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Are Compulsive Sexual Behaviors Different From Sex Addiction?

Sexual Behaviors - Harmony Place
“Sex addiction” is controversial among mental health treatment providers, professionals, and psychologists alike. Equating process addictions with chemical addictions can be problematic. Instead, many use terms like hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, or even nymphomania. More accurately, Refinery29 explains, is the use of the term “compulsive sexual behaviors” or CSB.

“CSB is defined by an obsession with sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors that causes the person distress or negatively affects their health, job, and relationships, according to the Mayo Clinic,” the article explains. “Some people with CSB have intense preoccupation and obsession with sex, while other people are just lacking impulse control.” Either way, the presence of an issue with sex and sex related activities can significantly impair one’s ability to live their life.

Differentiating CSB from “sex addiction” is important because it changes the way people can approach treatment and how treatment can approach people. The article describes a recent research study which examined the compulsive sexual behaviors of patients. According to the study, the brain behaviors of the compulsive actions did not match the brain behaviors for addiction. However, commonly, sex and other process addictions are supported in their namesake because of the way they imitate addiction processes for chemical addictions.

Citing a study from 2013, prominent research and academic institution UCLA found that people who identified as “sex addicts” didn’t respond to pictures of naked people in the brain way someone addicted to drugs would respond to a photo of their substance of choices. In fact, they didn’t have any neurological reactions. Rather than an addiction, the researchers concluded the compulsivity of their sexuality.

Signs Of Compulsive Sexual Behaviors

  • Inability to remain monogamous or faithful in relationships
  • Difficulty managing sexual arousal
  • Heightened response to sexually driven triggers
  • Compulsive need to participate in sex or sexually related activities
  • Obsession or obsessive thinking regarding sex or sexually related topics
  • Trouble at work, in relationships, or maintaining life responsibilities because of preoccupation with sex and sexual activity
  • Difficulty abstaining from engaging in sex or any sexually related activity
  • Feeling out of control of their compulsions and obsessive thinking
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