What Happens to Your Brain When You
Become Addicted to Sex
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October 8, 2017
By L. Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Sex addiction is probably the only addiction which first has to surmount
an initial snickering hurdle of doubt about its existence. Call yourself a
drug addict and your friends and family may react with sympathy. But
call yourself a sex addict and the reactions will range from open
incredulity to contempt. "A sex what?"  For many people, sexual
addiction strikes them as not much of a problem.  Among the experts in
this young field, such as the counselors at the Sex recovery Institute in
Southern California, there is a consensus that over 90% of all sex
addicts are men.

What we might say more accurately is that 90% of those patients who
show up at the clinics are men. The truth is, no one knows how many
sex addicts there are in the wider population that never show up for
treatment anywhere.

First things first, is sex addiction a true addiction?

Is Sex Addiction Real?

Sex is a supposed to be pleasurable. From an evolutionary perspective,
we humans, and animals in general, have to find sex pleasurable in
order to continue our existence as a species. We invest a lot of energy
to obtain sex.  If you can imagine our existence several hundred
thousand or millions of years ago, before we could order up food from
our smart phones, human cave dwellers had to risk death to obtain
food. We ventured outside the relative safety of our caves to seek out
food while dodging man-eating saber tooth tigers and giant reptiles.

We ventured out not just for ourselves but also to bring enough back
to the cave to feed our families.

There has to be a powerful motivation to create a family for which you
have to risk death to feed and a big part of that motivation is wired into
our cells as sexual pleasure.  

Our sexual organs contain the highest concentration of nerve cells of
any place on our bodies. We are wired to receive pleasure there.

But pleasure is a tricky thing. The science of pleasure in your brain
involves mesolimbic pathway also called "the reward pathway".  The
reward pathway, according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse,
engages three areas of your brain. The three areas, the ventral
tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal
cortex are triggered when your brain perceives a pleasure target such
as water, food or sex.

After perceiving the pleasure target, a signal travels from the VTA area
to the nucleus accumbens and then finally to the prefrontal cortex of
your brain.  

Addiction Creates a Self Destructive Feedback Loop in Your Brain

Once you actually receive the pleasure object -- food, water, sex, drugs
--- your brain then sends a signal of satisfaction.   Hormones such as
serotonin are released and flood your system. Your mood is
elevated.You feel good.

With pleasure targets to which you are not addicted, the feeling of
satisfaction lasts. In the case of water as a pleasure target, the
satisfaction lasts until your body actually needs water again and you
become thirsty. In the case of food, the feeling of satisfaction lasts until
your body needs food again to nourish itself and you feel hungry.

If your pleasure center works as it should, it stays in balance with the
healthy needs of your physical body.

When it comes to sex, if your pleasure center is working as it should, it
is in balance with your healthy emotional need to sustain a good

The problems arise when your pleasure center is not acting as it
should, when it is out of balance with your healthy emotional needs.

When your pleasure center is taken over by an addiction, receiving
more of the pleasure object satisfies you only for short periods of time.

The short period of satisfaction is followed by a deep feelings of
dissatisfaction, which creates an urgent need to re-supply the pleasure
object.  A food addict feels short bursts of satisfaction with food,
followed by a need to eat again.  A drug addict feels temporary relief
after taking the drug, followed by an urgent need to re-supply the
pleasure center. And a sex addict feels a momentary relief after sex,
followed by an urgent need to re-supply the pleasure center with more

As the addiction deepens, the addict does not feel the deep satisfaction
no matter how much pleasure is obtained. This is why some experts say
that addiction hijacks the pleasure centers of your brain.

Sexual addiction hijacks the natural feel good pleasures of sex,
replacing it with a controlling need only for momentary relief from a
state of urgency.

Behaviors That Put You at High Risk for Sexual Addiction

Sex is intended to be pleasurable.  But like all pleasures, it can only
exist as a deep pleasure in the context of a whole life. That means that
while many of us may fantasy that having unlimited access 24/7 to sex
from whomever we please would be the most fantastic experience of all
time, the truth is something different.

Even the emperors among us grow tired of 24/7 conquests. When
there is no interruption of pleasure, by context, by interests, by life,
pleasure itself becomes boring.

Sexual addiction can in many cases be interrupted once the brain is
re-wired to see other pleasures in life. Being appreciated as a person of
value, of substance, of meaning can remind us of our whole selves.  

Sexual addiction hijacks our lives by convincing us that there is no life
other than sex.  In doing so, it robs of our true power and our
connection to ourselves.

None of us, no matter how powerful or rich, can be confident that we
can never become addicted. True, some people are more prone than
others. But if there is anything that the tragic turn of Tiger Woods' life
teaches us, it is that none of us is immune. In fact, it is when we are on
top of the world, when we can summon anyone and anything we want
to satisfy our pleasures, it is at this very moment that we ourselves are
most vulnerable to being hijacked by pleasure addiction.

No preaching is intended here.  Sex is good. Pleasure is good. Enjoy it.
But be aware of the need to keep an awareness of your whole self.
Keep in touch with your hobbies, your sports, your music, your friends,
your family. These things will not only help t keep you from losing
yourself to sex addiction, they actually will enhance your pleasures in

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