Are There Withdrawal Symptoms For Sex Addiction?

Like food and sleep, sex is a basic physiological need. Even Maslow’s hierarchy places it in the same category as breathing. Hence, it is not uncommon for individuals, male or female, to seek satisfaction from it. It’s essential, though, to note that wanting sex and being sexually addicted are not one and the same. Sex addiction is a far more complex condition. 

There are several tell-tale signs of a sex addict. First off, they have difficulty controlling their urges. Their thoughts and actions are geared toward satisfying their sexual desires. Oblivious of the consequences, they engage in illicit activities, relish the encounter with multiple partners, and dedicate a severe amount of time and effort in activities that serve their sexual pursuits. Other responsibilities are neglected as a result. 

In a way, drug and sex addiction exhibit some similarities, most notably on the response our brain discharges from the experience. With drug use, the brain is tricked into releasing dopamine, which results in feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Sex addicts go through the same process. The want to relive the experience, again and again, is what makes them addicted to it. 

Realizing and acknowledging that there is a problem is only the beginning. It takes a considerable amount of focus and effort into committing to recovery. As such, there are also withdrawal symptoms along the way.

Withdrawal Symptoms To Expect

Telling yourself to stop doing something it has gotten used to doing regularly is not an easy feat. Your resolve to change and conform to a varied lifestyle must be strong to pull through. As you go through recovery, you will feel all sorts of emotions and physical symptoms as your body adapts to change. They can occur within the next 48 hours and could last for a month or more. 

Here are some withdrawal symptoms that may manifest:

  • the need to isolate oneself from family and friends
  • mood swings particularly jumping through negative feelings like anger, fear, anxiety, irritability
  • feeling mentally and physically exhausted disabling one to function normally
  • sleepiness or having a hard time sleeping (and sometimes, when they do get to sleep, their dreams are about sex)
  • depression that could subtly manifest through loneliness or boredom
  • being ashamed of oneself mostly because of the things they have done as a sex addict
  • obsessive thinking or overthinking
  • losing interest to a lot of things including the things one used to enjoy like sex
  • experiencing dysphoria where one becomes dissatisfied with life or the progress he is making
  • avoiding sex because of fear that their addiction would recur or because they do not feel they deserve it.

How to Get Through the Withdrawal Process

As your body gets used to the change in lifestyle, the symptoms and their intensity lessen. In time, they could totally disappear, but relapse is still a possibility. To avoid going back to old habits, here are some steps to keep you in check:

  • Establish the why. Think about why you decided to stop in the first place. What is it you would like to achieve? What was it you would like to change for the better? Keep a journal or stick a post-it in front of a mirror to remind you. 
  • Create healthy boundaries. Decide who you would like to cut off in your life and who should stay. Avoid people who may trigger you into going back to old habits. Steer away from unhealthy relations. If it helps, list down the people you would like to keep in touch with and those you would rather stay away from. Make a deliberate decision to choose who you would like to be associated with. 
  • Have accountability partners. Identify key people you can trust and can share thoughts freely. Find people who are as motivated as you to stay clean. They should be willing to help you out and provide support when going through some difficult times. Interact with them frequently and be honest in sharing your experiences. 
  • Keep watch of one’s thoughts. Be wary of where your thoughts wander. What may seem like an innocent daydream can eventually encourage you to act it out. Distract yourself and divert your attention to something else. 
  • Start a Journal. Get a blank notebook and start jotting down your emotions, triggers, hardships, and successes. You can read through your notes to keep track of your improvement and appreciate the journey. 
  • Know your Triggers. Know when you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms and learn to manage them. When you acknowledge these symptoms as they are, it will make it easier for you to keep them at bay and prevent you from acting out. 
  • Exercise or find a hobby. Like sex and drug use, exercise and enjoying a hobby also releases dopamine. Find an activity you can enjoy doing. Make it a habit to insert an exercise routine, task, or activity into your schedule to keep you busy. 
  • Seek professional help. Find someone trained and certified to work with sex addicts. They can help recognize the symptoms and assist you as you go through them. They may also offer programs that help sex addicts understand themselves better, identify the source of addiction, and correct them. 

The Bottom Line

Recovering from addiction could be a daunting task, but it is not impossible. Others clam up about what they are going through because of shame or fear of being judged, but it is of utmost importance to know when and how to enlist help. 

To fully recover, it is important to identify the symptoms, acknowledge the disorder, equip yourself with knowledge, and seek help from a professional. There is no need to go through this process alone. The triggers and withdrawal symptoms will not last forever. With the proper support system and full resolve, you can be successful. 

Success means getting to know yourself better, healing, and making purposeful decisions that benefit you and the people around you.