Our brains have receptors known as dopamine receptors. There is a CB1 and CB2 receptor. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. The natural release of dopamine can be triggered when for example when your team wins the big game. It can be triggered when you are with someone you love. It can be triggered during ******.
In a drug addict, the drug attaches to the dopamine receptor and the person feels good. Eventually, their bodies stop making dopamine and their body needs more and more of the drug to feel good.
In the case of sex addiction, gambling, shopping or whatever it is that you get excited about you crave the feeling good. You will then take great risks to cause the release of dopamine. You are addicted to feeling good.
Addicts aren't driven by a desire for pleasure. They are driven by a need to *escape* strong negative emotions like anxiety and guilt. Dopamine temporarily inhibits activity in areas of the brain associated with fear, pain, anxiety, fatigue, and guilt. If you look at brain scans of people who have taken cocaine, their brains are almost completely inactive except for the tiny dopamine- associated regions. The problem is, after too much dopamine those areas of the brain naturally counteract to the imbalance by *increasing* their activity. So after the "fix" is over, an addict feels even MORE anxiety and guilt than they did before.
That's what drives them to repeat the behavior.
Do gambling addicts exist? Do compulsive eaters exist? Yes. It's not simply a "lack of self control." Sex addicts try to replace genuine intimacy with mere excitement and novelty. Sex addicts have severe guilt and shame problems which is ironically one of the main things that drives them to repeat their dysfunctional sexuality. Sex addicts don't really *enjoy* what they're doing. They only do it as a temporary escape from their anxiety and shame. Like most mental health issues there isn't a clear line where between normal sexuality and pathology. It becomes an addiction when it's pervasive, obsessive, and has big-time repeated negative life consequences. For example, losing several jobs and being infected with AIDS. Most people may engage in risky sexual behavior occasionally their live. for example, secret romantic affairs. Sex addicts know that what they're doing is unhealthy and dangerous. They know it's making them miserable rather than happy. But they can't face up to their fears and guilt/shame.
No, it's just been given a label