Sufferers latch on to a behavior — masturbation, pornography, anonymous hookups, or standard affairs — until it starts to take over their lives.
"The physical symptoms include intense cravings, high tolerance, loss of control, and, in the later stages, dependence and compulsion," Humes Baird explains.
How do you distinguish between a strong sex drive and a condition requiring medical attention?
The American Psychiatric Association is trying to do just that, as it reviews whether to include "hypersexual disorder" in its next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible of mental illness.
"It made me sick to my stomach," she says, "but I kept looking." The next day, she found an SAA meeting. "That's when the fantasy would come crashing down and I'd feel like garbage," she says.
It also flamed a national debate over whether too much sex can actually be an "addiction," or just a compulsion, or simply bad behavior.
Against this backdrop, sex addiction therapists, Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), and Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) are all reporting a surprising trend: The number of women seeking treatment is surging. New York-based sex therapist Mavis Humes Baird defines it as any sexually related activity that is having a destructive effect on your life.
"Throughout my 20s, I'd equated hooking up with random men in bars with sexual freedom. Rather than dwell on the bad feelings, she would seek out her next fix.
"I'd convince myself, Oh, God, that was so hot, and start chasing the high again," she says. While Baird can't pinpoint exactly what causes sex addiction, she says that many addicts have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and were raised in "chaos, or a rigid, disengaged family." She administers a 250-question battery — Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire? — to identify the abnormal behavior, the length of time spent engaging in it, and the effect it's having on the patient's life.
I'm going to hit up the sex addicts anonymous on tuesday, and see whats up. I probably should be in one of those meetings to get help, but instead i'm going to try to use it as a hookup. Then some guy is talking about how he masturbates furiously and lies to his wife about it, and the guy that cant goto sleep without fapping. They are just normal people that think they have problems.