8 Sex Addiction Symptoms to Expect While in Recovery
If you struggle with sex addiction and are looking for help, it can be difficult to know what to expect. This can be an intimidating journey to begin. Recovery from out of control sexual behavior can help you reclaim your life, live more authentically and congruently, and rebuild your relationships with those who you love. This type of a choice to change takes a lot of bravery, but it can also come with a lot of anxiety, shame, and even fear.
The road to recovery isn’t always easy and it’s important to prepare for the journey as you begin your recovery from sex addiction. One of the ways to prepare is to educate yourself and one way to do that is to identify symptoms of out of control behavior.
Is Sex Addiction Real?
If you’re researching sex addiction, it won’t take long before you come across information that shows you how controversial this issue is. This can make it very confusing for you while you’re on your journey. If you’re confused, that’s very common, which is one reason that our very own Dr. Michael Salas wrote Bridging the Sex Addiction Divide–a book about the sex addiction controversy and how to make sense of this.
The answer is more complex than “yes” or “no.” If you see professionals intensely arguing for one side or the other, the agenda is likely not about helping people such as yourself, who are really trying to figure out what to do with the problems or concerns you’re living with. Unfortunately, it’s about winning a debate and proving the other side wrong. In other words, if someone says, “no one is ever a sex addict” or “everyone who engages in this particular behavior is a sex addict,” take these resources with a grain of salt. In fact, even some of the research is extremely biased and is focused more on making points rather than helping people like you.
Rather than focusing on whether sex addiction is what your problem should be called, it’s best to ask yourself another question. What are the problems that you identify?
Here are some examples of how you might answer this:
- My relationships are struggling.
- I’m giving up meaningful relationships and numbing with sex or porn.
- I’m keeping secrets and lying about sex.
- I’m engaging in sexual behaviors that I don’t want to engage in.
- My sexual behavior is impacting my mood.
These examples don’t mean that you’re dealing with a sex addiction. However, they are examples of problems that can come from a sex addiction. This shows that there can be a wide range of problems that can be associated with sex addiction.
You can’t deal with any intimacy problem without viewing it through several layers. When you only focus on the behavior, you are forgetting about yourself in the process.Even those who identify their symptoms as a sex addiction have to look at their problems in layers. For example, intimacy isn’t just sex. Sex addictions and out of control sexual behavior tend to be about things like:
- emotional distress
- lack of awareness of values
- sexual shame
- poor sexual education
That is just a small list of the possibilities. Part of your work has to be on improving these elements. Simply stopping a sexual behavior does little to address these issues. You and your therapist should work on opening up a dialogue, and digging in deep to process this stuff while also improving your knowledge about yourself.
What Symptoms Should You Look For?
There are symptoms that are common for people who are looking for help with Sex Addiction. These include:
- lying and covering up
- difficulties dealing with conflict
- sexual problems inside and outside of the relationship
- relationship issues
When it comes to sex addiction, it’s common to isolate from your family to make time to watch porn, to keep secrets about compulsive sexual behavior, or engage in other sexual behavior that feels progressively out of control. This can lead to sexual dysfunction (especially for men), broken relationships, self-esteem issues, etc. Building a solid plan, healing, learning more about healthy sexuality, and rebuilding connections are key.
8 Sex Addiction Symptoms to Expect
Isolation is common for people who are dealing out of control sexual behavior. For example, when people are dealing with porn addictions, this is a common symptom that they and partners describe. There is often an increased pulling away from the family and other responsibilities. This can even include work related responsibilities.
Isolation is often used as a tool to manage stress and other difficult emotions. Pornography, dating apps, and other technology can often be used as numbing tools. Numbing alone isn’t an addiction, but numbing can lead to compulsive behavior.
Irritability is common with sexual compulsivity. When people are making behavioral changes, this is can be due to anxiety that comes from abrupt changes in behavior. Some also experience a loss that goes with making big life changes. Counseling can often help people increase tolerance to discomfort.
For some people struggling with sex addiction, shame can be a serious problem. Low shame resilience isn’t caused by compulsive behaviors, but it certainly can reinforce negative feelings about yourself. When shame increases, so does the risk of compulsive behavior. Many have been discovered cheating and telling lies. This can lead to serious feelings of disconnection. Shame resilience is important in any recovery plan.
Depression can be something that leads to out of control sexual behavior or something that increases from dealing with an addiction. Without out of control behavior, you might be face-to-face with the lack of connection that you’re having with your partner. Some deal with feelings such as boredom, which are related to depression. Others deal with more intense feelings of depression. Either way, these things are important to address. Therapies such as Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, ACT, and CBT can be helpful.
5. Loss of Interest:
During sex addiction recovery, you may experience loss of interest in addition to your depression. This can be a loss of interest in many things, including sex itself. It can be difficult to stay mentally present and engaged. This isn’t something that changes overnight, but it’s something that you’ll want to work on with your therapist in your recovery.
6. Relationship issues:
Whether people are in long term relationships or not, relationship strain is common when dealing with out of control behaviors. This can be a relationship with others, but also your relationship with yourself. It’s important to develop relationships that have boundaries and can build trust and commitment.
This symptom is commonly overlooked but some may experience when recovering from sex addiction. Dysphoria is a state of severe unease or dissatisfaction with one’s life, body, or overall circumstances. It is closely related to depression, but it may be specifically attached to feeling uneasy about recovery or making life changes. This can make it difficult to stick with plans long enough for changes to occur. The best way to deal with this symptom is to speak openly to your doctor or counselor and learn which options are available to you.
8. Sexual Avoidance:
It’s pretty common for people to feel so ashamed that they end up avoiding sex altogether. This can be because you feel unworthy of sex from the shame that you’re experiencing. Sexual avoidance can be another extreme and can become its own type of compulsion.
These 10 sex addiction symptoms to expect from recovery won’t be easy to deal with, but with the right support and help, you can learn to move forward with your recovery journey. Learning more about your problem, surrounding yourself with a helpful community, and being patient with yourself are some of the most important ways you can overcome your addiction.
You can also look for a therapist in your area who specializes in treating out of control sexual behavior. If you’re in the Dallas area, feel free to learn more about our Sex Addiction therapy, or contact us.