Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.
To address the widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.
The column is written by sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In this article, Dr Jain will explain all about Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder, its causes, treatments and prevention methods.
Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder is sometimes called Hypersexuality Disorder or Sexual Addiction. It refers to excessive sexual thoughts, fantasies, desires, urges or behaviours that can’t be controlled and cause distress and harm to your relationships, finances and other parts of your life.
While sexual impulses are natural, Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder are only those behaviours that are done in excess and significantly impact one’s life in a negative way. Compulsive sexual behaviour may involve a variety of commonly enjoyable sexual experiences, such as masturbation, BDSM, multiple sexual partners, use of pornography or paying for sex. When these sexual behaviours become a major focus in your life, are difficult to control, and are disruptive or harmful to you or others.
Untreated compulsive sexual behaviour can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career, health and other people. But with treatment and self-help, you can learn to manage compulsive sexual behaviour.
Signs of disorder
A person with sex addiction may have a compulsive need to be sexually stimulated. This desire often interferes with their ability to live their daily life.
One characteristic may be secrecy of behaviour, in which the person with the disorder becomes skilled at hiding their behaviour and can even keep the condition secret from spouses, partners, and family members. They may lie about their activities or engage in them at times and places where they won’t be found out. But sometimes symptoms are noticeable. A person may be suffering from this disorder if they show some or all of the following signs:
- Having recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, urges and behaviours that take up a lot of your time and feel as if they’re beyond your control
- Feeling remorse or guilt after sex
- Inability to stop or control the behaviours
- Masturbating excessively
- Unsuccessful in reducing or controlling your sexual fantasies, urges or behaviour
- You use compulsive sexual behaviour as an escape from other problems, such as loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress
- You continue to engage in sexual behaviours that have serious consequences, such as the potential for getting or giving someone else a sexually transmitted infection, the loss of important relationships, trouble at work, financial strain, or legal problems
- You have trouble establishing and maintaining healthy and stable relationships
- Compulsive relations with multiple partners, including strangers
Causes of disorder
Although the causes of compulsive sexual behaviour are unclear, they may include:
- Conditions that affect the brain: Certain diseases, such as epilepsy and dementia, may cause damage to parts of the brain that affect sexual behaviour
- Imbalance in natural brain chemicals: Certain chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine help regulate your mood. High levels may be related to compulsive sexual behaviour
- Changes in brain pathways: Compulsive sexual behaviour may be an addiction that, over time, might cause changes in the brain’s neural circuits, especially in the reinforcement centres of the brain. Like other addictions, more-intensive sexual content and stimulation are typically required over time in order to gain satisfaction or relief
Since the diagnosis is controversial, evidence-based treatment options are lacking. Depending on the underlying cause and how it manifests in someone’s personal life, treatment may vary. It may require treatment from a medical professional like a psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist. Some of the treatment forms can include:
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
- One-on-one therapy Sessions with a mental health professional
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Group therapy and support groups
- Couples or marriage counselling
- Certain medications may help because they act on brain chemicals linked to obsessive thoughts and behaviours, that reduce sexual urges
Because the cause of compulsive sexual behaviour isn’t known, it’s not clear how it might be prevented, but a few things may help keep this type of behaviour in check:
- Seek early treatment for mental health disorders: Compulsive sexual behaviour may be worsened by depression or anxiety
- Get help early for problems with sexual behaviour: Identifying and treating early symptoms may help prevent compulsive sexual behaviour from getting worse over time or escalating into a downward spiral of shame, relationship problems and harmful acts
- Avoid risky situations: Don’t jeopardise your health or that of others by putting yourself into situations where you’ll be tempted to engage in risky sexual practices
- Identify and seek help for alcohol and drug abuse problems: Substance abuse can cause a loss of control and unhappiness that can lead to poor judgment and may push you toward unhealthy sexual behaviours
If your sexual activities are causing you distress, consuming your life and causing harm to your personal, professional or family life, it’s time to have a talk with your doctor. Many people don’t seek care because they’re ashamed or feel guilty. Your doctor makes no judgment about your sexual behaviour. The best outcome will be reached if you’re honest and open with everyone, your family, your partner, your medical team and most importantly, yourself.
Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain is the winner of the Swasth Bharat Rattan Award and is a Certified and Licensed Sexologist by the American Board of Sexology. He is currently a Senior Consultant at Dr SK Jain’s Burlington Clinic in Lucknow. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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