Sex and love addiction

Sex and love addiction are often described in unison and are usually seen as positive forces in the world. However, sex and love addictions – also known as intimacy addictions – can negatively interfere with a person’s well-being, self-confidence and relationships. Research suggests that approximately 8% of men and 3% of women are impacted by sex or love addiction and it can seem like an inescapable situation. However, there is help available and if you are living with sex or love addiction, Linwood House can help you re-establish a healthy relationship with intimacy and move forwards with your life.

Sex and love addiction

What is sex and love addiction?

Sex and love addiction are forms of behavioural addiction where people have a compulsive need for sex or love even though they cause harm to their health, loves or relationships.
People living with these conditions are likely to experience obsessive thoughts which they struggle to manage or have fantasies, which they may or may not act upon, that interfere with living an ordinary life. These could be of a sexual nature or lead to infatuation with a specific person.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not currently list sex and love addiction as specified mental illnesses, but research suggests there are some significant health implications from living with these conditions.

Symptoms of sex addiction

Sex addiction can cause significant harm and distress. A common misconception about sex addiction is that it is simply enjoying sex but this is not the case as many people who are addicted to sex take no pleasure from it. Additionally, they may experience some significant problems associated with their condition but remain unable to stop. Problems include relationship breakdowns, legal or financial issues due to paying for sex or health problems such as contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Other common sex addiction symptoms include:

  • Using pornography excessively
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Paying for sex
  • Having sex with others, despite being in a relationship
  • Feeling extreme guilt or shame about sexual activities
  • Engaging in sex, not for pleasure but to satisfy compulsions

Sex and love addiction - porn

Symptoms of sex addiction

Love addiction is a behavioural condition which is often misunderstood. While many people who are in love experience intense feelings, somebody with a love or romance addiction will feel extreme urges for a person, intense euphoria when with them and may even suffer withdrawal symptoms in their absence.

People with love addiction can become extremely dependent on their partner, craving their company or approval at all times. This can result in them finding life extremely difficult alone and they may struggle to fulfil everyday responsibilities.

Some common signs include the following:

  • Struggling to let go of relationships, despite clear problems
  • Constantly being in relationships and finding it very hard to be alone
  • Staying in abusive or toxic relationships
  • Depending on others for your own wellbeing
  • Genuinely believing that you are in love, despite not knowing a person
  • Feeling extremely lonely if not in a relationship
  • Being preoccupied with finding partners
  • Looking for new partners while in a relationship
  • Using relationships as a way to escape from stress or distress

All of these issues can jeopardise current relationships, friendships, career and school responsibilities.

Shared symptoms of sex and love addiction

There are some significant emotional and psychological symptoms that people living with both sex and love addictions may experience. For some, these symptoms may contribute to the development of an addiction while for others they are side effects of their addictive behaviours.

Sex and love addiction - woman with anxiety

Common symptoms include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Extreme feelings of guilt and shame
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessions and compulsions
  • Withdrawal and isolation

What causes sex and love addiction?

Sex and love addictions develop for a number of reasons and each person’s experience will be completely unique. Many people fall into addiction as it provides an escape from difficult feelings or events and it’s also common for somebody with an intimacy disorder to be living with underlying mental health issues.

Individuals who have experienced neglect or abuse in their early lives are more at risk of developing a sex or love disorder in adulthood. This is thought to be linked to low self-esteem and unhealthy associations with sex and intimacy.

Negative impacts of intimacy addiction

Each person’s experience of sex and love addiction differ, but there are some common consequences of living with an untreated form of this disorder.

Typically, people find both their platonic and romantic relationships deteriorate. Romantic relationships may fail due to infidelity, relations with sex workers or watching excessive amounts of porn. Friendships may also fail due to withdrawing and isolating from others.

There are also health implications due to risky sexual behaviour such as sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

It is also common for individuals to experience problems at work, including loss of employment. This has serious financial implications as can the money spent on pornography or sex workers.

Treatment for sex and love addiction

If you are ready to seek professional help, there are different routes available to you. You can begin by talking to a GP or counsellor, or you can reach out to a mental health service which has expertise in treating addiction. At Linwood House, we specialise in rehab treatment including sex and love rehab and we have helped many people overcome their conditions.

Sex and love addiction rehab

Treatment for intimacy addictions can include a number of approaches, including individual and group therapy, alternative holistic therapies and certain medications to help manage coexisting mental illnesses. Research suggests that psychodynamic psychotherapy can effectively help to address underlying anxiety, loneliness, depression and guilt which may be experienced.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely-recognised forms of treatment for behavioural addictions and can be employed to change negative thought processes into more positive, healthy ones. Linwood House’s love and sex rehab programmes incorporate CBT as well as many other forms of therapy and treatment including:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • 12-step
  • Holistic therapies
  • Relapse prevention

Sex and love addiction - group therapy

Heal at Linwood House

At Linwood House, our sex and love addiction treatment programmes use evidence-based methods to aid recovery from intimacy disorders. We believe that everybody deserves the chance for a brighter future so if you or a loved one are ready to regain control of your life, get in touch with us today.

Frequently asked questions

Why is sex addictive?
Engaging in sexual activity releases endorphins and dopamine, natural brain chemicals which make us feel good. Sometimes people become addicted to these feelings produced during sex, and they become compelled to look for them. There are usually other historical factors contributing to a person’s vulnerability to sex addiction.
How much sex is normal?
There is no ‘normal’ amount of sex, given that every couple is completely different and their needs and wants vary. If you are having consensual sex which doesn’t leave you feeling guilty, confused or upset, it’s likely this is your ‘normal.’ However, of you are worried about the amount you have sex, seek support from a professional who has expertise in sex and relationships.
How do I know if I have a sex or love addiction?
As well looking for the signs explained on this page, you can alo access an interactive 40-question tool on the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) website or take the sexual addiction screening test (SAST) was developed in cooperation with health professionals and community groups to help identify problematic behaviour which could be related to an intimacy disorder.
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Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

03301 736 751 
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