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Understanding Sex Addiction in Women

By HERWriter
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Sex addiction is a major topic in the world of celebrities right now, but only male celebrities are admitting to this mental disorder. This leads the rest of us to wonder if women have sex addiction as well and how prevalent it is.

It is important to remember that when talking about sex addiction, this is an informal diagnosis. It is not officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and it is often associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, impulse control disorders, emotional disregulation and adjustment disorders. This is because people with a ‘sex addiction’ can have compulsive behavior that they can’t control.

About three to five percent of the U.S. population has been estimated to meet the criteria for sex addiction, though the number could be higher, said Robin Cato, the executive director of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health.

She said in an e-mail that about 80 percent of sex addicts are men and 20 percent are women.

Society, culture and people in general still tell women that it is not acceptable if they have multiple partners or are highly sexual, while it is generally more acceptable and sometimes even expected of men. Therefore, it’s not surprising that women don’t come forward as often with their tales of sex addiction. It is more of a silent battle of denial and misunderstanding.

Andy Hogg, a psychologist at the Flagstaff Child and Family Counseling Center and education representative for the governing council at the Arizona Psychological Association, said that society and culture can play a part in women hiding their sex addiction.

“Women get blamed for being sexual,” Hogg said. “Men get rewarded for being sexual. Women won’t be blamed for easily falling in love, they will be blamed for actively seeking sexual partners.”

There are some obvious differences between men and women when it comes to sex, Hogg said.

“Whereas men tend to sexualize love, women tend to romanticize sex,” said Hogg, who is a certified sex therapist. “Women will talk about one love relationship after another, and they don’t talk about the sexual side of it unless you really ask more questions.”

However, he said that many women are just as interested in sex as men are.

When Hogg sees people for sex addiction, it’s usually women who are sending the men in for therapy.

“Very rarely will women recognize their own sexual addiction,” Hogg said. “Again, what they would probably say is that they have relationship addiction, love addiction, but there’s often a very strongly sexual component to it.”

He said women are more likely to come into the office saying they make bad decisions, and the bad decision is that they end up sleeping with someone different every week.

“Often, sexual attraction is really what’s happening,” Hogg said.

Sandra Davis, a psychologist with a private practice in Pennsylvania, said she sees sex addiction more often in men.

“I think it’s because men get more attention regarding [sex addiction],” Davis said. “I think sex addiction for women is more hidden. Just like with alcoholism, it’s more overt with men.”

She said embarrassment, shame and society’s perspective on sex addiction in women leads women to hide their addiction.

“I think it’s more socially okay for men to have affairs and have additional relationships outside the marriage or multiple relationships than it is for women,” Davis said. “I think there’s a double standard regarding it.”

Education and awareness are some ways to help people become more understanding of women having a sex addiction, she said.

Davis said she agrees with Hogg that women tend to romanticize sex.

“They have a tendency to get more emotionally attached,” Davis said. “Men have learned through their societal and cultural conditioning to be more emotionally detached.”

Women don’t necessarily always have an emotional connection in a sex addiction. They might just have a compulsion and need a fix to feel better, but it’s not talked about as much in that context.

Some women might turn to sex in order to improve their mood, to feel wanted and desired, Davis said.

“I think sex is a feel-good activity, so people rely on it,” Davis said. “They become addicted to it because it brings them positive feelings, it feels good, it’s a release, it’s an emotional connection.”

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Hypersexual disorder is actually being considered for the DSM 5 and is pretty close to what you might consider sex addiction: http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=415

June 14, 2010 - 9:15pm
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