Is sex addiction real? Malaysian expert points out the signs, risks and treatment options

Milad Hassandarvish
Sex addiction is characterised by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour. – Picture from

KUALA LUMPUR, October 18 — Have you ever wondered if you might have an overflowing and uncontrollable desire for sex?

If that happens frequently, you probably are showing some symptoms of sex addiction, or what doctors call compulsive sexual behaviour.

According to consultant urologist Professor Dr George Lee Eng Geap, like any form of addiction, compulsive sexual behaviour is characterised by excessive preoccupation for sexual urges, fantasies and behaviour that is difficult to control.

He said sex addiction can involve various forms of sexual activities including penetrative sex, cybersex, masturbation, multiple sexual partners, pornographic consumption and even paying for sex.

As a result, Dr Lee noted the compelling desire causes distress and negative impact on health, occupation, relationship and other quality of life.

“When the sexual obsession becomes a major focus in daily life, the uncontrollable actions may result in inappropriate behaviour disrupting career, health and other people,” he added.

The signs

Although some may find the concept of sex addiction \difficult to grasp, Dr Lee said some indications of people struggling with the disorder include recurrent intense sexual urges that significantly takes up the individuals’ daily life.

“The urges often result in the feeling of losing control, and the sexual behaviours can transiently release the tension followed by a sense of guilt and remorse.

“The sexual behaviour often persists despite serious consequences, such as the breakup of a relationship, contracting sexually transmitted infections, career conflicts, financial strains and legal problems.”

Those with the disorder may also have an association with loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress, while facing trouble establishing and maintaining relationships.

However, Dr Lee agreed that different individuals have different degrees of desire and libido, and it’s impossible to quantify the frequency or urges of sexual pleasure as a barometer of sexual addiction.

“The key for the diagnosis is not the frequency, but the inability to demonstrate restraint, and the lack of self-control renders the negative impact on self and others,” he said.

Its prevalence

Citing a 2014 review published by the Addiction and Research centre in France, Dr Lee said the prevalence rate of sexual addiction ranges from three to six per cent in the general population.

However, he added that there is no breakdown of data highlighting gender differences.

“Some studies suggest that sex addiction predominantly affect men to the tune of 80 per cent.

“But many experts believe women’s sexual addiction is under-reported and overlooked in many studies.

“They believe females with sex addiction do not follow the pattern like male intensified trend. Instead, women tend to use sex for power, control and attention.”

Risk factors and treatment

While the causes of sex addiction remain unclear, Dr Lee said it’s often linked to a person’s abnormal hormone levels and imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain.

“Some experts implicate childhood and mental abuse, neglect and emotional trauma that increase the risk of developing sexual addiction.

“Underlying mental health conditions are also recognised to trigger compulsive sexual behaviour, which includes sadness, loneliness and depression that may lead to the inability to control sexual urges,” Dr Lee added.

To keep the compulsive sexual behaviour under control, Dr Lee said there were treatment options aimed at reducing symptoms and managing the excessive urge.

“Cognitive behaviour therapy is the gold standard in helping individuals to change behaviour with new positive coping skills and reduces unwanted sexual urges.

“Most importantly, a strong support from family and friends encouraging the nurture of healthy habits and relationships are often the key to recovery.”

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