May is National Mental Health Awareness month. This year the focus is on risky behaviors. It is important to educate people about habits, and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental health problems.
An example of risky behavior involves sex. Sex is a completely natural and normal part of the human experience, and it can have many health benefits. For some people though, sex becomes an obsession and does more harm than good.
High risk sexual behavior includes:
- Unprotected sexual contact
- Sex with multiple partners
- Sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
While not everyone who engages in risky sex has issues with compulsive sexual behavior, many people with compulsive sexual behavior have high risk sex. Compulsive sexual behavior is when a person has excessive or uncontrolled sexual behaviors or thoughts that may cause distress and negatively affect their relationships and work. In some cases, compulsive sex behaviors may cause and person to have financial and legal troubles.
Compulsive sex has a direct effect on mental health in the following ways:
- People who engage in compulsive sex may neglect responsibilities in pursuit of sexual gratification, causing feelings of shame and guilt
- Sex addicts often exhibit compulsive behavior like excessive porn watching or sex with prostitutes. This can cause unhealthy or unrealistic expectations of what healthy sex should be like.
- People who get sexually transmitted diseases as a result of compulsive sexual activity may feel intense shame and decreased self esteem
- Feelings of betrayal and anger are common among people whose significant others have lied or kept secrets in order to satisfy their compulsive sexual behavior
Compulsive sexual behavior may be induced by manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder or by substance abuse. Tumors or injuries to the frontal lobe in the brain can cause compulsive sexual behavior. Once a person receives treatment for these conditions, compulsive or hypersexual behaviors generally subside.
Over 83% of people who identify as sex addicts have other addictions as well, 38% of sex addicts have some form of an eating disorder, and 58% of people who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior are at a higher risk of attempting suicide.
If you think you or a loved one is suffering from compulsive sexual behavior help can be obtained. There are support groups which are very similar to the 12 step program for Alcoholic Anonymous that can be quite beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy been shown to be quite successful in treating people with compulsive sexual behavior. Medications like antidepressants and mood stabilizers may be used in conjunct with therapy.
Visit the website for compulsive sexual behavior. This can be helpful in finding therapists and health care providers who can help with treatment.