Anxiety and Sexual Addiction: What is the Connection?

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, almost 12 million people are suffering from sexual addiction in the United States alone [1]. The number of individuals who are dealing with a sexual addiction may in fact be much higher than statistics show, as this intimacy disorder is often under reported.

Many people who are facing a sexual addiction are also dealing with overwhelming shame, guilt, and denial about the reality of their condition. Because of the many stigmas and stereotypes that are associated with sexual addiction, this disorder can often go under the radar for years.

A sexual addiction can be likened to other addictions, such as alcohol or drugs, in that an addict is using the behavior compulsively to “numb-out” or achieve a high. Like other addictive behaviors, sexual addiction may present alongside other mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

A Way to Cope

For an individual who has an underlying anxiety disorder, such as anxiety attacks, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, a sexual addiction may develop as a means of coping with and/or avoiding the experiences associated with anxiety.

Anxiety in itself is a difficult disorder to face a deal with, particularly if the disorder is not diagnosed, identified, or appropriately dealt with. Common symptoms associated with anxiety include:

  • Feelings of apprehension
  • Feelings of dread
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • And more

People doing yoga on beachFor an individual who is already susceptible to developing a sexual disorder, anxiety can serve as a trigger that exacerbates this intimacy disorder. A person who is facing anxiety or anxiety attacks may turn to hypersexuality as a means of escaping from the intense emotions that are experienced with any form of anxiety.

If you or a loved one has been struggling with a sexual addiction and anxiety is suspected, be sure to work with a professional treatment team that can help identify and diagnose these co-occurring disorders. Appropriately treating underlying anxiety issues can help a person better manage the sexual addiction as well.

Talk with your therapist or counselor about any anxiety related symptoms you are facing. Appropriately addressing co-occurring disorders, such as sexual addiction and anxiety, is critical for healing and recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How do you think anxiety and sexual addiction may be related?

[1]: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, “Sexual Addiction”

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Crystal Karges

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 16, 2015
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