The Difference Between A Sex Addiction And A High Sex Drive

If most people have their way, they would probably have as much sex as they could handle. Sex is one of life’s indisputable pleasures, and most people understandably try to get as much of it as they can. 

But how much is ‘too much’? Where does one draw the line between having a high sex drive and being a sex addict

Like all good things, sex is something that most agree should be enjoyed in moderation. Although sex is part of a healthy and normal adult life, too much can be symptomatic of an abnormal condition or lead to such a state. 

This brings to mind the question: How much sex is normal? How can you tell when you’ve gone beyond having an active sex life into the realm of sex addiction? 

It can be difficult for most people to determine when they’ve reached the point of excess or obsession. But while there are some similarities between having a high sex drive and being addicted to sex, there are important distinctions. 

Having a high sex drive is a healthy natural state. Many people experience this state, and most go through periods of waning and increasing sexual drive. 

On the other hand, sex addiction is generally considered aberrant and harmful behavior that could negatively affect a person’s life. Like all addictions, it can destroy relationships and have severe and long-term damaging effects on the affected person’s physical and mental health.

Sex addiction ≠ High Sex Drive 

It is worth noting that sex addiction and a high sex drive don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Although some sex addicts do have high sex drives, a considerable number have sex drives that would be more aptly described as ‘low’ or ‘normal’. In fact, many partners of sex addicts report having little to no sex in the years leading up to their discovery of their partners’ addiction. 

What Sex Addiction Is About 

A study entitled “Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors” compared sex addiction to conditions such as substance use, mood disorders, and impulse-control disorder. Like these conditions, sex addiction is believed to have varying degrees of severity. 

Surprisingly, many supposed sex addicts aren’t aware that they have a problem. Many only realize that they are addicted to sex when they seek treatment for other concerns. 

And while some people do undoubtedly suffer from sex addiction, there is some dispute about whether it is a legitimate medical condition or not. Although the term itself is widely used, sex addiction as a condition isn’t adequately defined by the established medical community.

Another interesting discovery is that sex addiction is rarely–if ever–about sex. In most cases, it is more about the addiction than anything else. For most sex addicts, the objective is to achieve mental arousal and stimulate the production of dopamine. Pornography is sometimes the indicator to sex addiction, however this is not always the case.  The sex act is simply a means to achieve that goal, and the orgasm is secondary to mental stimulation. 

Of course, mental and physical stimulation commonly occurs simultaneously in the world of the sex addict. But because the ultimate goal is mental stimulation rather than sexual satisfaction, what drives the sex addict isn’t necessarily a high sex drive.  

Conditioning Versus Libido 

Many sex addicts mistakenly believe that they have a high sex drive because of their constant desire to act out sexually or their constant thoughts of sex. But this is more a matter of conditioning than libido. 

Conditioning was most aptly demonstrated by a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov. In a series of experiments now known as “Pavlov’s dogs”, Pavlov associated the sound of a bell with feeding. This led to the dogs being conditioned to react the same way every time they heard a bell ring. 

Many sex addicts act the same way. By associating sex with a satisfying emotion, they become conditioned to turn to sex to make themselves feel better or less lonely. 

The Dangers Of Sex Addiction 

One of the main risks of sex addiction is that people affected are often unable to stop their destructive behavior, despite the harm it causes them. Furthermore, the initial satisfaction and pleasure often give way to sadness, frustration, anger, and depression. As with substance addiction, sex addiction gradually results in diminishing returns, with less and less joy and the satisfaction derived from the behavior. 

There are many ways to tackle sex addiction with therapy, from one-on-one sex addiction therapy to group therapy, as well as outpatient treatment programs.