving. In other words, we can become addicted to whatever makes us feel good — drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar and even sex.

Sex addiction

Hypersexual disorder, known as sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior, is an excessive preoccupation with sexual urges, behaviors or fantasies, according to DSM-V.

The American Psychiatric Association, the publisher of DSM-V, identified symptoms such as excessive masturbation, spending excessive time planning sexual activity and having multiple sex partners.

Sexual interest and desire is a primitive human instinct, and is therefore a sign of good health. Nevertheless, it becomes problematic when your sexual urges are difficult to control and cause you more distress than pleasure.

It’s completely normal and healthy for masturbation to be a part of your week, and even your day. However, when it starts taking over your daily activities, it may be an early sign of sex addiction.

Hypersexual disorder can also result in having multiple sex partners and frequent one-night stands.

Although people may able to remain satisfied with hookups, a 2013 study revealed a relationship between people’s number of sex partners and their mental health, wherein a higher number of sex partners correlated with a substance abuse disorder.

What causes hypersexual disorder?

Compulsive sexual behavior may result from a desire to escape from other problems, such as  traumatic experiences, depression, loneliness, stress or anxiety. Those who become addicted to sex may seek a temporary escape from an unstable mental state.

What’s the difference between a high sex drive and sex addiction?

Having an obsession with sex does not necessarily mean you are a sex addict, but individuals with hypersexual disorder become obsessed with sex to the point that it takes over their lives. One of the primary symptoms of sex addiction is an inability to stop sexual urges despite potentially negative consequences.

Addicts’ sexual behaviors may become a major focus in their lives, even though financial, social, health or emotional issues may arise due to the obsession. These sexual obsessions involve unwanted sexual thoughts, ideas or impulses.

Individuals with hypersexual disorder may also feel guilt, shame and hopelessness for their sexual behavior and fantasies. In fact, guilt and shame are the two main triggers for a sex addict to pursue their fix.

Even though a 2013 survey suggested a strong emotional connection makes better sex, sex addicts have difficulties establishing and maintaining normal, healthy connections with their partners. They often lack intimacy and vulnerability and are likely to avoid becoming emotionally attached to their partners.

Although sexuality varies in culture, religion, society and personality, it could be a warning sign of a mental disorder if an uncontrollable sexual urge consistently takes over you.