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The 9 Early Warning Signs of Sex Addiction

The 9 Early Warning Signs of Sex Addiction

The 9 Early Warning Signs of Sex Addiction
The 9 Early Warning Signs of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is one of those things you don’t really give much thought to.

Sure, everyone knows about those areas of the city where the girls work, but it is rarely talked about.

Jokes are sometimes made trying to relate porn to mustaches, stilettos, garters, and other cheesy things, but it’s often because of a card drawn in a trendy table game.

It even sometimes makes the news when a companion service is hacked or terrible accusations come out about someone’s misconduct.

Sex addiction is a taboo subject that people don’t talk about.

So how can you know if you or someone you love is affected by sex addiction?

Luckily, there are 9 early warning signs of sex addiction that can help you know what to look for, but first, let’s talk a little bit about this addiction.

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Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is getting more media recognition than ever, especially now given the #metoo movement. I have been asked by Oprah, Dr. Phil, Montel, and many others about this topic. First, people want to know, “what is sex addiction?” Next, they usually ask, “How can I know if someone is a sex addict?”

My response to these questions is that sex addiction is real. I know firsthand. I was a sex addict, porn addict, and have been in recovery for more than thirty years. I have experienced the double life, confusion, and the feeling of spinning out of control. I want to say that there’s no shame in the fact that you or someone else is struggling with sex addiction.

We all have struggles that we actively fight. Keep fighting – don’t give into that struggle. This post isn’t about shaming. I understand addiction from a professional and personal level. For thirty years, I’ve helped men and women recover from all kinds of addiction, and continue to do so to this day.

Sex addiction is a roadblock that stems from situations like abandonment, abuse, and pain. It’s a coping strategy for making it through those hardships. It’s a way to survive, but sex addiction will not help you live, grow, or mature.

The 9 early warning signs of sex addiction help to tell if you or someone you know is a sex addict. If three or more of these symptoms sound familiar, I would strongly suggest they take steps to investigate the sex addiction along with a plan for recovery.

The 9 Early Warning Signs of Sex Addiction

Before we get into the signs, I think it’s important to identify that a sex addict can be addicted to almost any sexual behavior. In my thirty years of counseling, I have dealt with sexual behaviors that included viewing pornography and masturbating, visiting prostitutes, voyeurism, using sex objects, and every sexual fetish imaginable.

Let’s discuss these 9 warning signs of a sex addict.


The first one is tolerance. Tolerance for a sex addict can operate in one of two ways.

Sex addicts continually need more and more of the sexual behavior to get the same affect. This may show up in the way they desire increased use of and more bizarre forms of pornography or escalating in negative behaviors.

If sex addicts don’t increase their behavior, the results are less and less effective for them. This causes them to escalate or increase their behavior over time.


The second one is withdrawal. Withdrawing as a sex addict has two functions.

First, there is the low, miserable feelings that arise after completing a series of behaviors. Some addicts experience self-loathing, guilt, shame, or just plain emptiness after acting out sexually.

Second, addicts can experience this withdrawal, which then becomes accompanied with mood swings, irritability, even memory issues. These secondary factors draw the addict back into the cycle of acting out to help them get over what they’re feeling. It’s a form of self-medication.

More and Longer

The third one is more and longer. Most sex addicts don’t start out saying, “I want to be a sex addict when I grow up.” Yet, so many people do become addicts. These individuals are way more advanced in their sexually-addicted-behavior than they ever expected to be.

What starts out as a little at first becomes a lot over time. Here are some examples: If they thought, I’ll just look at one explicit picture every now and then, it turns into viewing porn regularly. If they started out with one prostitute or escort a year, it turns into visiting them weekly or more frequently if they can afford it. Longer means exactly that.

Trying to Stop

The fourth one is trying to stop. Most sex addicts have the “I’ve been trying to stop” feature in common. Either they’ve tried to stop several times or they tried to cut down and gain control over the frequency of their actions only to repeatedly fail.

Trying to stop doesn’t work for them. Sadly, they keep repeating the same cycle of telling a spouse, friend, or family member they’re going to stop. The addicts keep believing it will be the “last time,” but they eventually go back to the sexually-addictive-behavior time and again.


The fifth one is time. All behaviors take time and this is especially true of a sexually addictive behavior. One of the symptoms of addiction in general involves the escalated time commitment.

The time commitment includes increased amounts of time dedicated to the behavior whether this is porn, behavior with others, or using services. If you notice behavior or recovery times increasing, they might have a growing problem with sex addiction.

Activities Lost

The sixth one is activities lost. As the sex addiction grows, it takes more and more time until it becomes a high priority in the life of the addict. The addict begins to turn down other opportunities like social outings, recreational gatherings, and work overtime.

People struggling with sex addiction can slowly find themselves prioritizing the addiction over a primary relationship in their life. Pulling away from others and pushing toward the sex addiction is a clear sign of a growing sexual addiction.

Keep Going

The seventh one is to keep going. There are consequences for sex addiction. Even after a sex addict has lost friends, jobs, hobbies, or even a marriage, they just keep going back to the addiction. It becomes all consuming.

I have known addicts who have been robbed and beaten because of their behavior, but they still go back to the sexual addiction and same situations. The sex addict keeps going back to the addiction regardless of the consequence.


The eighth one is experimenting. Sex addicts are drawn toward the fetishes and behaviors they are addicted to. If certain situations or behaviors are a turn on, they’ll naturally want to do it. Old behaviors in the bedroom might even become routine or boring because the addicts aren’t aroused by them anymore.

Watch for signs of wanting to sexually experiment, spontaneously do things they haven’t done before, or “try something new” without discussing it beforehand. This is a warning sign that they’re drawn to that new behavior by some outside influence.


The ninth one is secrecy. People hide what they don’t want others to know about. Secrecy is a big warning sign when it comes to sex addiction.

Pay attention. If you notice someone is using multiple phones, social media accounts, or computers without having a good reason for it, they may be using those things to access and fuel their sex addiction. I’ve seen cases in which sex addicts used many phones at the same time – one for each woman they were talking to.

The Wrap Up: Sex Addiction Warning Signs

Review the 9 warning signs of sex addiction and see if they connect for you regarding a situation or sexual behavior. If you know someone who has three or more of these behaviors, I highly recommend you check out some of our sex addiction treatment options and sex addict help resources.

If you already know there is a sex addiction problem, try to understand which type of sex addict is influencing the situation. Our 6 Types of Sex Addicts Guide can help you figure that out. Take the next step and get help. Help yourself so you can live a better life.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally-known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including Lust Free Living. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website,, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at

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