Women Who Struggle with Intimacy & Sexual Addiction

Woman struggling with pain and a road to addiction

Have you ever had two ends of a cord or necklace that have wound together in what seems an impossible unison? It seems impossible to see where one or the other starts, and even more difficult to attempt to tease them apart. You can spend hours finessing and straining only to end up with ends more tightly bound.

Intimacy and female sexual addiction often appear isolated enemies to those who don’t struggle, and yet feel like bonded ends to those who do. Sex becomes merged with intimacy—sex being the tool for connection or affection—and yet the reality is that intimacy concerns can often be the soil from which distorted sexual behaviors grow.

How Do You Define Intimacy?

Some claim that intimacy is a sexual act, others say it is a feeling of closeness, yet others argue it is the ability to share about oneself, sharing emotions.

Whichever of these ideas you resonate with, each of them can be implicated in sexual addiction. Yet one thing is fairly clear, the sexual addiction doesn’t arise in the absence of other concerns. It is understood widely that

Couple Intimately Hugging

sexual addiction is “used to self-regulate and feel a sense of control over uncomfortable emotional states [1].”

Sexual addiction is often misunderstood in women to be “relational addiction” or “love addiction”—it is mislabeled because the sexual act isn’t highlighted as it is for males [2]. So now intimacy issues are further confused in this discussion! Is it relational, love, or sex addiction?

The important thing is to regard the role of intimacy for the one struggling. How do they emotionally understand its meaning? Is the crux of their concern the desire to be enjoyed and treasured? Or is it to be touched and pleasured? Is it to be delighted in and esteemed? If you struggle with some form of sexual or relational addiction, ask yourself how you most desire intimacy.

Underlying Causes of Female Sexual Addiction

Once we understand how intimacy is being interpreted, we can consider what has created this understanding.

Woman Watching The Sunset

It is common for female sex addicts to have suffered some form of abuse that has impacted their sense of personal power and worth [3]. This is problematic, deeply painful emotionally, and creates a view of self that is distorted [4].

We desperately try to right and correct the painful experiences of betrayal that create low self-worth and despair. The routes we take to heal our pains, and what we are exposed to, will shape how we view intimacy and what we believe we need.

I would suggest to you that our experiences of neglect, abuse, devaluation, loneliness, confusion and more all start to filter into a view of ourselves and how much intimacy is desirable, to be trusted, or to be avoided. As inherently social creatures that are dependent one another to survive, a distortion in trust and intimacy creates many painful problems between us [5].

With so much emotional distress, it is no wonder that the evocative and enjoyable experience of sexual gratification is desired. If emotional pain is reduced through sexual activity, it is tempting to repeat the activity. There is a fast track to addiction here because of the vast amounts of dopamine released in the brain during sex.

If intimacy is corrupted, we experience emotional distress, and this can be “helped” by the pleasures of sexual activity. Sadly, sexual addiction produces its own emotional, physical and psychological problems. If you are using sexual addiction to cure relational and emotional pain that could have arisen in any number of ways, it will be hard to give it up.

Finding Your Path to Sex Addiction Recovery

To heal from sexual addiction, you not only have to inhibit acting out behaviors, you have to also understand what caused the ends of intimacy and sex to become tangled. This means exploring your emotional distress and learning to care for yourself in ways you may never have experienced before.

Most addicts need the support of understanding people, often in groups, therapy and friends.

If you struggle with sexual addiction, then intimacy will likely be a confusing and uncomfortable topic for you to contend with, yet it will also hold insight, relief and healing if you accept the challenge.


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 www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.


[1]: Weiss, R. (2015) Always turned on: Sex addiction in the digital age. Gentle Path Press: AZ.
[2]: Ferree, M. (2001) Females and sex addiction: Myths and diagnostic implications. Sexual addiction and compulsivity, 8:287-300.
[3]: Ibid.
[4]: Allender, D. (2008) The wounded heart: Hope for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. NavPress.
[5]: Brooks, D. (2012) The social animal.

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 July 20, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 20, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.