Sex addiction

Sex addiction jokes are everywhere -- particularly with Tiger Woods going off to rehab to cure himself of having affairs. Was that great PR to get public sympathy or can sex really be an addiction? Ask any sex addict and they'll tell you it's for real, but here are the facts and decide for yourself.

Sex Addiction has been studied and it's estimated that 3-6 % of adults are preoccupied -- spending many hours gratifying their sexual needs. It consumes their thoughts and becomes an obsession, similar to other addictions, like gambling or food addiction. Sex addicts engage in risky sexual behavior, feel out of control, have guilt and simply can't stop.

Dr Aviel Goodman director of the Minnesota Institute of Psychology has concluded that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, similar to the cycle of alcoholism. The sex addict must increase the intensity and frequency of their behavior to find the same gratification or 'high'.

Family history may be part of the issue, as many addicts with sex addiction have reported that they are abused or neglected as children. However, this isn't forever the situation.

Often stress triggers compulsive behaviors and real and mental arousal triggers brain chemicals involving excitement. There are more stress-related neurotransmitters involved in sexual addiction.

Sex addicts become preoccupied with their fantasies, which could be about any sexual act. This continues to fuel the addiction. As with other addictions, rituals are part of obsessive behavior. These fantasies can be a preferred sexual act with a known partner or stereotypical repetitive sex with a stranger.

The obsession becomes a compulsion to act and the addict feels a losing control. Whatever the consequences or wanting to stop, the sexual addict is compelled to handle the act they do to get relief.

Once the act is completed, addicts feel despair and regret over what they've done and resolve never to get it done again - but they do. This is similar to all other addictive behaviors.

So is Tiger Woods a sex addict or was going to rehab just great PR? We'll probably never know the real truth, but one thing he and the other celebrities who've claimed to be sex addicts have done. They've opened up a problem that afflicts many people. Sex addicts are particularly secretive about their behavior, so opening the awareness of sex addiction is the initial step to getting the help that they need.

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