Tennessee Addiction Resources: The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Sex Addiction


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Substance abuse and sex addiction are two complex and often misunderstood issues that can have a significant impact on individuals’ lives. While they may seem like separate problems, there is a strong relationship between substance abuse and sex addiction that is important to understand and address. Substance abuse and sex addiction are both forms of behavioral addictions that can have serious consequences on an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The relationship between the two lies in the underlying factors that contribute to addictive behaviors, such as a desire to escape reality, low self-esteem, and a need for instant gratification. Understanding this relationship is crucial in developing effective treatment strategies for individuals struggling with these issues.

Sex Addiction in Tennessee

What is Sex Addiction?

Considerable controversy surrounds the diagnosis of “sex addiction.” It’s been excluded from the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), but it’s still written about and studied in psychology and counseling circles. By way of a definition, “sex addiction” is described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve the kind of “fix” that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink or someone with opiate use disorder gets from using opiates.

For some people, sex addiction can be highly dangerous and result in considerable difficulties with relationships. Like drug or alcohol dependence, it has the potential to negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, personal relationships, quality of life, and safety. It’s purported to be somewhat common (although statistics are inconsistent), and some argue that it’s often not diagnosed.

It’s believed that a person with sex addiction will seek out multiple sex partners, though this in itself is not necessarily a sign of a disorder. Some report that it may manifest itself as a compulsive need to masturbate, view pornography, or be in sexually stimulating situations. A person with sex addiction may significantly alter their life and activities in order to perform sexual acts multiple times a day and are reportedly unable to control their behavior, despite severe negative consequences.

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

  • chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
  • compulsive relations with multiple partners, including strangers
  • lying to cover behaviors
  • preoccupation with having sex, even when it interferes with daily life, productivity, work performance, and so on
  • inability to stop or control the behaviors
  • putting oneself or others in danger due to sexual behavior
  • feeling remorse or guilt after sex
  • experiencing other negative personal or professional consequences

Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse as Coping Mechanisms

Both substance abuse and sex addiction can be used as coping mechanisms to deal with stress, trauma, or other underlying psychological issues. Individuals may turn to these behaviors as a way to numb their emotions or escape from reality temporarily. The use of these behaviors as coping mechanisms are however extremeley destructive. While substance use as a coping mechanism leads to chronic health problems and potential legal problems, sex addiction additionally creates problems for a person to have and create meaningful relationships.

Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse are Co-occurring Disorders

Substance abuse and sex addiction often co-occur with other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. These co-occurring disorders can exacerbate addictive behaviors and make it more challenging for individuals to overcome their addictions. Because both Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse are activating the same pleasure and reward sensors in the brain, it is often that these two conditions will occur at the same time with in an individual sufferer. Both substance abuse and sex addiction trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This can create a cycle of addiction as individuals seek out more of the substance or behavior to experience the same pleasurable sensations.

An Example of the Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse Relationship

A person struggling with alcohol addiction may also engage in compulsive sexual behavior as a way to cope with feelings of loneliness or low self-worth. Because of the way alcohol abuse has separated them from normal relationships they seek out other alcoholics or substance abusers for shallow sexual encounters. Just like the alcohol, with the sexual encounters there is never enough to provide long term satisfaction. This precipitates ongoing compulsive drinking and risky sexual activity. The more they indulge, the less they get the effects they are looking for. Then hopelessness sets in bringing desperation.

Treatment for Substance Abuse and Sex Addiction

Like substance abuse the treatment for sex addiction may require the use of an inpatient treatment center like Magnolia Ranch Recovery. The same modalities of treatment are used in both conditions which include CBT, DBT, ACT and more. Additionally, aftercare like outpatient counseling and 12 step fellowships are often suggested for long term recovery.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the relationship between substance abuse and sex addiction is complex and multifaceted. Both issues are often interconnected and can stem from similar underlying psychological factors. It is essential for individuals struggling with these addictions to seek professional help and support to address the root causes of their addictive behaviors and develop healthier coping mechanisms. By understanding the relationship between substance abuse and sex addiction, we can better support individuals in their journey towards recovery and overall well-being.

If you or someone you know is looking for help with sex addiction or substance abuse, please reach out today. While it is not fault of the person suffering, it is their responsibility to take the step towards getting help. Help is available 24/7 at Magnolia Ranch Recovery. Get help today!

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Picture of Esra Ahmed - MS, NCC, LPC, MHSP
Esra Ahmed - MS, NCC, LPC, MHSP

Experienced Clinical Director with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. Skilled in Anger Management, Healthcare, Medicine, EMDR, and Life Transitions. Strong healthcare services professional with a Masters Degree focused in Psychology from The University of Memphis.

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