Sex and Love Addiction (SLA)

Sex and Love Addiction (SLA) is often considered to be two different, but often intertwined, progressive illnesses. Both compulsions are associated with a disorder of emotional or physical intimacy driven by obsessive thought patterns and acting-out of extreme behaviours.

Typical addictive behaviour can take a variety of forms, including:
  • Need for sex
  • Becoming sexually involved or emotionally attached to people without knowing them
  • Extreme dependency on one or many people
  • Preoccupation with romance and fantasy

Sexual Addiction

A sex addict, whether male or female, experiences a severe disruption to their life caused by habitual sexual obsessions and the compulsive acting-out of behaviours, which become progressively worse over time.

A sex addict may:
  • Compulsively look at pornography
  • Engage in compulsive self-stimulation
  • Multiple extra-marital affairs or one-night stands
  • Repeatedly use ‘pay for sex’ phone lines, online sex sites and encounters
  • Engage in compulsive voyeurism or exhibitionism
  • Seek repeated anonymous sexual encounters
  • Feel unable to stop

There is almost always an underlying problem with the avoidance of intimacy or in trying to escape other related issues, which trigger dysfunctional behaviours. While repeated sex may be used to control or ‘numb’ deep-seated issues, the resulting feelings of shame, guilt, or broken relationships can incite more and greater acting-out behaviours.

Love Addiction

A love addict experiences an intoxicating ‘high’ when engaged in seduction during the initial phase of a relationship and is repeating a pattern of intense, painful, or obsessive relationships.

A love addict may experience:
  • Intense infatuation
  • Lust / increased sexual interaction

Alternatively, a love addict many be driven by negative compulsions and displays behaviours which are:
  • Clinging
  • Desperate
  • Insecure in a current relationship

Emotional anorexia

A further negative aspect of love addiction is the aversion or avoidance of love, which sees an individual who is incapable of lasting feelings of attachment. They may be either addicted to a pattern of usually unsuccessful relationships, or may avoid relationship or commitment altogether.

Confusion between sex and love...

Love may also be confused with sexual attraction. Individuals continually search for relationships and sexual contact, and may use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate others or as a substitute for nurture and support.

Other complications include addictives who...
  • Sometimes return to destructive relationships for fear of being alone.
  • Attach themselves to people who are emotionally unavailable in order to avoid responsibility
  • Often starve themselves of sexual and emotional involvement, mistaking abstention as recovery

Addiction triggers

Sex and love addiction are similar to substance abuse because during sex, powerful chemical substances - oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins - flood the pleasure reward centres of the brain. It is the chemical reaction that causes the addiction.

Hidden addiction

Sex addicts are usually skilled in hiding their secret lives from those around them. Although behaviours can progressively increase, most sex addicts do not become sex offenders.

Withdrawal symptoms

When a love addict ends a relationship, and when a sex addict goes without sex or sexual acting out behaviours, both may experience withdrawal symptoms.
The withdrawal symptoms may include:
  • Depression
  • Uneasiness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Treating sex and love addiction

The aim of sex and love addiction recovery is different to those of other addictions. While the intention is to help alcohol or drug addicts to stop their destructive behaviours the goal for those with sex and love addictions is not complete abstinence for the rest of their life but to be able to sustain healthy, sexual and emotional relationships.

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