The research paper analyzes the effects of sexual addiction on health. First, the paper contains the analysis of impact of the disorder on brain. Second, the connections between sexual addiction and STDs are discussed. Third, the combination of compulsive sexual disorder with other kinds of addiction is studied. However, the research found that this kind of mental disorder has the greatest impact on mental health, which affects not only the sexual addict himself/herself but also people that surround him/her. Overall, the thesis about significant health risk associated with sexual addictions was proved during the research.
Keywords: sex addiction, STDs, mental disorder, risk behavior.
Health Risk Associated with Sexual Addictions
Psychiatrists have normally neglected sexual addiction. Nevertheless, this disorder leads to severe psychosocial issues for a significant amount of people (Karila et al., 2014). For example, individuals with hypertension disorder suffer from obsessive thoughts and behaviors. The sexual addiction also involves such troublesome conducts as cybersex, unrestrained masturbation, pornography consumption or telephone sex (Karila et al., 2014). The negative consequences of the sexual addiction are the same as of other kinds of addiction. Current paper will discuss the degree of health risk associated with sexual addictions. The similarity of sexual addiction and substance addictions allows suggesting that the health risk is significant.
Effects of Sexual Addictions on Brain
The researches demonstrate that sexual addictions have a negative impact on brain. In particular, Voon et al. (2014) studied the activity of males’ brain that had compulsive sexual behavior (CSB). The researchers depicted CSB as a surplus or problematic sexual behavior (or simply sex addiction). They also characterized it as the failure to regulate sexual impulses, thoughts or behaviors, which normally lead to the negative consequences for an individual’s life (e.g. inability to form permanent relationships). Voon et al. (2014) decided to check whether sexual addiction and other types of addiction (e.g. drug addiction) have the same brain signals and networks. The scientists scanned the brains of nineteen male participants with sexual addiction while watching different kinds of videos. In particular, there were videos with sexual scenes, some erotic and without sexual scenes. The scientists also checked the brain activity of men without sexual addiction.
Voon et al.(2014) found that the participants with sexual addiction and without it had similar and different brain responses. Thus, both groups of men had an activity in the brain’s part named dACC ventral striatal-amygdala functional network during watching videos with sexual scenes (Voon et al., 2014). At the same time, this brain activity was more powerful among men with sexual addiction. Besides, the activation of the brain of this group of men was related to their sexual desire. Sexual desire gradings to videos with sexual scenes were bigger in participants with sexual addiction in comparison with men without addiction. Liking gradings to erotic videos were bigger in men with addiction than in those without it. This means that men’s grading of sexual desire and liking were not linked in most cases. The scientists explained the differences between liking and desire by theories of incentive motivation underlying compulsive sexual behavior. This is also common for drug addiction. Therefore, the connection between sexual and drug addiction in their impact on brain demonstrates that sexual addiction involves health risk. Its main damage is negative effect on incentive motivation. The person that is addicted to sex looses an ability to connect desires and liking over time. This has a negative impact on psychological well-being.
Sexual Addiction and HIV
In addition, the researches demonstrate that sexual addiction increases the risk of getting HIV (Parsons, Grov, & Golub, 2012). Thus, Parsons et al. (2012) found the powerful interconnections between compulsive sexual behavior, depression, drug use, sexual abuse and violence during sex. The scientists determined that all these issues (except for sexual abuse) were linked with HIV and risky sexual conduct. This means that sexual addiction increases the chances of becoming HIV positive. Such connection can be explained by the fact that people with sexual addiction often have unprotected sex. Besides, they often change sexual partners.
Grov, Parsons, and Bimbi (2010) found the connections between compulsive sexual behavior and sexual risk in homosexual and bisexual men. Their analysis demonstrates that CSB is greatly associated with different kinds of sexual risk behaviors such as having intimate relationships under the impact of club drugs, having unprotected anal sex with people of different kinds of HIV serostatus, and a great number of sexual partners. Besides, CSB sometimes involves specialized sexual behaviors (e.g. fetishes), which also raise HIV transmission risks (Hirshfield et al., 2015). To sum up, sexual addiction involves different examples of risky behavior that increases the chances of getting such medical condition as HIV. Researches demonstrate that this connection is characteristic of homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual people of both genders.
STDs Transmission Risks
However, HIV is not the only health issue that is associated with sexual addiction. Thus, people with this disorder have increased chances of getting genital herpes, HPV, gonorrhoea, syphilis and other diseases (Parsons et al., 2012). Sex addicted people also have a high risk of receiving some of these diseases and then transmitting them to a great number of other people. The reason of this is avoiding of condoms by most individuals with sex addiction. Besides, they do not pay much attention to their health, particularly they do not visit a doctor on a regularly basis (Parsons et al., 2012). As a result, they can have different types of STDs, which they pass to their partners for years. Not receiving appropriate treatment leads to situations when people have severe health consequences. For example, the disease can affect some organs.
Another important aspect is increased risk of obtaining STDs by teenagers. This age group as well as young adults are the most sexually active (Short et al., 2013). According to statistics, teenagers make up approximately twenty-five percent of population having sex (Short et al., 2013). They are responsible for almost half of new cases of STDs (Tharp et al., 2013). For instance, there were more cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea in 2011 among girls aged between fifteen and nineteen years than other age groups (Tharp et al., 2013). Many representatives of this age group have sexual addiction due to weak self-control. Unlike older population group, they do not have moral strength to deal with their sexual impulses.
Another health issue associated with sexual addiction is unintended or unwished pregnancy. It particularly applies to female adolescents. According to the statistics, girls with sexual addiction become pregnant more often than girls without this disorder (Short et al., 2013). Despite recent reduction of teenage pregnancies, the problem is still common for girls with sexual addiction. This can be explained by the fact that healthy females respond better to educational programs concerning protective measures for sex. As for sex addicts, they cannot think properly, so they prefer unsafe sex. In addition, many of them are not only obsessed with sex but also take drugs, drink alcohol or smoke, so they are not able to make right decisions (Sussman, 2005).
However, unintended pregnancy is common not only among teenagers but also among other age groups. Thus, about seventy percent of females with sex addiction informed that they had experienced minimum one unintended pregnancy due to their disorder (Finer & Zolna, 2014). The reasons of the issue are generally the same. Like teenagers, adults also choose abortion, which could lead to other negative health consequences.
Sex Addiction and Mental Health
Sex addiction has numerous negative effects on mental health. In particular, sex addicts normally suffer from severe depression (often with suicidal ideas), shame, low self-esteem, despair, increased anxiety, moral conflict and loneliness (Hallfors et al., 2004). Besides, some of them report about spiritual and thinking issues, compunction, and self-deception. To deal with these impacts, sex addicts get engaged in other risky behaviors (e.g. gambling, substance abuse) (Hallfors et al., 2004).
About forty percent of people with sexual addiction inform about having significant relationships issues that lead to severe stress and low self-esteem among them and their spouses (Parsons et al., 2012). For example, partners of sex addicts suffer because their spouses are often physically or emotionally distant. As a result, healthy spouses have to be both partner and primary parent, which is a significant responsibility for them. Constant pressure encourages partners of sex addicts to start risky behavior too. For instance, they sometimes get addicted to drugs, alcohol, or food. In addition, spouses suffer from psychosomatic issues, such as depression, anxiety, shame and other health conditions (Hallfors et al., 2004).
Apart from problems with romantic relationships, sex addicts report about inability to make close friendship. This occurs due to a feeling of shame or unworthiness, which prevent individuals from accepting intimacy (Kaestle & Halpen, 2005). Sex addicts are afraid that other people will neglect them if they see their “real” essence. Therefore, they use varied obsessive ways of escaping from potential friend or a lover. Although individuals with sexual addictions have many short relationships, they often feel lonely. This makes them lead two lives (Parsons et al., 2012). One life is sexual and another is connected with their employment or other activities.
Besides, teenagers report about practicing masturbation without ejaculation for a long time before the adolescence (Kaestle & Halpen, 2005). The increased level of sex-related hormones only raises the amount of obsessive thoughts and sex fantasies. Adult sex addicts say that they applied fantasy and masturbation in adolescence to fight against these feelings (Silver & Bauman, 2006). Moreover, they reported that they continued to use this approach in their adulthood too (Kaestle & Halpen, 2005).
Sexual Addiction, Substance Abuse and Indirect Effects
It has already been mentioned that sexual addiction is normally followed by substance abuse because they are both related to incentive motivation and similar brain activity. According to the researches, about forty-sixty percent of people with CSB also suffer from substance abuse (Parsons et al., 2012). The most common type of substance abuse it alcohol addiction. The next is marijuana addiction (it is developed by about eighteen-twenty sex addicts) (Parsons et al., 2012).
Frequent combination of sexual addictions with other kinds of addiction (e.g. substance abuse) increases the health risks because individuals have more chances to get engaged in risky behavior (Karila et al., 2014). For example, abusing drugs and alcohol makes them forget about protection during sex. They also choose unknown partners, so they are at higher risks of getting STDs. Besides, if they get pregnant during sex under alcohol or drugs, they might have babies with numerous health issues (Karila et al., 2014). The number of mental health issues also increases and they have more psychosocial problems (Parsons et al., 2012).
Apart from that, sexual addiction has indirect effect on a person’s health. For example, sex addicts have lack of concentration due to their obsessive thoughts about sex (Parsons et al., 2012).Therefore, they may cause more car accidents. They also often send sexual messages to numerous partners, and watch porno or sexual photos, so this also distracts them from reality and can cause injuries. In addition, porno addiction can cause sexual dysfunction (Parsons et al., 2012). They need more time and effort to prepare for sex with partners. Sometimes, they lose interest of real sex completely and start receiving pleasure only from watching porno (Karila, et al., 2014).
In conclusion, sexual addiction affects health in numerous ways. First, it has the same effects on brain as drug addiction, which causes dependence and dissonance between sexual desires and liking. For example, sex addicts may have sex with some person even if they do not enjoy it. This causes different mental health disorders. In particular, people with sexual addiction often feel depressed and lonely. They also experience shame, guilt, moral conflict and many other issues. These negative consequences make it difficult for sexual addicts to make close friendship and form lasting relationships. Even if they manage to find a partner, they are often absent either emotionally or physically. This negatively affects partners of sex addicts. Apart from that, mental health disorders often cause suicidal thoughts and other kinds of addiction including substance abuse.
Besides, sexual addictions are often associated with STDs. This happens because sexual addicts tend to be engaged in risky behaviors. For instance, they normally have unprotected sex and change many partners. A combination of sex addictions with substance abuse makes them forget about danger and restrictions. This applies to people with different sexual orientation. Apart from STDs, risky behavior frequently leads to unwanted pregnancy. Both SDSs and unintended pregnancy are common among teenagers, which intensifies the health risk because individuals of this age group have less strength to control their impulses, thoughts and behavior. Adults report that their sexual addiction started in adolescence when they used masturbation and sexual fantasies to deal with emotions. Inability to deal with addiction gradually increases and reaches severe forms in adulthood.
Finally, there are also indirect effects of sexual addictions on health. In particular, this disorder reduces concentration, so that person can become victims of car accidents or get some injuries. Sexual addicts also like watching porno, which can cause sexual problems in real life.