Exploring the difference between a high sex drive and dysfunctional hypersexuality
Hypersexuality, also known as compulsive sexual behavior or sexual addiction, is a condition in which a person feels unable to control their own sexual behavior (Walton, Cantor, & Lykins, 2015). Although the name of the condition suggests a higher-than-normal sex drive, simply having a high libido is not an indication of true hypersexuality. If you have a high sex drive that you feel in control of, it’s not likely that you are a sex addict. However, for people whose high libidos rule their lives (rather than the other way around), hypersexuality could be to blame.
What causes hypersexuality?
Hypersexuality could have a variety of causes, including some that are physical or biological and some that are psychological in nature. People who have undergone trauma, for example, especially sexual trauma, may become sex addicts (“Compulsive Sexual Behavior,” 2017). There are several risk factors that are common among hypersexual people. So, who is at the greatest risk of becoming a sex addict?
People with some psychological disorders
Certain psychological disorders can also give rise to hypersexuality. A few of these conditions are bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or dementia (Orenstein, 2012). These are not the only psychological issues that could lead to hypersexual behavior, but they are among the more common disorders associated with it.
People with a few distinct personality characteristics
According to Walton, et al., people with certain personality traits are also at risk of being hypersexual. For example, “hypersexual behavior was related to lower scores on sexual inhibition due to the threat of performance consequences. Higher neuroticism and extraversion, as well as lower agreeableness and conscientiousness, also predicted hypersexual behavior” (2015).
In the same study, the researchers noted that “hypersexual behavior was related to higher scores on measures of sexual excitation, sexual inhibition due to the threat of performance failure, trait impulsivity, and both depressed mood and anxiety.” Depression is often associated with various types sexual dysfunction, but it’s interesting that anxiety, including sexual performance anxiety, could be connected to hypersexuality in particular.
People with easy, private access to sexual materials
In the modern age, the internet has allowed for free and easy access to sexual materials such as pornography. This can post a big problem for a sex addict, as having such access to porn or other sexual materials—as well as having enough privacy to use those materials in secret—can be a risk factor for a hypersexual person (“Compulsive Sexual Behavior,” 2017).
People with certain medical conditions
Sometimes, medical problems such as rabies or neurological disorders such as Klüver-Bucy syndrome (caused by brain injury) can be a risk factor for sexually compulsive behavior (Orenstein, 2012). Medical issues are not necessarily the most common risk factor for hypersexuality, though.
Symptoms and diagnosis
There are several symptoms of sex addiction that must be present in order for a diagnosis to be made (“Hypersexual Disorder Signs,” 2017). Some of them include:
- Sexual obsession
- Extremely frequent masturbation
- Lack of feeling fulfilled by sexual acts
- Overuse of pornography
- Having multiple one-time sexual encounters with strangers or other risky behavior
- Engaging in sexual practices that deviate from social norms or personal values
Diagnosis of sexual addiction can be made by a qualified medical or psychiatric professional, such as a medical doctor or a therapist. If you suspect that you may be suffering from hypersexuality, consider talking to your doctor or a therapist about your concerns so they can direct you to the resources you need to get treatment.
If you think you are a sex addict, help is available
Treating sex addiction is not impossible. If you want help with regaining control over your sex life, there are many ways to get started down the road to recovery. You can talk to your primary care doctor to see if medical treatment (such as using medications to control hypersexual urges) is appropriate, or you can seek the help of a cognitive-behavioral therapist or sex therapist. Another option is seeking out the help of peers who are struggling with the same thing you are by using support groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (“Hypersexual Disorder Signs,” 2017).
Walton, M. T., Cantor, J. M., & Lykins, A. D. (2015). An Online Assessment of Personality, Psychological, and Sexuality Trait Variables Associated with Self-Reported Hypersexual Behavior [Abstract]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(3), 721-733. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0606-1
Compulsive sexual behavior. (2017, October 05). Retrieved October 22, 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-sexual-behavior/symptoms-causes/syc-20360434 & https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-sexual-behavior/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360453
Orenstein, B. W. (2012, April 20). 6 Conditions That Might Put Your Sex Drive in Overdrive [Web log post]. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/conditions-that-might-putyour-sex-drive-in-overdrive.aspx
Waters, J. (2017). Sexual Performance Anxiety [Blog post]. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from https://www.betweenusclinic.com/mental-impotence/sexual-performance-anxiety/
Hypersexual Disorder Signs. (2017). Retrieved October 22, 2017, from http://www.hypersexualdisorders.com/hypersexual-disorder-signs/