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Love and sex addiction are both behavioural and intimacy disorders. They share many similar characteristics involving obsession and compulsion but differ in their associated behaviours.

Love and sex addiction are probably amongst the most misunderstood and overlooked addictions. Just because it doesn’t involve a substance as such, does not mean it cannot wreak all manner of havoc throughout a person’s life, especially in their personal relationships with themselves and with others. The common element that both love and sex addiction share is a destinct lack of control around behaviour.

At Delamere we take sex and love addiction very seriously. The causes and factors that contribute to sex and love addiction are often complex and difficult to overcome. Thankfully, we at Delamere have the know how, professionalism and experience to successfully treat love and sex addiction, regardless of how the addiction presents in an individual.

Here we look at the various characteristics of love and sex addiction, the consequences these disorders bring and the treatment required in order to recover.

If you or a loved one have a problem with sex or love addiction please call us for confidential expert advice.

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction, also known as Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD) is a compulsive engagement in sexual activity. Sex addiction, a recognised mental health disorder, can present in many forms. Sex is a basic part of our nature and a human instinct but in sex addiction it is taken to the extreme and overpowers everything of worth in the person’s life.

Sex addiction can manifest in masturbation, sex with strangers (hook ups), pornography, Chemsex, obsessive fetishes, extreme types of sex and multiple partners etc.

Regardless of the activity or behaviour that is linked to the sex addiction, the identifying characteristic is the individuals distinct lack of control around their engagement levels and behaviour.

On 18th June 2018, the World Health Organization’s authors of the International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision, ICD-11 included Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD) for the first time. Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder, also commonly known as sex addiction and sexual dependence is now classified as a recognised mental health disorder

Sex addiction is a progressive disorder and as such can become all consuming. The risk taking can reach life threatening levels and the guilt, shame and remorse that accompanies sex addiction can destroy an individuals mental wellbeing.

Does having a high sex drive mean I’m a sex addict?

No, having a high sex drive, or having numerous partners, or regularly looking at porn does not make you a sex addict, although a high sex drive can be a contributing factor.
The overriding symptom of sex addiction is the lack of ability to control sexual urges and desires. If you find you are losing control over your sexual activities, breaking your own moral codes of conduct and alienating those who really care about you, then you should seek professional sex addiction help.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of sex addiction:

  • An obsessive preoccupation with sexual activities
  • A feeling that your behaviour is out of control
  • A tendency to spend more and more time planning and seeking sexual experiences
  • Feelings of guilt, depression, shame and being trapped in a downward spiral
  • Dramatic mood swings linked to repeated sexual activity
  • A growing neglect of social or work commitments in favour of sexual activity
  • An inability to change your behaviour despite the stress and anxiety it brings 
  • Progressively engaging in more risky types of sexual behaviour or watching more extreme types of porn as you become immune to the effects of sex acts that used to satisfy you.

“Our belief is that with the right help, anyone can permanently break the active cycle of addiction and undergo a profound personal transformation.” Martin Preston

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What is love addiction?

Unlike sex addiction (which can involve a solitary sexual act) love addiction always involves another person, even if the person is not in a relationship with them (fantasy)

Over the past ten years there has been a dramatic increase in the published studies of neurochemistry and romantic love. The conscious state of ‘being in love’ causes many pleasurable neurochemical reactions to occur within the brain.

Pleasurable organic chemical compounds including dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin and serotonin play a crucial role in an individual developing feelings of trust and pleasure within the brains reward centre. These chemicals encourage us as human beings to develop close, trusted and bonded relationships with a significant other so that procreation can take place.

Comparisons have been drawn as to the involvement of similar neurochemicals and brain activity in the process associated with addiction.

Love becomes a problem when an individual becomes infatuated and obsessed with the subconscious release of these chemicals induced through dysfunctional yet rewarding behaviours associated with love.

Many scientists and medical specialists have drawn comparisons as to the similarities of rewarding chemicals being released in romantic love and the artificial simulation of these chemicals in addictive drugs such as alcohol, cocaine and heroin.

Just as with a substance addiction, love addiction is no respecter of race, gender, religion or class. No one knows exactly why some individuals become addicted and others do not, although there are some common contributing factors that make an individual more predisposed.

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A love addict will be addicted to the feeling they get from being in love. Their core objective will be to find a perfect person who can solve all of their problems and take care of them without exception. A person who can induce a constant release of love chemicals in the love addicts brain.

Love addicts have many unhealthy behaviours that contribute to the manifestation of their addiction and keep them trapped in the addictive cycle. They will make impulsive and dangerous decisions, often throwing caution to the wind, just to win over and secure the love of the person in whom their infatuation and fantasy lies.

A love addict’s behaviour will often be obsessive and needy. They may bombard their lover with tokens of affection or extravagant gifts that they cannot afford.

Love addiction differs from codependency but does share a few of the same traits and characteristics. In a person that suffers from love addiction, their obsessive behaviour, infatuation and preoccupation will eventually infiltrate all other areas of their life, causing all manner of destruction and pain.

Side effects of love addiction

Love addiction is more than just bad luck in picking the ‘right’ partner. The common denominator in all failed relationships will be the person with the disorder, although they may well focus on their partner’s shortcomings as part of the denial that they have a problem.

Side effects of love addiction include:

  • Putting themselves and their children at risk through introducing strangers into the family home
  • Family and friends become resentful as are used only as an outlet for the love addicts problems and drama
  • Difficulties with true intimacy. Never feeling loved enough or becoming quickly tired of relationships when the ‘honeymoon’ period fades into normal relationship status
  • A tendency to pursue relationships in an obsessive manner or creating a fictional relationship with unavailable individuals in order to avoid true intimacy – love avoidance
  • Fear of being on their own. A love addict may jump from relationship to relationship or overlap relationships just to avoid being on their own
  • Feeling physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when love is unrequited or when a love relationship ends
  • Creating deep resentment in their partners through their controlling and obsessive ways
  • Children feel neglected as the love addicts sole focus is on their relationship which they will place above all else
  • Constant drama within the relationship as a love addict will struggle with ‘normalcy’
  • Placing their mental and physical health at risk through staying in abusive, dissatisfying or toxic relationships
  • The love addict can become an aggressor and manipulator, inflicting emotional or physical pain on their loved one when their needs and expectations are not met
  • Thinking that the ‘perfect relationship’ exists and that finding it will solve all of their problems

Side effects of sex addiction include:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases and infections – STDs & STIs
  • Unwanted pregnancies and abortions
  • Ruined trust in relationships
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs to enhance sexual encounters (chemsex) or to suppress guilt and shame
  • Divorce
  • Inability to be truly intimate
  • Self-hatred and low self-worth
  • Death through risky sex or through suicide due to depression, shame, guilt and anxiety

How love and sex addiction affects the brain

Love and sex addiction are both progressive behavioural disorders of the brain. The euphoric high is achieved through increasingly more extreme behaviours that release excessive amounts of dopamine and other rewarding chemicals.

In both love and sex addiction the sufferer will regularly feel out of control of their behaviours and actions, which often harm those closest to them.

All addictions have a strong element of the individual chasing a euphoric high either from a substance or activity. Over time, the euphoric high becomes less as the brain develops a tolerance. The addicted individual therefore increases risk taking, sometimes to a very dangerous and life threatening level in order to feel satisfied once again. This cycle is repeated over and over. Sex and love addiction is no different to a drug or alcohol addiction in this respect.

the addiction cycle

Sex and love addiction both carry many consequences, yet the sufferer will still continue in their pursuits and behaviours. The brain, with repeated exposure to excessive dopamine induced euphoria, will prioritise the chemically rewarding behaviours, no matter the cost to personal wellbeing and those around them. When this happens the brain has become chemically damaged and the behaviours deeply entrenched.

The main issue that sex and love addiction presents is that they both prevent the person from developing healthy relationships and true intimacy, not only with others but with themselves. Mentally this can really take its toll. It can leave a sufferer feeling trapped, alone and deeply depressed and anxious. Sometimes to such an extent that the only way the sufferer can see out of their predicament is to take their own life.

How is sex addiction treated at Delamere?

Treatment for both sex and love addiction involves cognitive behavioural therapies to challenge and change the beliefs and mindset that accompanies these disorders..

Both sex and love addiction are complex behavioural disorders that often only respond to professional treatment. In order for a sex or love addict to recover, the issues underpinning their addiction must be treated comprehensively.

At Delamere we offer a number of evidence based cutting edge therapies that are designed to challenge, change, heal and enable growth.

The causes and conditions of love and sex addiction can be diverse and the disorder will affect each individual differently. This means that in order for treatment to be effective it must be bespoke and treat all aspects of the individual.

In addition to healing the issues underpinning sex and love addiction, the individual will also need to be shown how to address their dysfunctional behaviours and form healthy relationships.

Treatment for sex and love addiction at Delamere’s purpose built rehab facility includes the following evidence based therapies:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy CBT
  • Integrated therapy
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy DBT
  • Psychotherapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • Trauma release therapy TRT
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Equine therapy – delivered at Delamere’s onsite private equine therapy centre
  • Individual counselling
  • Group therapy
  • Process therapy
  • Somatic healing and holistic treatments
  • Fitness programme – delivered at Delamere’s onsite private gym
  • Relapse prevention
  • Educational and interactive workshops on healthy relationships, managing emotions, building intimacy, self esteem and self worth, establishing healthy boundaries etc
  • Full treatment plan applied to any co occurring illnesses and addictions
  • Yoga, art, drama and music therapy
  • 12 step therapy
  • Family programme
  • Detailed aftercare plan with aftercare sessions and ongoing support delivered by our counsellors and staff

How is sex addiction treated at Delamere?

At Delamere rehab retreat we use a person-centred approach to delivering all of our evidence based therapies for the successful treatment of love and sex addiction.

At a minimum we recommend a 4 week inpatient stay, so that the past can be healed and new and healthy behaviours established. It takes time for a new way of living to be adopted, so this isn’t a process that should be rushed if it is to be successful in the long run.

All treatments are delivered by our distinguished multidisciplinary team of dedicated practitioners including doctors, nurses, counsellors, psychotherapists and holistic practitioners. Support is offered around the clock, day and night, by our fully trained support workers.

At Delamere we focus on long term outcomes as oppose to a quick fix or respite period. We want our patients to live long, healthy, happy and contented lives, far removed from their days of active addiction.

We believe, and so it has been proven, that our treatment approach brings about profound personal transformations that are long lasting.
Sex and love addiction is not curable, but it is treatable. Call us today to find out how we can help you or a loved one to find recovery.

Need help?
Call us confidentially at any time to speak to a member of our team.

Call us now: 0330 111 2015


  1. World Health Organisation – Public release on reclassification of Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder
  2. Love addiction NCBI – Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated
  3. The addictive brain: all roads lead to dopamine. Blum K, Chen AL, Giordano J, Borsten J, Chen TJ, Hauser M, Simpatico T, Femino J, Braverman ER, Barh D. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2012 Apr-Jun; 44(2):134-43.
  4. The Neurobiology of Love. Esch T, Stefano GB. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Jun; 26(3):175-92.



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