Find out if someone can actually have a masturbation addiction, and learn about treatment and support issues.
Is Masturbation Addiction a Real Addiction?
Masturbation, porn and other sexually-based activities can be considered an addiction under certain circumstances. Some treatment programs and therapists note that using masturbation as a way to fall asleep or as a way to control anxiety can indicate an addiction.
However, moderate use of masturbation or other sexual activity for relaxation or stress relief cannot actually be called an addiction. As long as you're not hurting yourself (or anyone else), healthy sexual activity is not a problem like an addiction is.
- The activity needs to be problematic for you and or others - i.e. it creates a disruption to your normal life. If you can't go to work or meet appointments and other life responsibilities as a direct result of your sexual thoughts or activities, you probably have an addiction.
- If the behavior affects your ability to have normal relationships with others, this could signal an addiction.
- Constant thoughts related to getting your next fix of sexual activity and/or constant conversations about the activities can strongly indicate an addiction.
Difficulty Determining Sexual Addiction
There are some major gray areas when it comes to sexual "addiction" in any form. Most reputable clinics and organizations don't even mention the term "masturbation addiction" or "sex addiction". This is because there is one key component missing from a sexual addiction - the physical component. An addiction means your body is truly physically compelled to do something; such as drink, smoke or masturbate. As yet, there is no absolute scientific proof that sex alone affects the human body in this way. Most research relates that there is a strong emotional component involved with sex-based addictions, not simply a physical craving.
Psychology Today notes that some studies point to phenylethylamine (PEA) and stress-related neurotransmitters as possible physical reasons for masturbation addiction or sex addiction. PEA is a chemical in the brain. PEA and neurotransmitters boosts euphoria and excitement that do help people to become aroused, but can these cause addiction? So far no one knows for sure.
What the Mayo Clinic calls sexual or masturbation addiction, is compulsive sexual behavior. The Mayo Clinic notes that while some do call this a sexual addiction, you can't compare the high of sexual activity with alcohol or drug addiction. They go on to say that compulsive sexual behavior is considered more of an impulse control disorder. This is a disorder where someone can't resist the temptation to do something that's harmful to self or others.
The Mayo Clinic notes that anyone of any gender, age or sexual preference can experience compulsive sexual behavior.
Some signs of compulsive sexual behavior include:
- Compulsive masturbation - What is thought of as a masturbation addiction
- Affairs - Either multiple affairs with various individuals or a married person who has many extra-marital affairs
- A pattern of one-night stands or anonymous sex partners.
- Constant use of pornography
- Exhibitionism - Taking your clothes off in public or exposing yourself to others
- Obsessions with finding the next date - For example, putting out many personal ads or using a lot of Internet dating sites
- Participating in unsafe sex more often than safe sex
- Voyeurism - Stalking someone else or peeping
- Sexual harassment, rape, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse toward others
Treatment and Support
What can you do if someone you care about needs help?
The first thing you should know is that if you are being emotionally, physically or sexually abused by someone with a masturbation addiction or other sexual compulsion, it's not up to you to help them. You need to remove yourself and other vulnerable people (like children) from the immediate environment. You will never ever be able to fix someone with a sexual compulsion on your own. No matter how much you care about someone, if he or she is harming you, get out and find support for yourself before attempting to help that person.
If you need support or if you'd like to suggest support to someone you care about, try the following resources.
- Psychotherapy, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, group therapy, and family therapy or couples / marriage counseling have all been shown to help with sexually addictive behavior, including masturbation addiction or compulsion. Talk to your primary care doctor about a referral, or look in your yellow pages for a counseling provider.
- Sexual addiction inpatient treatment may be useful.
- Call the National Sexual Compulsives Anonymous number at 1-800-977-HEAL to find a support group near you or take a look at Sexaholics Anonymous.
- Sex Addiction Help, has one of the largest lists of resources on the web. There are support groups, email lists, and helpful websites to browse through.
As you can see, it's difficult to determine if someone has a sexual addiction of any kind, but there are resources that can help so don't hestitate to uses them as needed.