Sex addiction has yet to be officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but many people struggle with it every day. In the latest version of the manual, the DSM-V, it was acknowledged in shorter form, but the authors claimed that more evidence is required before it can be granted full inclusion.
With the results of recent research pointing to similarities between sex and drug addictions in terms of how they work in the brain, it seems like official recognition is guaranteed by the time the next edition of the DSM is released.
In line with this, sex has been included in Liberty Voice’s top 10 addictions of the year, alongside more widely recognized issues like drug and alcohol addiction. Although it isn’t a professionally recognized list, it still suggests that more and more people are recognizing the reality of sex addiction.
Understanding Sex Addiction
Sex addiction may seem paradoxical to some, since we’re all inherently programmed to enjoy sex. However, in much the same way that many people can enjoy food or alcohol in moderation without developing addiction while others can’t, sex can gain more prominence in some people’s minds than others.
Ultimately, the addiction can be explained in exactly the same way as most other addictions, and it all comes down to brain chemistry. When people are addicted to drugs, they’re actually addicted to the neurotransmitters the substance they ingest stimulates the release of (or masquerade as) when it reaches the brain.
The most commonly implicated chemical is dopamine, and it’s been confirmed that dopamine is released in notable quantities after sex, as well as during other addictive behaviors like gambling or Internet use. Much like cocaine addiction, for example, sex addicts are really just looking for a dopamine fix; they just get it in a different way.
Top 10 Addictions
The list of the top 10 addictions can be thought of as a list of the addictions attracting the most attention—or causing the most issues in society—in 2014, as gleaned from online listings.
Of course, it’s not a “top 10” in the same sense as you’d have a list of the best war movies or music albums, say, but terminology notwithstanding, it’s interesting to see the addictions people are talking about this year.
- Coffee: Caffeine, most commonly found in coffee, is an insidious addiction that affects many people in the U.S. According to research, up to 30 percent of people in the country drink six to seven cups per day. Make no mistake, caffeine is an addictive drug.
- Gambling: According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 80 percent of adults have gambled once or more in the last year, with 2 percent having some type of problem and 1 percent being pathological gamblers.
- Anger: This is otherwise known as aggression addiction, and is characterized by an individual dealing with his or her problems using anger. It’s a damaging coping strategy, and its potentially addictive nature earns it a place on the list.
- Food: Food affects the brain chemistry in the same way that drugs do, and around 2 percent of Americans have a food addiction. About one-fifth of food addicts are obese, and the problem is more common in women.
- The Internet: Internet addiction is an emerging issue, and it’s tied to many different types of Internet use. Social media sites present a problem because they allow individuals to socialize and receive “likes” and other forms of encouragement 24/7, but it’s also tied to pornography addiction through the widespread nature of online adult sites and services.
- Sexual addiction: 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women are estimated to be affected by sex addiction. For them, sex becomes a compulsive behavior rather than a physical expression of love. Generally, these individuals have low self-esteem and cope with this issue by becoming dependent on the hollow boost of sexual encounters, whether it’s one night stands or a related issue like pornography addiction.
- Alcoholism: Alcohol is the key legal drug of most societies around the world, and it’s important to remember that it is as addictive and deadly as most illicit drugs. Alcohol dependence costs the U.S. $170 billion per year.
- Drugs: Both illicit and prescription drugs fall into this category (although technically, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine should too), with legal drugs being a particularly relevant problem in America at the moment. Opioid painkillers like OxyContin are notably contributing to a prescription drug abuse epidemic.
- Nicotine: Given its own category because of the harm it can cause through smoking-related diseases and its widespread nature, nicotine is a highly addictive substance responsible for the suffering or death of over 400,000 Americans per year.
- Work: Despite over-working being seen as a virtue by some, it can be a mental health condition, and a serious one at that. Some feel unable to stop working, and continue to do so despite consequences to their personal relationships and health. Like drugs, work addiction messes with brain chemistry and can lead to dependence.
Recognition for Sex Addiction
Although the list uses broad categories to cover the majority of addictions we currently know about (with the exception of things like video game and love addiction), it’s good to see sex addiction getting some recognition as a severe problem for many Americans. The more people understand the condition and why it occurs, the more people struggling with it will be treated appropriately by partners and family members.