Compulsive Sexual Behaviour

Compulsive Sexual Behaviour

As humans we are programmed to reproduce, it’s the most basic thing that almost everyone has. Survival of the fittest kind of thing, go back a few centuries and it wasn’t properly understood, but men especially very often didn’t stay in one relationship. Why not? Because their urge is to spread their seed far and wide to give their bloodline the best chance of survival. Humans aren’t actually meant to be monogamous by nature, but if your partner tried that excuse these days there would be probably be crockery flying.

There are lots of different types of sexual behaviour and we’re familiar with most of them: from flirting to the very vanilla sex (lights off, missionary position only) to the wilder, full on BDSM scenarios involving whips and chains and ball gags. To be honest, most of us exhibit these sexual behaviours to some degree or other. But what about when we stray from the norm? What exactly is compulsive sexual behaviour and when does sexual behaviour begin to be a problem rather than something to be enjoyed?

First of all, compulsive sexual behaviour is a recognised condition. It’s also called hypersexuality disorder, hypersexuality, or at its most extreme sex addiction. Which is a real thing by the way that can be clinically diagnosed, it’s most definitely not the same as someone with a high libido. It’s a serious condition which can be quite debilitating.

Common compulsive sexual behaviours.

These include a number of familiar acts: cybersex, having multiple partners (either separately or at the same time), masturbation, paying for sex and use of pornography. The big question is – when do these normal sexual behaviours tip over into being a real problem? It’s basically when they interfere with normal everyday life. We can all have fantasies, either real scenarios or deeply unlikely ones, we can all have a high libido and use masturbation as a source of relief as well as sex and we can all enjoy pornography to some extent or other. But there are some danger signs to look out for:

  • -When they interfere with daily life.
  • -When they become a main focus in your life, something that’s more or less constantly on your brain regardless of the situation.
  • -When they become disruptive.
  • -When they cause harm or distress to other people, either emotionally or physically.
  • -When they become difficult to control.

It doesn’t actually matter how many of these apply to you, it could one, it could be all. But any compulsive sexual behaviour which lies untreated can damage:

  • -Health.
  • -Career.
  • -Relationships
  • -Self-esteem.

Basically all of the elements that go into building a happy life.

What are the signs and symptoms of CSB?

  • 1.Sexual fantasies that are intense in nature (often disturbing) and recurrent.
  • 2.Behaviours and urges that take up a lot of your time. Sex can be an important focus in your life, but when it begins to take over, that’s when you know that something is wrong.
  • 3.Being driven to sexual behaviours which do give relief, but which also trigger feelings of guilt and remorse afterwards. A common example of this is paying for sex, especially in a committed relationship.
  • 4.Engaging in sexual behaviours which can have severe consequences, e.g. STD transmission, loss of important relationships (both professional and personal). When they have a negative effect on careers and when they cause legal problems of some sort or other. A good example of this is picking up prostitutes at the curb side, rather than arranging a visit through an agency. This is often accompanied by not using a condom for protection, which is why it’s vital to recognise what’s going on and how to keep yourself safe. It’s a good idea to stock up beforehand if you know what you’re likely to do so you avoid impulsive, harmful decisions.
  • 5.When the compulsive sexual behaviours are used as a way of escaping from real life problems, things like: anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness. All of which are far more common than they used to be, thanks to the pandemic.
  • 6.If someone is trying to stop or control these behaviours, but can’t. This is probably one of the biggest warning signs because it indicates a struggle in the mind which the person is constantly losing. The negative winning over the positive. Not only can this be very distressing, it can also be exhausting, which creates problems in and of itself, especially if there’s a demanding career at stake, or young children to focus on.
  • 7.Struggling to form intimate, stable and healthy relationships.

Whilst these are all very real problems, the good news is that there is treatment available. Very often the first port of call is your GP. Whilst they are unlikely to be an expert in treating CSB, they can recommend a way forward and prescribe medication if necessary. Antidepressants and sleeping tablets, for example. If you feel that you can’t face your normal doctor, you can visit a sexual health centre for help too, somewhere you can be totally anonymous if you want – you don’t even have to give your real name. These people are highly trained in sexual behaviours, but they won’t be able to prescribe what your GP can. Or if you can’t face any in-person interaction you can seek help online, there are plenty of therapists out there who can help. Or over the phone is an option too.

Ultimately, you don’t have to do this on your own, even though self-help is a good first step. Investing in some books on the topic isn’t a bad idea either. But you will undoubtedly end up in some kind of counselling where you can work through your feelings and try and pinpoint the triggers for them. Don’t sit in a state and worry that others are going to judge you, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be the first person that they’ve seen with your problem. Try and relax about it and think positively and forward towards an easier time. 

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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