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Causes of Sexual Addiction

Read about the various causes of sexual compulsivity, sexual addiction and which groups of people are most at-risk for becoming sex addicts.

Read about the various causes of sexual compulsivity, sexual addiction and which groups of people are most at-risk for becoming sex addicts.

The causes of sexual compulsivity and sexual addiction, in general, are complex and difficult to attribute to one single cause. What is known is that many who struggle with sexual compulsivity have survived histories of severe family dysfunction and violence, frequently reporting that they were the victims and witnesses of emotional, sexual and physical abuse. According to the findings of one study, 72% had been physically abused in childhood, 81% had been sexually abused, and 97% emotionally abused. Based on that study, as you might imagine, many sexual addicts come from families where their emotional needs were not met.

Other sexually addicted people report that their addiction developed over time (much like alcohol, drug, gambling or other addictions), slowly escalating towards a need for greater sexual novelty and intensity, eventually eclipsing other forms of human interaction.

Relationship Between Sexual Addiction and Other Psychiatric Disorders

Sexual addiction is hypothesized to be (but is not always) associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), narcissistic personality disorder, and bipolar disorder. Some neurological disorders can, rarely, result in sexual addictions. These include epilepsy, head injury and dementia.

Sexual addiction may also be related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain. As with other addictions, it's known to affect the pleasure and reward pathways of the brain.

Some drugs have also been found to cause hypersexuality. Examples are apomorphine and dopamine replacement therapy.

Sexual addiction resembles other addictions in that:

  • Brain chemistry changes are similar.
  • Family background of addiction.
  • Lack of nurturing and other forms of emotional, physical or sexual trauma in childhood
  • Multiple addictions can co-exist.

Whatever the reason behind the sexual compulsion, the behavior has become unmanageable and diminishing to the individual's self-worth and interpersonal relationships. 

Sources:

  • Carnes, P. (1983). Out of the shadows: Understanding sexual addiction. Minneapolis, MN: CompCare.
  • The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity
  • Wikipedia

 

next: Treatment of Sexual Addiction
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~ all articles on addictions

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2008, December 13). Causes of Sexual Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/sex-porn-addiction/causes-sexual-addiction

Last Updated: April 25, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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