Sex addiction is getting more and more media attention. I have been asked by Oprah, Dr. Phil, Montel, even (this is really dating me) Phil Donahue and so many others what sex addiction is and how can somebody know if they are a sex addict.
My first glib response to this question is of course, sex addiction is real. I am a recovering sex addict now for more than 30 years and I know first hand about the double life, confusion and the feeling of spinning out of control.
Yet, going further than just personal experience, I will lay out a list of the symptoms of a sexual addict so that you can tell if you or someone you know is a sex addict. If they have three or more of these symptoms, I would strongly suggest they take some real steps to investigate sex addiction along with a plan for recovery.
Now before we get started, I think it’s important to identify that a sex addict can be addicted to almost any sexual behavior. I have been counseling sex addicts and spouses of sex addicts for more than 20 years and have heard sexual behaviors that were as basic as pornography and masturbation, to caming, voyering, exposing, objects, prostitutes, and almost any flavor of fetish a human being can imagine. With that said, let’s walk through some of the characteristics of a sex addict. These characteristics are exactly the same as that of an alcoholic or substance abuser so we will apply the same diagnostic criteria.
7 Characteristics of a sex addict
Tolerance for a sex addict can operate in one of two ways. The first way is the addict continually needs more and more of the behavior to get the same affect. This may manifest in desiring increased bizarre pornography or behaviors which escalates the addiction for the addict. Secondly, if they stay at the same behavior it does less and less for them which in many cases is the motivation to escalate or increase the behavior.
The withdrawal for the sex addict has two manifestations as well. Firstly, there is the low that comes after the drug. Some addicts experience guilt, shame, self loathing or just plain emptiness after acting out sexually. Secondly, the addict can experience this withdrawal accompanied with mood swings, irritability, even memory issues and this takes them back into the cycle of acting out to help clear the symptoms of withdrawal. In this case they are using the addiction to medicate the affects of the withdrawal from the addiction, talk about a vicious cycle the addict is in the midst of.
3. 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. For example, they may have started out with one prostitute a year but now they are doing this weekly or more frequently if they can afford it. Longer means exactly that. At first they thought well I’ll just look at one picture but now not only are they viewing porn regularly, it’s been years or even decades of doing what they thought would just be a picture or two.
4. Trying to stop
Most addicts have the “I’ve been trying to stop” feature in common. Either they have tried to stop and failed repeatedly or they tried to cut down or somewhat control the frequency and have also failed. Sadly they have often told a spouse, friend or family member they were going to stop and yes the addict really believed it would be the “last time” but they eventually go back to the sexually addictive behavior time and again.
All behaviors take time and this is especially true of a sexually addictive behavior. One of the symptoms of addiction in general involves the escalating time commitment. This increased time commitment could include more and more time to obtain the behavior whether this is porn, behavior with others, services, the time of the actual behavior increasing or the recovery time it takes to get back to normal after the sexual acting out experience. If you see your time increasing in any or all of these areas you may have a growing problem with sex addiction.
6. Less Involvement
As the addiction grows, not only does it take more time it becomes a higher priority in the life of the addict. The addict begins to turn down opportunities for social or recreational gatherings or even job time. They slowly find themselves prioritizing the addiction even over a primary relationship in their life. Pulling away from others and pushing towards the sex addiction is a clear sign of a growing sexual addiction.
7. Keeps going
Even after a sex addict has lost friends, jobs, hobbies or even a marriage they just keep going back to the addiction. I have known addicts who have been robbed and beaten and still they go back to the sexual addiction. Regardless of the consequence without help, the sex addict keeps going back to the addiction.
Review the seven characteristics of an addict and see if they connect for you regarding a sexual behavior. If you have three or more of these behaviors, I highly recommend you go to the esexaddict.com website and take the next step to help yourself so you can live a life of sobriety.
3. More and Longer
4. Trying to stop/cut down
6. Less involvement
7. Keeps going
The sex addiction intensives are three to five days long and are focused around helping couples and individuals overcome sexual behaviors and addiction.
For more information about sex addiction treatment, call us at 719-278-3708 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Douglas Weiss, Ph.D. is the founder of the Sexual Freedom Class and author of the Lust Free Living book. He is also the president of the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy. He is also the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs.
Douglas Weiss, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist, the author of several books on sex addiction and the Executive Director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs for more than 20 years. Please visit our website at www.sexaddict.com.