Posted on February 17, 2016 in Addiction

Woman’s Sexual Orientation, Bonds in Childhood Help Predict Sex Addiction

New findings from a team of Israeli and French researchers indicate the interaction of gender and sexual orientation can have a considerable influence on the odds that a person will develop the symptoms of sex addiction.

Current research shows that the symptoms of sex addiction commonly found in men can differ substantially from the symptoms commonly found in women. In a study published in March 2015 in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, researchers from one Israeli institution and one French institution gauged the impact of the combination of gender and sexual orientation on the risks for developing sex addiction. These researchers also looked at the sex addiction-related impact of poor relationship attachment.

Sex Addiction and Gender

Broadly speaking, symptoms of sex addiction include such things as an inability to limit the level of involvement in sexual fantasy, thought or behavior; a preoccupation with sex-related matters while taking part in other daily activities; the use of sex-related matters as an escape from dealing with pressing emotions or situations; exposure to damaging personal, social or work-related consequences as a result of sexual behavior, thought or fantasy; and continued dysfunctional use of sexual behavior, thought or fantasy after exposure to damaging outcomes. However, most of the research done on the specific manifestations of this form of addiction has centered on men. Essentially, this means that the frame of reference for sex addiction is largely male-oriented.

In a study published in 2014 in Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, researchers from West Chester University sought to identify the specific differences that distinguish sex addiction in women from sex addiction in men. These researchers concluded that, far more often than in men, notions of relationship and connectedness play a central role in women’s dysfunctional sexual behaviors, thoughts and fantasies. The West Chester University researchers also concluded that sex-addicted women frequently have overlapping problems with love addiction or romance addiction and also have a pronounced tendency to form relationships with other addicted individuals. In addition, the researchers found that women with sex addiction commonly have a cluster of eight total symptoms that partially differ from the cluster of symptoms typically found in affected men.

Relationship Attachment

Psychologists use the term relationship attachment to refer to the ways in which all human beings learn how to form intimate bonds with other people. This bonding process begins in the earliest stages of infancy in a parent-child context and continues over time as a child grows older. Strong and supportive parent-child interactions typically lead to the formation of healthy relationship attachments during adulthood. However, non-supportive parent-child interactions can contribute to the formation of dysfunctional adult relationship attachments. Specific forms of dysfunctional attachment include anxious (i.e., fearful, insecure or desperate) attachment and avoidant (i.e., isolating or emotionally reclusive) attachment.

Impact on Sex Addiction Risks

In the study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, researchers from Israel’s University of Ariel and France’s Maison Blanche Hospital used data drawn from 100 women and men to explore the impact that the combined influences of gender and sexual orientation have on the chances that a person will develop symptoms of sex addiction (also referred to by the researchers as sexual compulsivity). The researchers used data from the same group to explore the sex addiction-related impact of anxious relationship attachment and avoidant relationship attachment. The participant pool included both heterosexual men and women and homosexual men and women. Each individual answered questionnaires designed to uncover his or her level of involvement in sexually addictive behavior, thought or fantasy. In addition, each individual answered questionnaires designed to uncover his or her typical pattern of relationship attachment.

The researchers concluded that the interaction of gender and sexual orientation has a different impact on sex addiction risks among women than among men. Specifically, they found that women with a lesbian sexual orientation have substantially higher chances of being affected by sex addiction than women with a heterosexual sexual orientation. In contrast, the researchers found that the sex addiction risks of homosexual men only differ by a statistically insignificant amount from the risks of heterosexual men. When they looked at the impact of poor relationship attachment on sex addiction risks, the researchers concluded that both anxious relationship attachment and avoidant relationship attachment significantly increase the odds that a person will experience dysfunctional, sex-related thoughts, fantasies or behaviors.

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