Love and sex addiction are conditions known as “intimacy disorders” characterized by obsessive-compulsive behaviors related to being in love or having sex, respectively. The two share many similarities, with the critical difference being a focus on either love or sex. Both addictions commonly coexist among those who also abuse substances, including prescription or illicit drugs and alcohol.
Both disorders can inflict a tremendous amount of pain and destruction to the lives of those who suffer and others around them.
Sex addiction, also known as hypersexuality disorder, is a condition in which a person incurs adverse consequences due to the compulsive seeking of sex-related activities. These may include excessive self-gratification, regularly having anonymous or casual sexual encounters, paying for sex, or any number of other implicitly sexual behaviors.
People who have a sex addiction may seek out multiple partners in a single day and may be very open sexually in terms of gender preference or lack of physical attraction. That is, they may accept many forms of gratification if they need to engage in sex-related activities. When in relationships, they often demand sex from their partner frequently and be unfaithful or continuously look for opportunities to cheat.
Like other compulsive conditions, sex addiction is often progressive, meaning that related behaviors tend to accelerate and become more severe over time. It is believed that an individual who is a sex addict is attempting to bury emotional pain, self-medicate, or escape problems and avoid intimacy. Unfortunately, the consequences of shame, guilt, and strained or broken relationships caused by sex addiction often encourage more addictive behavior.
Those who experience love addiction are preoccupied with being in a relationship and maintaining it even though it may not be healthy or functional. They often exhibit emotional neediness and clinginess, seek love and romance to avoid coping with life’s problems, and stay in dysfunctional relationships in order to love and feel “loved.”
Love addiction is often hallmarked by a pattern of intense, obsessive relationships, and a great deal of emotional pain. The individual who suffers is usually desperate for intimacy, has a low sense of self-worth, and is insecure both inside and outside of romantic relationships.
Conversely, a person with love addiction may be “love avoidant” because they are unable to cultivate prolonged feelings of attachment. A love avoidant person is addicted to a pattern of mostly unsuccessful relationships, and they may avoid long-term commitment altogether by frequently switching from one partner to another.
In essence, many love addicts pursue the chemical rush of a new romantic interest, one which is not that different than a high related to substance abuse. Love addicts often desperately attempt to maintain this early, intensely rewarding stage of the relationship. However, when the rush of new love ultimately subsides, they may seek out a new partner to reignite excitement.
Love and sex addiction tend not to coexist because true sex addicts actively and thoroughly avoid intimacy and feelings required to foster feelings of love. Love addicts may genuinely love their partners, but unfortunately, they tend to do so at the expense of themselves and others.
Unfortunately, love addicts and sex addicts often attract each other. Sex addicts can use the other individual to fulfill certain desires, and love addicts are willing to be used in order to experience something that remotely resembles love or romance. While it exists, this codependent relationship will perpetuate a very unhealthy cycle of addiction for both partners.
The Development of Addiction
Love, sex, and substance abuse tend to flood the brain with neurochemicals involved in intense feelings of pleasure and reward. Both love and sex addicts who feel they are not having their needs met may experience severe emotional symptoms, not unlike those of drug or alcohol withdrawal. These may include anxiety, agitation, depression, restlessness, and irritability. These feelings can be highly uncomfortable and often compel a person to actively seek out love or sex, not unlike a drug addict looking for their next fix.
Although drug addiction may be more readily apparent and involve a direct chemical component, many of the underlying factors that contribute to substance abuse and behavioral or process addictions are the same. The fundamental problem behind love and sex addiction is a lack of emotional intimacy, which is frequently related to how attachments to caregivers were formed in childhood.
Similarly, substance abuse is also believed to be related to a person’s emotional issues or family dysfunction. It is often used as a method of self-medication to numb the psychological pain associated with these problems.
The crux of all addictive behaviors, regardless of whether they are associated with a substance or activity, results in the incurrence of adverse outcomes. These consequences can impact an individual’s emotional and physical well-being and interpersonal relationships. These effects may become very severe, and yet the individual will continue to engage in the addictive behavior no matter the cost.
All forms of addiction often require comprehensive treatment to facilitate long-lasting recovery. This may be especially true for those who experience multiple issues such as sex or love addiction in combination with a substance use disorder.
Does Love and Sex Addiction Contribute to Substance Abuse?
Whether or not love and sex addiction contribute to substance abuse, or that it is the other way around, is difficult to answer. However, it is believed that love and sex addicts are more likely than emotionally healthy individuals to also engage in the abuse of drugs or alcohol. The reason for this is the underlying factors related to the development of any form of addiction, such as psychological issues, the need to self-medicate, and chemically-driven feelings of reward.
Of course, not every individual who experiences love or sex addiction will also develop a substance use disorder. Each person is unique, with a complex set of genetic, biological, and experiential factors that influence how they deal with relationships and the world around them. These factors all contribute to whether or not a person forms an addiction to drugs, sex, love, all of the above, or none at all.
What is known is that substance abuse can add fire to sex addiction. Due to chemical reward, many drugs and alcohol are used to enhance sexual performance and feelings of pleasure associated with sex. Sex addicts frequently use drugs, such as meth and ecstasy, before or during sexual activity for these reasons.
Getting Help for Addiction
Love and sex addiction are behavioral addictions commonly found in combination with substance abuse. Just Believe Recovery is a specialized treatment center that offers state-of-the-art, comprehensive programs designed to treat all aspects of an individual’s health and well-being, including those related to mental health conditions and behavioral disorders.
Our highly-skilled, licensed medical and mental health staff are dedicated to ensuring that those we treat receive the care and support they need to experience a full recovery and experience long-lasting happiness and wellness.
If you are motivated to reclaim your life, free from the abuse of addictive substances, contact us today, and discover how we can help!