Compulsive Sex in Recovery
Whether an addict has a committed partner or not, sex can become a compulsion in recovery. For some, this means sleeping with many different partners in rapid succession. For others, this can mean an excessive need for sex with a monogamous partner. For still others, this can be compulsive masturbation.
Either way, compulsive sex can trigger relapse in addicts. Sex releases a powerful neurotransmitter, called dopamine, in the brain. This neurotransmitter gives the individual a sensation of euphoria and a reduction of physical and emotional pain.
Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is also released. Oxytocin causes warm, positive, and pleasurable feelings. Adrenaline is also produced, during the excitement phase of the human sexual response, further adding to the intense neurochemical experience of sex.
For addicts in early recovery, the excitement and regular assault of dopamine on the brain, in association with compulsive sex, can trigger relapse. As the addict feels that he or she must have sex on a frequent basis to ‘be okay,’ it is only natural that the addict may progress to other more serious behaviors or the use of substances, when the sex no longer provides the relief they seek.
Sex addiction programs are available around the United States, in the form of outpatient therapy, intensive outpatient treatment, residential treatment, and self-help 12-step programs. Someone who feels that he or she cannot control the use of sex should consider seeking help in a timely fashion, to prevent the escalation of sex addiction or the relapse onto drugs or alcohol.