Hypersexuality, also referred to as erotomania , or, more straightforwardly, sexual addiction, has been linked to traumatic experiences during the sufferer’s childhood. This does not imply, of course, that all those who suffer childhood trauma will go on to become hypersexual in adulthood, nor that there aren’t other causes (there are – such as some neurological conditions which it is unnecessary for me to go into here).
Erotomania can be defined as a persistent and enduring, intensely powerful compulsion to indulge in sexual activity, whether that activity be solitary or with another/ others. Although it affects females (in such cases, yet another term is sometimes used – ‘nymphomania’) it is more common amongst men.
Clearly, it is no easy task to judge when a ‘normal’ sexual appetite escalates to such extremes that it is classified as erotomania ; nevertheless, clinicians generally classify sexual addiction as being a pathological condition when it substantially interferes with day-to-day functioning, including friendships, relationships, work and life-style in general.
Clinicians regard addiction to sex as a coping mechanism which allows the sufferer to ‘dissociate’ (click here for my article explaining in detail what psychologists mean by ‘dissociation) or, in other words, to mentally ‘escape’ from feelings of intense emotional distress (including clinical depression, severe anxiety and intense loneliness brought about by social isolation).
Symptoms include –
– frequent, anonymous sex
– frequent use of prostitutes
– obsession with online porn/sexually oriented chatrooms/phone sex
– view of others as mere sex-objects
– obsessive masturbation (can be even as much as 10-20 times per day)
and, at the more severe end of the scale, symptoms may include :
– indecent public exposure
ROLE OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF EROTOMANIA :
Severe childhood trauma, as we have seen so often in other articles I’ve written for this site, often causes the adult who experienced it to develop conditions that give rise to deep-rooted psychological and emotional distress. Erotomania may then result as a defense mechanism (ie the need to dissociate as discussed briefly above). Not infrequently, drink and/or drugs may be used during sexual activity in order to intensify its dissociating effect.
EFFECTS AND TREATMENT :
Whilst the sexual activity associated with erotomania may bring temporary relief from emotional pain and suffering, this tends to be heavily outweighed by the negative effects of sexual addiction. This can be illustrated, in part, by the diagram shown below :
The diagram shows the cycle of emotions, feelings and behaviour that frequently develops in those who suffer from sexual addiction. As can be seen, the end result is despair, and then the cycle starts again. (What the diagram misses out, however, is the fact that compulsive sexual behaviour is particularly likely to occur if there has been a stressful ‘triggering event’).
The first port of call for the sufferer of erotomania is usually the GP (in the UK). However, because of the sensitive nature of the subject some prefer to initially see an expert in sexual therapy.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).Click here for reuse options!
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