For us singletons, which includes more than half of the United States, according to Entrepreneur, Valentine’s Day can feel like America's loneliest holiday. No matter how much you love your friends, career and life, it’s easy to feel wistful when surrounded by seemingly happy couples, cupids, and red hearts. But it might not be singles who have the hardest time on the holiday. Relationship expert Robert Weiss says that for sex addicts, Feb. 14 can be especially challenging.

“Everything is heightened to those folks,” asserts Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S. “They’re going to be much more desperate,” he explains, saying that some may spend the day cruising for potential partners. “It just highlights the emptiness they already have inside.”

Read: How To Spice Up The Bedroom: 5 Proven Ways To Set The Romantic Mood For A Better Sex Life

Dr. Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D and President of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, agrees with Weiss. “Sex addicts often feel very lonely,” she states. Coupled with shame, another taxing emotion, the pressures and expectations to have a perfect relationship could trigger them to act out on the holiday.

The authors of multiple books about the topic, Carnes and Weiss believe that sex addiction is very real. “When we’re talking about sex addiction we’re talking about a brain disease,” says Weiss. Typically, patients have a history of significant trauma or emotional abuse.

Carnes says scientists are looking at genetic research to see if specific genes or predispositions could cause the disorder.

Not everyone agrees that sex addiction is a real problem, often claiming it’s just an excuse to cheat, which as Carnes points out, isn’t a behavior exhibited by all addicts. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists doesn’t recognize it as a real disease. On their website, the organization states there is “not enough empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder," making validation more difficult.

Read: Hypersexual Disorder Or Just A High Sex Drive? The Profile Of A Sex Addict

Even Carnes admits a problem with over diagnosis. "It can be easier to think of yourself as a sex addict and to use that in a relationship," she says. To determine addiction versus an enthusiastic love of sex, healthcare professionals use very specific criteria.

However, the doctor sticks to her belief that it’s a brain disease, like depression, pointing to studies indicating a sex-addicted brain responds to intimacy in the same way a drug addict responds to cocaine.

As Weiss points out, the disorder is debilitating. His patients struggle with daily routines like going to work and picking the kids up from school. “My clients are not functioning in life,” he explains. “Their spouses leave them. They lose jobs because they’re looking at porn. My clients get arrested in prostitution stings.”

It might seem surprising that sex addicts are able to maintain relationships long enough to get married, have kids or celebrate Valentine’s Day, but as our experts explain, their clients are looking for intimacy and connection.

“I don’t know that they feel love any differently,” says Carnes. “Ultimately they want love, and a lot of times that’s what they’re going for, but they don’t achieve that with their behaviors.”

While it’s difficult to believe, she claims many people are surprised to find out their significant other has a problem as addicts often are skilled at hiding their extracurricular activities.

“Most partners think that when they marry this person, that they’re not marrying someone like that,” she says.

“I had an addict who had a calendar of places he was going and a calendar of all the places he was telling his wife he was going,” she recalls.

Despite the distrust and compulsion, Carnes says there's hope for relationships damaged by sex addiction. “We have a whole process for how to help couples,” she says. “There’s a lot of recovery.”

5 Fast Facts About Cheating and Addiction:

About 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. population is considered a sex addict

Not all addicts cheat — some compulsively watch porn or visit strip clubs

Behavior tends to escalate and intensify over time

Young addicts are in the recreational phase of their disorder and typically don’t seek treatment until later in life

More people (non addicts included) cheat the day after Valentine’s Day and Christmas, according to Weiss

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