Love and sex addiction are both intimacy disorders, hallmarked compulsion and obsessive behaviors that surround being in love or having sex, respectively. The two share many characteristics, with the main difference being the type of addictive behavior in which the sufferers seek to engage. Both addictions are commonly found among those who also abuse substances, including prescription medication, illicit drugs, and alcohol.
Sex addiction, or hypersexual disorder, is a condition in which a person experiences adverse consequences or life disruptions as a result of compulsively seeking sex-related activities. These may include excessive self-gratification, paying for sex, repeatedly having anonymous/casual sexual encounters, or any number of other explicitly sexual behaviors.
Like other addictions, sex addiction is often progressive, meaning that behaviors tend to accelerate and worsen over time. It is believed that a person who is a sex addict is attempting to numb emotional pain, self-medicate, or to experience a “high” to escape problems or avoid intimacy. Unfortunately, the consequences of guilt, shame, or damaged relationships often drive more addictive behavior. And, sex addicts may seek to enhance their sexual experiences by abusing substances, including methamphetamine.
While sex addicts have a preoccupation with sex, those who experience love addiction may exhibit emotional neediness and cling to a partner, seek romance to avoid dealing with problems, and remain in dysfunctional relationships in order to feel “loved.”
Love addiction is often characterized by a pattern of intense, painful, obsessive relationships. The person who suffers is typically desperate for intimacy and is insecure both inside and outside of relationships.
A love addict may also be “love avoidant,” in that they are unable to experience prolonged feelings of attachment. A love avoidant individual is addicted to a pattern of unsuccessful relationships, and they may avoid long-lasting commitment altogether by jumping from one partner to another.
In essence, love addicts pursue the neurochemical rush of a new love interest and romance, one which is not that different than the rush induced by substance abuse. Love addicts try to maintain this early, intensely pleasant stage of the relationship. When the high of new love subsides, they may desperately try to cling to the sensation or seek out a new partner.
The Development of Addiction
Love, sex, and drug abuse can all flood the brain with endorphins, which result in intense feelings of reward and pleasure. Both love and sex addicts who are not having their desires met may experience emotional symptoms, not unlike those of drug withdrawal. They may include depression, anxiety, restlessness, and irritability. These feelings are uncomfortable and may drive a person to continue to actively seek out love or sex, not unlike a drug addict seeking their next fix.
Although drug addiction has a more apparent and direct chemical component, many of the underlying reasons for this and behavioral addictions are the same. The basic problem behind love and sex addiction is a lack of emotional intimacy, which is often related to how caregiver attachments were formed in childhood. Similarly, substance abuse is also the result of emotional difficulties or family dysfunction and is used as a means to self-medicate or avoid the pain associated with these problems.
In the end, all addictive behaviors, whether they are associated with a drug or an activity of choice, result in adverse consequences. These consequences can impact a person’s mental and physical well-being or their interpersonal relationships, and they often require comprehensive treatment to recover from.
Does Love and Sex Addiction Lead to Substance Abuse?
Whether or not substance abuse contributes to love and sex addiction, or that it is the other way around is difficult to answer. It is believed, however, that individuals who suffer from love or sex addiction are more likely to also engage in drug or alcohol abuse. This may be true because of underlying factors that relate to the development of any addiction—emotional issues, the need to self-medicate, and the same chemically-driven feelings of reward that are experienced when being in love, having sex, and using psychoactive substances.
Of course, not every person who suffers from love or sex addiction also has a substance use disorder. Each individual is unique, with a different set of biological and experiential factors that affect how they cope with the world around them. These factors contribute to whether or not a person develops an addiction to drugs, love, sex, or all of the above.
Getting Help for Addiction
Love and sex addiction are two behavioral addictions that are commonly found in conjunction with substance abuse. Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers state-of-the-art, integrated programs designed to treat all aspects of a person’s health and well-being. Our highly-skilled, licensed staff are dedicated to ensuring that each client receives the care and support they need to experience a full recovery and enjoy long-lasting happiness and wellness.
If you are ready to reclaim your life, free from the abuse of addictive substances, contact us today and find out how we can help!