Masking Loneliness Behind Promiscuity in Women

Woman struggling with sex addiction

Toddlers are great teachers. If you watch them closely, they show you a crystal clear picture of fulfilling urges and meeting emotional desires. They do it in a way that isn’t subtle, doesn’t use the clever, socially acceptable, or justified deceptions that we adults use.

One moment the toddler screams in pain and the next they cling to a parent. Or they feel sad and pursue a grown up, or beloved blanket, with which to snuggle. They may be hungry and grab for the cookies! All-in-all sophistication and tolerance are nowhere to be seen in most toddlers.

Adults fair little better when they attempt to hold urges and feelings at bay—the prevalence of addiction, depression, anxiety and more is a testament to how poorly we cope. Our mental health isn’t as simple or as stable as we generally like to think, intimacy issues abound, and we seek many ways to stem our problems.

Sex is just one, and it makes sense when you stop to think about it. If your “problem feeling” is loneliness, then wouldn’t it make sense to find a warm person to hold and experience the pleasures of sex?

Why do Individuals Become Promiscuous?

Our past pain and struggles set us up to view the world through specific lenses. Some lenses suggest sex is power. Other perceptions may be that an emotional connection can be solidified through sex, or that sex equals fulfillment or multiple other views. If this is the case, then the stage is set for promiscuity.

Woman sad, struggling with lonelinessFrom these examples you can quickly determine that most promiscuity isn’t solely about sex—although the sexual pleasure certainly can be the draw—rather, there is a more complex picture occurring.

There has been much academic conversation about female sex addiction or promiscuity.

Two key ideas are the following: firstly that many women have learned to use sex for the sense of power and control, and the building of self-worth (1).

The second is that family trauma (little or large) that creates ruptures in relationships or intimacy issues leave a painful gap that sexual pleasure appears to fill (2).

Either way, the purpose of sex is the same: relief. It is a rapid movement towards sex seeming to be an antidote to any discomfort that is felt.

How is Loneliness Masked by Promiscuity?

So what about loneliness, how is this particularly masked by promiscuity? Sexual pleasure can provide a rush of oxytocin, dopamine and more neurochemicals that create ecstatic feelings of connection and pleasure.

If you were feeling lonely, wouldn’t that combination be wonderful—connection and pleasure? Here then is the mask. A woman can find a mental health stabilizing effect from promiscuous sex because of the physical effects created. Sadly, when the neurochemicals and the excitement fade, you are left with the same problems with which you started.

What are Consequences of this Behavior?

The first consequence of this cycle is the need to find new partners to recreate the excitement and sense of connection. You may find yourself spending time and energy, or engaging risky behaviors in the search for more.

Promiscuity, therefore, can also lead to shame, shallow relationships and be labeled as a number of awful terms (that I am sure you could list). Harm to the sense of self, and the ability to build meaningful, intimate relationships can be hampered resulting in what the public often call ‘intimacy issues.’

Women and sexual addiction is often a secretive paring, but when this sex seeking behavior becomes compulsive, the addiction is easier to see.

Loneliness then is never truly addressed. Sexual addiction is a mental health problem that results in intimacy issues because addiction is self-focused and doesn’t allow for the slower cultivation of knowledge and true affection.

Furthermore, the over-focus on sexual engagement reduces the focus on platonic friendships with either gender. This ultimately serves to keep the loneliness hidden from view, yet still felt at a core level.

What should I do if I Recognize this Problem in Myself?

Start by honestly assessing if you value the relationships behind and surrounding your sexual partners. If you are not cultivating lasting, intimate relationships (not necessarily 100% of the time), you may need to evaluate how you are using sex.

Woman sitting in window sillCreate a period of abstinence for one month and see how your mood is affected. You will need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself as denial and defensiveness will make you want to ignore this issue.

Not least because acknowledging the problem would mean beginning to face any loneliness you have. Invite trusted friends or a counselor into this journey with you as you discern how you may be using sexual behaviors. Learn to cultivate intimacy without sexual engagement so that loneliness can be truly addressed.

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of where you can find his guide, or contact him.


[1]: Kasl, C. D. (1990). Women, sex and addiction: a search for love and power. Mandarin.
[2]: Ferree, M. C. (2010). No stones: women redeemed from sexual addiction. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

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.

Published on September 9, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 9, 2017.
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.