Intimacy Disorders: Sex Addiction in Women

March 24th, 2016

Lack of knowledge and research about female sex addiction led to a tendency to think of hypersexual behavior as a male problem. Men are more likely to have some recognizable ways of acting out sexually such as having anonymous sexual hook-ups or compulsively watching pornography. But women can also be sex addicts, although, in their case, it might be more difficult to get a correct diagnosis and a proper treatment. For instance, the proliferation of free pornography sites has made more and more women “visually excited” or responsive to erotic images, a characteristic previously thought to be encountered only in men.

What is Sex Addiction? Male vs. Female Acceptance of the Condition

Sex addiction, also known as hypersexual disorder, has been typically described only in the male realm, so the fact that studies on female sex addiction is pretty poor does not come as a surprise. Up till now, research has shown that men are more than comfortable discussing their behavior of sexual nature with a therapist, unlike women who always seem to downplay their sexual activity, redirecting the discussion towards their relationships. The reason is that men who suffer from hypersexual disorder are generally seen as studs, while the women – as sluts, according to cultural references.

Sex addiction is a condition which is characterized by excessive preoccupation with sexual behavior and fantasies and these obsessions have such a high degree that they come to interfere with personal safety, health, work, school or home and they are extremely damaging to relationships. The condition is often destructive both physically and emotionally.

The stigma and the sexual double standard concerning female sexuality have created a gap in the study on sex addiction; therefore, almost all of the research has been conducted with male subjects and female addicts have been ignored.

Linda Hudson, a licensed professional counselor and ex-president of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, has been treating female sex addicts for over 20 years. Together with several therapists, she published the first book which offers treatment options for specialists who work with female sex addicts: Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts.

Elisabeth Edge, another certified sex addiction therapist from Atlanta says that “society’s belief is that women do not have sex issues”, although this has obviously changed for younger generations. For instance, the proliferation of pornography has made more and more women “visually excited” are very responsive to erotic images, a characteristic previously thought to be encountered only in men. Research on female sex addicts shows that a definition of sex and love addiction might be: a disease of loneliness, fueled by despair and shame; a powerful urge to use sexuality, romance and people to be able to feel more alive.

Causes of Sex Addiction in Women

The causes of sexual addiction in women are not yet fully known but they’ve been strongly associated with childhood abuse or neglect, emotional and physical abandonment and trauma. Female sexual addicts report having experienced some kind of abuse during their childhood and this affected their ability to bond in healthy ways with others as adults. This usually leads to chronic relationship issues of intimacy which will eventually morph into sexual disorders.

The lack of sexual education caused women to be usually ashamed of identifying their problems as sex addiction. It’s possible that they don’t even realize what the condition is and they call it “love or relationship addiction”. Female sex addiction is surrounded with more shame because men are usually respected if they have lots of sex or multiple sexual partners, unlike women. Men are basically seen as cool studs, and women, as sluts. So, it easier for women to cope with their condition if they simply call it “love addiction” or “relationship addiction”. Allison, a sex addict, perfectly describes the sexual urge in just a few words: “like a shark that must constantly hunt, I feel the need to move from one relationship to another, from man to man”.

Treatment for Sexual Addiction

The treatment for women is usually similar to the methods used in case of men; it includes the exploration of the causes that led to the addiction and developing some coping strategy in order to be able to combat the craving for sex. When the intimacy disorder treatments are successful, women will have a better chance for a long-time recovery from other emotional problems linked to sex addiction.

It’s important to acknowledge the fact that sexual addiction is not just a “guy thing” and it’s time we try to better understand the subject of women’s sexuality.

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