Do I Have A Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction can be hard to identify. Enjoying sex and having a lot of it are not unusual, but social customs and expectations can be inconsistent on how much sex is normal. The addicted mind has an astounding capacity to rationalize behavior that feeds the addiction, so self-diagnosis can be difficult. The following are some possible signs of a sex addiction. If you experience more than one or two, you might want to consider talking to a professional who can help you develop a clearer idea.

First, let’s be clear on what a sex addiction is. Sex in this case can mean any sexual act, such as pornography or masturbation, developing one relationship after another (love addiction), or actual copulation. An addiction is typically identified when a person is compelled to repeat a behavior that has harmful ramifications and is unable to stop despite these consequences.

1. Are you wondering if you have a sex addiction?

Anyone can link idle thoughts to any sexual topic, but if you’ve put serious thought into the notion, and begin to obsess about it, you might be a sex addict, that may be a red flag on its own. There is no set limit to the number of times a person should have sex, and different social groups have different expectations regarding sexual activity. Each person develops their own sense of right and wrong. When pondering the probability of your having a sex addiction you should ask yourself these questions. What feels right for you? Do you feel badly about how much sex you are having? If you feel you are pushing a boundary or have broken one, this may be a sign of sex addiction.

2. Are sex or sexual activities causing you problems?

Have you cheated on your spouse or partner? Your boyfriend/girlfriend? Have you contracted an STD on more than one occasion? Have you been fired or reprimanded for sexual indiscretion at work?

The responses to these questions are key factors in determining if you have a problem. When your sexual behavior leads to difficulties in life, this is a sign of an addiction. Sex addiction can have a number of harmful physical consequences, such as STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Addicts don’t engage in the behavior for an emotional connection, they are doing it to fulfill a physical need, and it can stunt one’s ability to develop real emotional bonds. For those in a relationship, such as a marriage, this addiction can put severe stress on those bonds and even break them. Even if you are not committing infidelity, sex addiction can drive your partner away by asking them to adhere to unreasonable demands and placing them in uncomfortable situations.

Don’t forget financial matters. Running into debt over paid phone sex and Internet sources is a sign you may have a sex addiction. Purchasing excessive amounts of pornographic material, such as DVDs, magazines, and sexual paraphernalia, can take money away from necessary household expenses.

3. Do you use sex to make yourself feel better?

One of the ways an addiction forms is when the body becomes dependent on the addictive substance to function. People use alcohol to loosen up socially or to dull bad feelings. Sex causes the brain to produce dopamine, a chemical which makes you feel good. The desire to feel good becomes an addiction. How the addict goes about achieving this feeling is telling. People who use sex as an anesthetic may either be sex addicts or on the road to addiction since the brain learns that the way to cope with negative emotions is through sexual behavior.

4. You have tried to stop unwanted sexual behavior and failed?

Here we should note that conquering a sex addiction does not mean giving up sex, but instead means controlling the inappropriate behavior. Many addicts who realize they have a problem can sustain relatively long periods without any sexual activity, using certain coping methods to refrain. They eventually break down and give in to the addiction, as the problem is not solved. These people are not in control, even if they can resist for a period of time. Being in control means a person can refrain from sex when the consequences would be severe, and can enjoy sex when appropriate. Of course sexual misadventures are nothing new and not a sign of addiction, but repeated efforts to take control that fail is what defines an addiction.

5. Do you take risks with sex?

This question is similar to whether or not sex is causing you problems. Do you hire prostitutes? You are risking an STD if you do, plus trouble with the law. Prostitutes also tend to frequent unsafe areas creating physical risk and peril.

Are you having illegal sex? To be clear, not all sex addicts are sex offenders, but someone with an addiction may see their reasoning trumping their desires. Aside from the serious crimes such as rape and child victimization, voyeurism and exhibitionism can also lead to legal problems. Voyeurs also called “peeping Toms,” risk prosecution as do exhibitionists, or “flashers.” A person compelled to do these things are risking their freedom and the consequences can be long jail sentences and a social stigma that is difficult to get rid of.

Having sex in inappropriate places is another unsuitable behavior. Young, high-spirited couples have been known to have sex in odd or conspicuous locations, but if you have a reputation and a career that you frequently put them at risk by having sex at work, or looking at porn on the job, you may have a sex addiction.

It can be difficult to separate sexually addictive behavior from plain indiscretion or foolishness. If one or more of the above scenarios affect your life or the lives of your family and loved ones, you should give some real consideration to seeking professional help. Awareness of sex addiction is growing and there are a number of informative, helpful, and insightful sources and resources on the Internet.

10 Common Questions Men Have About Sex Addiction

1. Question: Am I a sex addict?

Answer: There are a number of red flags that can signal an addiction to sex. A person who uses sexual activity be it intercourse, viewing pornography, phone sex, chat rooms, prostitution or masturbation as a numbing agent, something to prevent them from feeling bad, may have a sex addiction. Other indicators the sexual behavior is causing the addict problems include their spouse becoming upset over their behavior or they’ve gone into debt over payment for phone sex lines or Internet pornography sites. Spending an excessive amount of time viewing pornography Over 10 hours a week is another red flag, since this sexual behavior is interfering with time spent with friends, family or at work.

Another key factor is the addict has tried to stop engaging in sexual behavior but failed. When all these things come together, it’s time to ask a professional about getting help.

2. Question: Can I be cured?

Answer: Many sex addicts have reported being able to bring their sexual behavior under control, through any one of a variety of treatment methods. Some attend intensive rehabilitation facilities; others go to therapy sessions, attend 12 step meetings or use medication and a host of other techniques to control their sexual behavior. This can include finding a trusted person to act as an “accountability partner.” Or for pornography addicts, it can mean the use of pornography blocking computer programs.

3. Question: Does being cured mean I give up sex?

Answer: No. Unlike chemical dependencies related to alcohol or drugs, sex is recognized as a healthy aspect of life. Treatment for sex addiction, while it does involve a period of abstinence, seeks to bring harmful and unwanted troublesome sexual activity under control to where it is no longer causing harm. It may lead to stopping viewing pornography, discontinuing solicitation of prostitutes and other “bottom line” behaviors or even illegal activities. The goal is stopping harmful behavior, but certainly not giving up sex.

4. Question: Is sex addiction even real, or just something people use to excuse their behavior?

Answer: Truth be told, there are some experts who don’t feel sex addiction is real and say it’s more a product of conflicting social norms and mores. Other say sex addiction exists but do not feel it meets the definition of an addiction in the same way addiction to alcohol or drugs does. For a sex addict seeking treatment, it may be a moot point. To get treatment, first one has to recognize they have a problem and stop trying to use their own willpower alone to control it. Many people have sought treatment for sex addiction and reported results. Much of the criticism about its validity has been aimed at celebrities embroiled in public sex scandals and is hardly analogous to the average person not living in the public eye. Sex addiction is real and one struggling with unwanted sexual behaviors certainly can attest to that fact.

5. Question: What caused this? How did I get to be this way?

Answer: There is no definitive cause for sex addiction, and for each person it will be different. Many sex addicts report being sexually abused at a young age and growing up with a distorted view of sex and what a healthy sex life should be. For others, it is simply the rush of chemicals in their brain after discovering a parent’s pornography stash or coming across it in some other fashion. Still others indicate the accessibility of Internet pornography had them fall into a cycle, while there are those who turned to using sex as a numbing agent during a difficult period in their lives and began relying on it as a coping mechanism. For some growing up with abuse, neglect, abandonment and enmeshment have cause the to seek out other ways to feel good about life and themselves.

While knowing the cause of sex addiction is important, those on the path to recovery should not seek to dwell on the unchangeable past; instead, they need to focus on their present actions.

6. Question: Does viewing pornography and sexual interaction over the Internet count as cheating on my spouse?

Answer: Not to be glib, but it can depend on the spouse. Certainly many women do feel that their spouses having cybersex or phone sex with another woman qualifies as infidelity. They may not react in the exact same way as if it had been physical sex with another woman, but the impact on a relationship can be dire. First, the wife will feel betrayed. She won’t trust her husband if he’s been hiding his behavior. She may can feel bad about herself, perhaps thinking some failing on her part led the husband to seek these sexual outlets.

Even pornography viewing can be a sore spot for women. Society places a lot of pressure on women to be physically attractive and sexually desirable and they may feel they are in competition with actresses in pornographic videos. This can affect their self-esteem, even if they do not confront their husband about the behavior.

7. Question: Can medication lower my sex drive so I don’t have this problem.

Answer: Yes and no. There are medications out there that can lower a person’s sex drive, and they are often used to treat sex addiction. However, they are limited in their power to erase the problem completely. Some form of therapy, be it a 12 step program or other process, is required.

8. Question: Will I ever be cured or is this a lifelong problem?

Answer: Many people report being able to bring their sexual behaviors under control, sometimes after a period of months or years, and are living lives relatively free of problems related to sex addiction. These people have addressed the factors in their life they had once sought to control by using sex; they have now embedded into their lives multiple tools to avoid falling back into destructive addiction cycles. For some, there is always the fear they will relapse, and some do struggle with sex addiction for long periods of time. There is no quick fix for the problem.

9. Question: I’m also addicted to alcohol. Is my sex addiction just a sign that I’m susceptible to addictive behaviors in general?

Answer: In some ways, yes. Many sex addicts report being addicted to alcohol, drugs, or behaviors such as gambling. They also claim family members with various addictions. It’s certainly been theorized that a person can have a genetic predisposition to addictive behaviors. As to treating multiple addictions, it should be noted that many sex addiction treatment programs are modeled after alcohol treatment techniques developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. 12 step programs such as Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous model their programs after and borrow their literature from that organization.

10. Question: Am I really a sex addict or is my sex drive just naturally high?

Answer: The difference between a sex addict and a person who enjoys a lot of sex has to do with why the behavior is being sought and the inability to stop an unwanted behavior as well as the obsession and compulsion. A person with a high sex drive is aroused and in most cases can control acting on that arousal. A sex addict is engaging in sex as a coping mechanism, isolating themselves from others even if they have a real life partner for the sex, and engaging in the sex act compulsively. They may feel shame after they complete the act, or some general feelings of depression. Actual arousal is not the primary motivator.

The 12 Steps To Recovery From Sex Addiction

Recovering from a sex addiction requires adhering to a 12 step program. Such programs have become synonymous with people’s efforts to change their lives and behaviors, and have been applied to everything including over-eating, sex, compulsive gambling, and drug addiction.

The original 12 step program was published by Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930s to treat addiction to alcohol. Since then, it has been adapted and directed towards other forms of addiction and compulsive behaviors and has been recognized by the American Psychological Foundation. Small details within each 12 step program change depending on what’s being treated, but all follow the same template. While there is debate on what defines addiction, many agree that the brain becomes dependent on chemicals either imbibed (alcohol) or produced naturally through a behavior, such as sex or gambling.

The 12 Steps:

Step one is the sex addict admitting they have no power over their sex addiction and that their lives have gotten out of control. This step essentially defines a sex addiction, a situation where a person no longer can control their sexual behavior despite it causing them problems. This may sound facetious, but if a sex addict could control their behavior, they would not be an addict. Admitting powerlessness also opens the door to getting outside help. A person with a broken leg does not try to mend it on their own, they call a doctor because they do not have the skills to heal themselves. It is no different with a sex addiction.

Step two is acknowledging there is a “higher power” that can help the addict with their addiction. This and the next step may be two of the least understood, as “higher power” generally refers to God. While many going through the 12 step program turn to the Christian faith, anything can serve as the higher power. A person can look to the sun, a favorite object, anything they can mentally equate with a power above themselves. Some neurologists have said the human brain is hardwired towards religion, and because of this it can be used as a powerful tool in influencing behavior.

A higher power plays the role of a neutral yet supportive third part in the sex addict’s life. It is not the addicts themselves, nor is it their therapist, nor is it a loved one the addict may have wronged or someone who will judge them.

The third step is giving themselves over to that higher power, as they understand it. Many sex addicts begin reading the Bible and attending religious services of their faith. Others will take up a different spiritual text as their understand of their higher power. The book or the faith or belief is not important here, what is important is that the reliance on self get turned over to a reliance on a higher power. Most religions have set guidelines on sexual conduct, as well as other aspects of life, and make for a ready made code of conduct a person can adhere to, at least until their lives are under their control once more.

Step four is where the sex addict gets to the “nitty gritty” of their problem and comes to see what it looks like from the outside by completing a “moral inventory” of themselves. This inventory documents their life and how and when their sexual habits, failings, and other common behaviors began in an effort to see the big picture and have an accurate understanding of what it is. Typically, a deadline is put on this step, as many addicts tend to get hung up on it, either because they find it difficult to examine themselves this way, or feel the need to be too thorough.

The fifth step involves taking that inventory and showing it to someone else, either a spouse, sponsor, clergy or trusted confidant, or even another sex addict further along in their treatment. This is done for a number of reasons. If a sex addict can share this, it means they are comfortable with it to a degree and will be able to open up further because seeing the behavior inventory may not be enough to let the sex addict truly see their problem or recognize patterns in their behavior. When it comes to the familiar, an addict sees what they intend rather than what really is. It’s the same as when an athlete needs a coach to check their stance or swing or attitude for their sport. So the sex addict needs another pair of eyes on their moral inventory to catch things and gain feedback from a different perspective.

Steps six and seven of the original Alcoholics Anonymous version are asking the higher power or God to remove the addict’s defects and to forgive them. Other, more secular minded versions describe these steps as similar transition periods. The sex addict goes from identifying the problem to recognizing that they, themselves, are now past that stage and can now expend energy enacting change. The addict is taught to see that the mistakes have been made cannot be unmade, and wishing to change the past is a waste of energy. While it’s not a “clear slate,” it is a shift of focus onto the present, which can be affected by the sex addict.

Step eight, while at first may seem like a look back, is actually for the addict to compile a list of people their sex addiction has harmed. This may be family they’ve neglected, spouses cheated on, and in extreme cases, victims of their sexual abuse. This step is sometimes broken down into smaller segments, identifying the types of relationships harmed by the sex addiction. In the case of deceased loved ones or people the addict cannot have contact with, this step serves as an emotional release by further letting the addict see the extent of the damage their behavior has caused.

The ninth step is an extension of the eighth, and involves making amends with the people identified in that step, when possible. It could be something as simple as a verbal apology, and may not be something that can be accomplished in a moment, a day, or even months. This step is distinctive to the individuals involved, and not completely possible in all cases.

Step 10 is continuing the list from step five, and admitting when a mistake has been made. This can expand beyond sexual behavior and include any kind of non-desirable actions or emotions. Negative feelings are what led the sex addict to compulsively seek the numbing behavior to start with. And being able to identify those trouble spots and handle them in a way that doesn’t feed a new addiction cycle is key. Sex addiction often comes with other forms of addiction, or can spin off into those other forms if the root cause is not being monitored.

Prayer and meditation are Step 11 in the program. Many call prayer and meditation one and the same, but whichever route the sex addict chooses, they should set aside time each day for quiet reflection. A daily pause is used as an anchor to keep the complexities of the addict’s outside world from becoming overwhelming. This step lets the sex addict remind themselves of their progress and the tools they have to fight their compulsions.

The final step is working with other sex addicts, or passing on some of the knowledge the addict has gained. The selfless side of this is ensures a pool of experienced teachers well versed in the subject matter who can perpetuate the program. The benefit to the addict doing the teaching is the same as to teacher; the one imparting the wisdom in turn learns more about what they’ve come to know. Having to articulate to another person what one has learned makes a person think about benefits in ways they hadn’t before, and leads to greater understanding.

Those are the basic 12 steps found in addiction recovery programs. Many are closely related, but together they show a progression. It should be noted this programs not a “do these 12 things and you’re cured” prescription, but at the higher levels are a lifelong set of behaviors. They may play a less active role in the recovering sex addict’s life as time goes on, but the inventory, meditation, and teaching tend to be in the background for a long time.