What is Sex Addiction?

Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. Some consequences which may result from sexual addiction and indicate the existence of sexual addiction.

Social: Addicts become lost in sexual preoccupation, which results in emotional distance from loved ones. Loss of friendship and family relationships may result.

Emotional: Anxiety or extreme stress are common in sex addicts who live with constant fear of discovery. Shame and guilt increase, as the addict's lifestyle is often inconsistent with the personal values, beliefs and spirituality. Boredom, pronounced fatigue, despair are inevitable as addiction progresses. The ultimate consequence may be suicide.

Physical: Some of the diseases which may occur due to sexual addiction are genital injury, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, herpes, genital warts and other sexually transmitted diseases. Sex addicts may place themselves in situations of potential harm, resulting in serious physical wounding or even death.

Legal: Many types of sexual addiction result in violation of the law, such as sexual harassment, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, rape, incest and child molestation, and other illegal activities. Loss of professional status and professional licensure may result from sexual addiction.

Financial/Occupational: Indebtedness may arise directly from the cost of prostitutes, cyber-sex, phone sex and multiple affairs. Indirectly indebtedness can occur from legal fees, the cost of divorce or separation, decrease productivity or job loss.

Spiritual: Loneliness, resentment, self pity, self blame

These consequences are progressive and predictable. The addict tends to minimize the consequences and tends to blame others for them. Family and friends minimize consequences by believing the addict's promise that the behavior will change. When blaming and minimizing stops, recovery begins. The consequences can become the instruments for change if they can be truly recognized and accepted instead of denied.

Is my sexual behavior normal?
Problematic sexual behavior does not necessarily mean that you are a sex addict. There are many other conditions and problems which can cause sexual behavior to get out of control. You might wonder if you have a sexual addiction when you actually have normal behavior. It may take some soul searching and professional help to decide if sex addiction is really the problem.

Definitions and behaviors of sexual addiction:
Sexual addiction comes in many different forms. There is no single type of behavior or even amount of behavior that will indicate you are a sexual addict. The problem is much more complex than can be explained in a few words and if you have been living the life of a sex addict, you know how difficult it is to describe what you are experiencing.

Three basic things to consider when you define sexual addiction are:

Do I have a sense that I have lost control over whether or not I engage in my specific out-of-control sexual behavior?

Am I experiencing significant consequences because of my specific out-of-control sexual behavior?

Do I feel like I am constantly thinking about my specific out-of-control sexual behavior, even when I don't want to?

It is these three "hallmarks" that help to define the boundaries of sexual addiction and compulsivity. The range of behaviors can include masturbation and pornography through sexual exploitation of others. If the three questions are answered "yes," then you may want to seek further help to begin to sort out the complexities of your sexual behavior and find out for certain if sexual addiction is the best descriptor of your problem.

What is Sexual Compulsivity? (Clinically Speaking)

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11--to be published and utilized effective January 1, 2022) as a global diagnostic standard for identifying and coding health information. According to WHO, compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD) is a type of impulse control disorder characterized by a persisting pattern of failed attempts to control sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviors lasting over an extended period of time (at least 6 months). Possible symptoms identified for a person suffering from compulsive sexual behavior disorder include, but are not limited to, preoccupation with sexual activities to the detriment of personal health, interests, and responsibilities; numerous failed attempts to reduce sexual behaviors; and continued engagement in sexual activities despite harmful impact or negative consequences to self and/or others. Compulsive sexual behavior disorder can cause significant distress and diminished ability to function within a variety of important areas, such as work, school, family, relationships, or personal care. It is important to note that the distress characterized by this disorder cannot be solely based on a person’s moral beliefs or judgment about sexual impulses, urges, or behaviors.

Testing for sexual addiction

Dr. Patrick Carnes was one of first professionals to work with sexually addicted people and he designed the Sex Addiction Screening Test (SAST) to help figure out who has sexual addiction problems and who doesn't. To help you understand sexual addiction and determine if the problem may exist in your life or the life of a loved one, visit sexhelp.com