What is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior is a sexual behavior that turns into a compulsive pattern of behaviors. This can lead to compulsive engaging in a pattern of behaviors that can co-occur with sexual avoidance as well. People with this problem might lose time with their families, risk losing their jobs, or put themselves in high risk situations. This can include pornography addiction, where a person may spend several hours at a time watching pornography to numb from stress, emotions, and even family.
Sex addictions can be difficult to identify, because it’s often kept in secrecy. It’s also difficult to identify because it’s a controversial topic with a lot of professional opinions on the matter. Some believe it doesn’t exist at all. Others just aren’t sure what to call it.
Many people who are seeking help for this problem seek it out because they are caught stepping outside of the sexual boundaries of the relationship. This can include cheating, pornography viewing, and chatting. However, there are several who also seek out help because they are tired of the secrecy, lies, and self deprecation from this addiction.
There is intense shame that comes with sexual addictions. People who are sex addicts often struggle with confidence in quality of who they are as people. They can see the hurt that they have caused, or that they could cause, and struggle to recognize that there is any other possibility of change. This can create problems with volatile interactions, lying, and further acting out.
How Can You Tell If You Are Dealing with a Compulsive Sexual Behavioral Pattern?
There is not only one type of sex addiction. Some people struggle with compulsive pornography use, while others struggle with cheating and having multiple affairs. The main thing you want to look for are patterns of behavior that are out-of-control, missing on boundaries, and continuously engaged in, despite the consequences.
Although everyone has a private element to their sexuality, sex addicts often withhold this information, and often deceive their partners about their sexual behavior. This can become part of the compulsive nature of this problem.
Sex addicts can deal with compulsive sexual behavior in any of these areas of sexuality:
- Isolated Fantasizing
- Anonymous Sex
- Compulsive Engagement in Boundaryless Sexual Behavior
- Online Chatting and Apps
- Phone Sex
Isolation is also common for those who are dealing with sex addiction. This isolation can be from family and friends. Many times this isolation is shame based. Other common descriptions that many sex addictions will use are “detached” and “disconnected”. Although, this is often described when there is increased self-awareness.
It’s a good idea to find a therapist who understands sexual addiction if you’re concerned about your sexual behavior. Therapists who are uneducated on the topic may unwittingly cause more harm. A therapist who is educated can help you assess the problem, while also helping you identify if compulsive sexual behavior is a problem for you.
However, if you have a concern, you more than likely could benefit from sex addiction screening. It could be possible that some elements are problematic in your sexual relationship, and therapy can help with this regardless.
Common things to look for that could be a part of a sexual addiction include:
- Sexual secrets that have a lot of power or control over you.
- Participating in sexual activity that you don’t want to participate in.
- Repeatedly engaging in sexual activity that steps outside of your boundary system.
- Replacing work and family responsibilities.
Other common, yet secondary symptoms that many sex addicts live with :
- Losing of friendships.
- Increased isolation.
- Blaming of partner for sexual dissatisfaction.
- Never feeling satisfied.
Sex Addiction Often Occurs With Other Addictions
Many sex addicts are dealing with co-occurring addictions. There can be attempts at intensifying the triggered brain response. Sex addicts can use their sexual activity for numbing or stimulation. They can use substances, work, spending, shopping, and even gambling to trigger similar responses. Therefore, many sex addicts have co-addictions that need to be treated.
Dividing the Lines Between Addictions and Coping with Sexual/Gender Shame
Unfortunately, there has been a history of using sex addiction to shame people into conforming and avoiding who they are. Sexual orientations, non-traditional sexual arousal (kinks), and non-cisgender gender can make people vulnerable to finding therapists who offer “conversion therapy.” There is no changing orientation. Unfortunately, the stress and even trauma of living in a society that stigmatizes people for their non-heterosexual orientations, kink, non-monogamy (even consensual), and non-cisgender gender can lead to compulsive sexual behavior as a way of coping or “self-medicating.” Thus, it’s important to have a therapist who is affirming so that you can find safety, develop new coping skills, and rebuild a relationship with your gender and orientation that feels authentic and balanced to you. Reducing shame and finding self-acceptance about being gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans, non-conforming, queer, etc. is critical to healing.
Vantage Point Counseling offers various treatment options for different addictions and mental illnesses. With their help, thousands of people have been able to find healing and help for various mental health issues that may be fighting. They can’t wait to help you too. Visit them at their main site to learn more.