The Signs of Sex Addiction

Sexual addiction as a condition is still met with disbelief or laughter.

The form of addiction defined within sexual terms is not universally understood or recognized, even within the medical profession.

Sex addiction is relatively new to the general populace and is conflated with adultery or inability to commit to relationships. Those who address their addiction find themselves accused of moral impropriety or of making excuses after having been caught cheating on their partner. If not in a relationship, they may find themselves judged negatively and rejected by their friends and family. The assumption is that as sex is an enjoyable activity and that no harm can be suffered as a result of an addiction to sex.

Learn what the signs of sex addiction are.

There is a prurient obsession with lascivious detail when the topic of sex addiction arises in the media which hinders discussion and inhibits those suffering from seeking help. One must overcome the judgment and disbelief in seeking help.

Sex addiction is very different to cheating or to the choice not to be in a relationship and to have many sexual partners. Sex addiction is not about choice, it is about compulsion and dependency. It is damaging to the addict and to the relationships they form. Sex addiction is not a choice, it is a compulsive behavior. It may also be exhibited through illegal activity imposed on others.

What to Watch out for

Compulsive sexual behavior is acted out in a number of different ways. Addicts may display more than one form of compulsion, including:

  • Voyeurism – watching the sexual activity of others, either with consent or surreptitiously.
  • Exhibitionism – the need to engage in sexual activity whilst being watched or with the possibility of being caught by unsuspecting viewers.
  • Compulsive seduction – often referred to as “the chase,” this is an obsession with the thrill of constant new sexual partnerships.
  • Trading sexual acts – this can be paying for or being paid for sex with money or other form of barter.
  • Non-consenting sexual acts – for example, touching strangers in public places or flashing one’s genitalia. This can also be exploitative and express itself in power plays such as grooming. The vulnerability of the partner is important in this expression of addictive behavior.
  • Anonymous sex – an inability to form emotional bonds with sexual partners.
  • Physical pain – when the receiving of pain is the only way in which sexual arousal can be achieved.
  • Obsessive masturbation – often more than once a day and to the point where pain is caused.

Engaging in the types of behavior listed does not equate to sex addiction. Diagnosis is only made if other specified criteria are met, including but not limited to:

  • A history of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse in childhood or adult relationships.
  • A compulsion to exclusively engage in risky sexual activity and to persistently do so.
  • A history of addiction and/or dysfunctional relationships in one’s family.
  • An inability to achieve sexual pleasure unless through risky activity.
  • A diagnosis of depression specifically related to acting out with or an aversion to sex.
  • Self-loathing and deception with regard to sexual activities
  • Relates to sexual behaviors using prescriptive terms, for example reporting that sexual activity is helpful to providing pain relief or to enables one to deal with tension in one’s life.

A sex-addicted person is unable to have a healthy sex life and is left with negative and damaging mental health issues when engaging in sexual activities.

Damage Caused

Addictions form patterns of behavior common to all forms of addictive behavior. The addiction may be enacted through abusive, illegal, non-consenting activities. The addiction damages the addict but can also cause intense pain and damage to innocent victims. To prevent further pain, the addiction must be addressed. It is the responsibility of the addict to seek help.

As with all addictions, sex addiction destroys personal relationships as the addiction comes to define the addict’s life and control behavior and choices. Sex becomes the principle motivating force in the addict’s life. Sex is the tool by which emotions are channeled and controlled.

Overcoming Sex Addiction

It is estimated that 3 percent to 6 percent of Americans live with a form of sexually compulsive behavior. Sex addiction is a real problem, but help is available. Rehabilitation and ongoing support from myriad facilities and groups is available. As research continues and the addiction to sex becomes more openly recognized, so the treatment options expand. Sex addiction is a pathological behavior and can be successfully treated in the same way as all other addictive conditions.


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