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Love and Sex Addiction in Women   

At Malibu Vista, we provide cutting-edge treatment for women’s sex and love addictions, designed by some of the nation’s leading specialists in this area. Love addiction and sex addiction are terms used to describe a pattern of sexual and/or relationship attitudes or behaviors that damage a person’s mental or physical well-being.

Both men and women develop sex and love addictions; however, men tend to focus on physical aspects of love/sex addiction, while women tend to focus on emotional aspects. Women generally maintain this outlook even when they engage in the same sorts of sexual activities as men. Although formal diagnoses do not yet exist, love and sex addiction may receive official acknowledgment from the American Psychiatric Association in the near future.

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The Basics of Sex and Love Addiction

The American Psychiatric Association periodically updates its mental health disorder definitions in a reference guide called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. A previous version of this guide, called DSM-III, contained a definition of sexual addiction that doctors could use when making a mental health diagnosis. However, this definition was removed from the DSM-IV for stated reasons that included lack of agreement among experts in the field and insufficient supporting research on the subject. Despite the lack of official standing for love addiction and sex addiction in the medical/psychiatric community, psychologists still frequently use these terms when describing certain real-world attitudes and behaviors in the people they treat.

Love addiction and sex addiction can readily be viewed as different manifestations of the same misguided quest for an ideal form of relationship. Like all forms of addiction, they center on compulsive, recurring actions initially meant to bring a pleasurable reward. Chemically speaking, the pleasurable reward for sexual activity is largely the result of increased levels of two naturally occurring brain substances—dopamine and norepinephrine—that increase overall activity in a portion of the brain called the limbic system. Similarly, the emotional experience of love comes largely from increased levels of a substance in the brain called phenylethylamine, which in turn produces higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. People with love/sex addictions persistently engage in behaviors that increase their levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and/or phenylethylamine, which eventually trigger changes in normal brain chemistry.

Symptoms of Sex/Love Addiction in Women

Women tend to develop symptoms associated with love addiction rather than symptoms associated with sex addiction. Common manifestations of love addiction include:

  • An obsessive preoccupation with the notion of love
  • Manipulative attitudes or behaviors in relationships
  • Lack of emotional intimacy in relationships
  • Fear of change or risk in a relationship
  • Demands for displays of devotion from a partner
  • Maintenance of a subservient or dependent position within a relationship
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In contrast, women with sex addiction may struggle with:

  • An obsessive preoccupation with specific sexual acts
  • The desire to follow a certain depersonalized “script” during sexual encounters
  • Compulsive pursuit of and engagement in sexual encounters that continues in spite of serious negative consequences
  • Feelings of guilt, despair, remorse or shame during or after participation in compulsive sexual acts

About 8 to 12 percent of people seeking treatment for sex addiction are women. However, even when women develop symptoms associated with sex addiction, they commonly express their problems in love-related terms rather than in explicit sexual terms. For this reason, women are probably underrepresented in U.S. sex addiction statistics. In part, women’s views on love/sex addiction may stem from biological imperatives that stress women’s role in creating and maintaining family cohesion. However, prevalent negative attitudes toward open expressions of female sexuality may also play a role. Simply put, women with sex addictions may fear being labeled with damaging terms—such as “nymphomaniac” and “slut”—commonly used to shame them personally and socially.

Risk Factors for Sex/Love Addiction in Women

Both men and women sex addicts tend to have personal backgrounds that include lack of early attachment to parents, emotional neglect, parent/child incestuous relationships, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and rape or other forms of sexual trauma. In some cases, women with these backgrounds become involved in sexualized occupations such as prostitution, dancing in strip clubs or making pornographic movies. However, in many other cases, women develop much more subtle reactions that result in the classic symptoms associated with love and/or sex addiction. In still other cases, women develop love or sex addictions in the absence of any clear traumatic event or situation during childhood or adulthood.

Changing Definitions

Although the DSM-V does not include a definition of love addiction or sex addiction, it does include a recommendation to investigate a future definition for hypersexual disorder. If approved at some future date, this disorder will likely belong to a larger group of conditions known as behavioral addictions.

Reconnect with your passion for life. Call Malibu Vista 844-874-6483