Substance Use Disorders and Co-Occurring Sex Addiction

Man and woman about to kiss.

A substance use disorder (SUD) often co-occurs with other disorders that can be addressed in addiction treatment. One of these co-occurring disorder is sex addiction. While sex addiction is not recognized officially as a disorder by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is widely recognized as a condition that can sometimes occur.

What Constitutes Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is more than just enjoying sexual activity more than others do. The condition is much more compulsive in nature than focused on enjoyment. In fact, some experts do not even label it a condition unless there is significant distress surrounding the sexual urges and behaviors involved. People may want to stop engaging in risky or repetitive sexual behaviors but find it nearly impossible to do so despite their best efforts.

When someone becomes increasingly fixated on acting out sexually to the point that they cannot stop themselves or find it difficult to control their behavior, they may be dealing with a sexual addiction. Sex addiction is not a moral failure any more than substance misuse, however. The compulsive nature of these behaviors occurs because of the brain chemistry changes that occur in an individual over time.

Some signs of a sexual addiction may include the following:

  • Repetitive and frequent sexual urges, fantasies or behaviors
  • Spending so much time on the above activities that it interferes with important life activities (including work, relationships and family responsibilities)
  • The urges, behaviors or fantasies occur because of negative events, moods or life stresses
  • The urges, fantasies or behaviors cause distress
  • The person affected tries to stop the behaviors but is largely unsuccessful
  • Engaging in sexual behaviors without considering the negative impact on others

Man looking at a tablet.

The Connection Between SUDs and Sex Addiction

A few studies have shown that the majority of those who meet the existing criteria for sex addiction also have a substance use disorder. These co-occurring disorders can come from the same desires to escape negative events or feelings, and some people use alcohol or drugs to deal with or escape from their sexual behaviors, about which they feel much distress or guilt.

Unraveling the connections between SUD and sex addiction can help in the recovery process. Dealing with only one of these conditions could put recovery in jeopardy because the unresolved issues will lead to temptations to resume misuse of the substance or to go back to engaging in risky sexual behaviors. If all of the co-occurring disorders are not treated, treatment is likely to be less successful because the disorders influence each other.

Colorado addiction treatment resources can treat co-occurring disorders and help stop the destructive cycle from continuing. Contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake to discuss treatment options for substance use and co-occurring disorders.