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What is Sexual Addiction?

Erik Bohlin, M.A.

What is Sexual Addiction?
Erik Bohlin, M.A.

How do you know if you have sexual addiction?  When it becomes a problem.  This is the simplest definition.  But let's look at some symptoms. 

Compulsion
Have you made promises that you would stop but have been unable to keep them?  Have you hurt someone you love by "acting out" sexually and keep on doing it?  Does there seem to be a need or force "making" you do this?  Compulsion is there with any addiction.  The compulsive feels so strong because of the underlying needs beneath it.  The stronger the "sense of unmet needs," the stronger the compulsion.  The less strong the needs are, the weaker the compulsion to act out sexually.  Guys sometimes say, I just have a strong sex desire (almost proud of it).  Is this a good thing?  It is like being overweight and saying I have a strong appetite.  It is important to realize that the sex addiction is not about sex.  It is about underlying unmet needs.  When addicts start to recover and meet those needs another way, they sex drive goes down.  They are usually amazed.


Unmanageability
Has your sexual behavior caused you trouble?  This takes time to discover.  Addicts fix things well enough to try to avoid in any way saying that the trouble they are experiencing is caused by sexual behavior.  They will say that their loved ones are upset because "they found out."  Can it be the acting out, lying and broken promise that cause the pain and hurt?  

So, how does one look honestly at all this?  Well, it takes time to discover.  What I mean by that is that you really don't know whether you have a sex addiction until it becomes a problem where you can't stand it any more.  You can look at check off lists but even that it takes time to see it all more clearly.

The addiction might be causing you pain, frustration and discomfort.  It may conflict with you moral values or religious beliefs, but you do it anyway.  You may have gone down a path where you have crossed legal lines and have gotten caught.  You might at this point admit that it is a problem.

Perhaps, you spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend is ready to leave you over your looking at pornography or chatting with someone online.  What do you do?  (to read more click here)


Admitting that you have a problem is a good start.  Then what?  Find out as much as you can about the problem you have.  Do you believe it is a disease or just a lack of will power?  How did you get this?  Was it inherited?  How bad is it?  Where will it take you?  What is the worst thing that will happen if you don't take care of this?  What is the best thing that will happen if you do?

Let's look at some of the symptoms of sexual addiction and how it affects your life.

  • Compulsive sexual behavior - intentional or unintentional
  • Shame around sexual behavior
  • Hiding or lying about your behavior
  • Sneaking looks at people
  • A belief that you "just have a high sex drive."
  • A loved one is concerned about your behavior
  • Trouble feeling and expressing emotion
  • Trouble with depression, anxiety, and panic.
  • Trouble letting go of anger and resentment.
  • Too sensitive or insensitive
  • Building up tolerance from one set of sexual behavior to the next.  Lust gets progressively worse.
  • Trying to control your masturbation and looking at pornography, but failing.
  • Deceiving yourself with "progress" but not acting out sexually in the "bad" way for a couple of months, just to find yourself using it again.
  • Defensiveness, justification and denial of the problems associated with compulsive sexual behavior.

How we justify some of these symptoms
If I just have a high appetite, does it mean I should eat too much?  Perhaps, too much sex drive is an unhealthy thing.  I know that lots of sex doesn't seem to be as harmful as too much lemon meringue pie, but maybe it isn't.

How do I know I am addicted to sex?
Here are some questions to consider.

  1. Have I ever thought I needed help for my sexual thinking or behavior?
  2. Have I ever thought that sex is controlling my life?
  3. Have I ever tried to stop or limit doing what I felt was wrong in my sexual behavior?
  4. Do I resort to sex to escape, relieve anxiety, or because I feel I can't cope?
  5. Do I feel guilt, remorse or depression afterward?
  6. Has my pursuit of sex become more compulsive over time?
  7. Has my level sexual behaviors progressed, i.e. "I have done things now that I thought I would never do?
  8. Does it interfere with relations with my spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend?
  9. Do I have to resort to images or memories during sex?
  10. Do I keep going from one "relationship" or lover to another?
  11. Do I feel if I had a better sexual relationship with my spouse that this would help me stop lusting, masturbating, or being so promiscuous?
  12. Does the pursuit of sex make me careless for myself or the welfare of my family or others?
  13. Has my effectiveness or concentration decreased as sex has become more compulsive?
  14. Do I lose time from work for it?
  15. Do I turn to a lower environment when pursuing sex? Has it taken me to places in a city, I never thought I would go?
  16. Do I want to get away from the sex partner as soon as possible after the act?
  17. Have I used alcohol and drugs in the past?
  18. Have I ever been in a situation that I might have considered sexually abusive?
  19. Have I felt I had to keep this a secret?
  20. Do I have difficulty expressing my feelings?
  21. Was it difficult for me to answer these questions, or did I try to minimize and rational some of the answers?

Answering yes to any of these questions could mean that you have a sexual addiction is affecting your life.

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