There is something so fundamental about sex that it can be difficult for people to view it as potentially addictive. However, much like an eating disorder, often the most difficult addictions are those that are connected to an otherwise healthy activity.
Sex was created to be pleasurable and beneficial, but was placed within boundaries. When sex is moved out of those boundaries, it becomes a disorder. The answer is not always to simply abstain from sex. For many, the answer is to discover where and how their sexual behaviors breach boundaries, to intentionally unhook sex from the attempt to fill distorted emotional needs, and to relearn healthy sexual behaviors.
But first, a person needs to recognize that they have a sexual addiction. Here are some common signs of sexual addiction.
- Preoccupation. We are sexual beings, yes. But, we’re not meant to be thinking about sex all the time. Even men, who are wired to think about sex a great deal, are not untamed animals—they are capable of control and context. Constant thoughts, preoccupation, or obsession with sex are signs that a person has a sexual addiction.
- Fantasizing. Some people will also constantly escape to a state of sexual fantasy—reliving actual sexual experiences or fantasizing about a potential sexual experience. If fantasies become more fulfilling than the sexual act itself, or a person lives in a constant state of fantasy, they may be struggling with a sexual addiction.
- Pornography. Engaging in pornography is a sexual act, whether or not it results in a physical release. Pornography is part of a disordered experience because it is grounded in sexual narcissism.
- Sexualization. When sex becomes the paramount experience in a person’s life, then they begin or view all of their other experiences through a sexualized filter. People they come into contact with are immediately considered as possible sexual partners or potential objects of sexual fantasy. Nonsexual situations are colored with sexual hues either overtly, through sexual innuendo, joking, or comments. Or covertly, through internal dialogue, thoughts or fantasies.
- Coping Mechanism. When sex becomes the primary means by which a person deals with uncomfortable or painful feelings such as anger, frustration, loneliness, boredom, invalidation, or lack of self-worth, their ability to deal with those feelings becomes atrophied.
- Withdrawal from Activities and Relationships. As time and energy diminish because of the drain of a sexual addiction, a person may find themselves reordering their priorities, saying no to so many good and valuable things in order to keep telling sex yes whenever and however possible.
- Inability to cut down or stop. Often, counseling is not Plan A for people who struggle with a sexual addiction. Many people first try to get a handle on their sexual addiction themselves, to no avail. One of the telltale signs of sexual addiction is when a person tells themselves on a regular basis that they need to cut down or stop what they’re doing, yet fail over and over again.
There is hope for people struggling with a sexual addiction; recovery is possible. If you believe you might be struggling with sexual addiction, begin by taking this confidential survey. If you believe someone you know is struggling from a sexual addiction, professional intervention and counseling is crucial. Our team of addiction professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focuses on whole-person recovery, and is trained to address the multi-dimensional aspects of healing. Call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak confidentially with an addiction specialist today.