Am I A Sex Addict? 7 Signs Of Sex Addiction
Let’s be clear, sex is not bad. It’s a gift of God to strengthen the marital bond and produce children. But like any gift of God, when it’s misused it can end up enslaving instead of blessing. The Latin word “addictus” meant a person that had become enslaved by a ruling of the Roman court. That is the root of our word “addiction,” someone who has become enslaved to a substance or behavior.
Addiction, by definition, is a compulsive obsession with escalating hypersexual activity, which causes problems that the person disregards. There are many factors that can cause addiction, the most prominent being brain chemistry where the person comes to be dependent upon the chemical “reward” the brain secretes in response to sexual stimuli.
How do you know if you have crossed over from a healthy enjoyment of sex to a sex addiction? There are some symptoms that are universal, crossing the lines of age, race, gender, and culture. Here are 7 signs of sex addiction:
Signs of Sex Addiction #1: Sex obsession
Studies show that men have thoughts of sex about 19 times a day and women about 10 times a day. That’s normal. Sex addicts spend hours every day thinking about sex, fantasizing about it, planning it, pursuing it, and engaging in it. Daily decisions such as what to wear, what car to drive, what gym to join, what to watch on TV, etc. all center around sex in some way. Thoughts of sex and sex fantasies can interfere with other responsibilities like work, school, home life, and relationships.
Sex addicts spend inordinate amounts of thought and time preparing for and engaging in sexual acting out such as watching porn for hours, masturbating excessively, seeking sex, having sex, or covering up sexual activity. This sexual fixation can cause them to become isolated and unable to engage in other activities, relationships, and responsibilities.
Signs of Sex Addiction #2: Sex compulsion
The second sign of sex addiction is sex compulsion. Sex addicts are compelled to act out sexually so much so that they can’t stop even when they really want to. They may realize that their sexual thoughts and behavior are ruining their lives so that they promise not to do it anymore, and they may control it for a few days or even weeks, but they always relapse back to their previous sexual pattern. This is because their dependence on the chemical the brain releases as a “reward” for their sexual behavior. It is as powerful and addicting as any drug. Over time, the sexual urges become stronger, never weaker.
Signs of Sex Addiction #3: Disregard for consequences
As with any addiction, there are negative consequences of prioritizing and seeking sex over all else. There are financial consequences from spending inordinate amounts of money on subscriptions to porn websites, prostitutes, sexual devices, etc. There is job loss when the sex addict can’t focus on work and quality of work suffers. The same goes for school if the sex addict is a student whose online porn seeking interferes with studying and class attendance. There is loss of relationships when the addict is dissatisfied with partners who cannot compare with sex workers, porn actors, and sexual fantasies. There is also damage to the sex addict’s body from extreme masturbation, STD’s, HIV/AIDS, etc. Add to all this the real possibility of arrest and a record as a sex offender that never goes away.
But in spite of the very real consequences, the sex addict’s dependence on the “high” the brain gives in return for the sexual acting out is so great that he or she is willing to endure and disregard the pain for the pleasure. It doesn’t make sense, even to the addict; but such is the nature of addiction.
Signs of Sex Addiction #4: Chronic masturbation
Sex addicts masturbate excessively. They do it at inappropriate times and places. They do it even when it is painful. This often interferes with normal intimacy because the fantasies that addicts use for self-arousal keep them from coming close to and enjoying the real person before them.
Signs of Sex Addiction #5: Regret and shame
People who have a sex addiction often say that they feel like they are “Jekyll and Hyde.” Or they will talk about “good me” and “bad me.” What they mean is that, when they are not in their addiction, they are more the person they want to be, but when the addiction takes over, they become the person they don’t want to be. When climax is reached and the brain has released the chemical “reward,” a strange thing happens: Mr. Hyde goes to sleep and Dr. Jekyll wakes up; “bad me” goes away, and “good me” is back. “Good me” immediately feels shame and guilt over what “bad me” did. If the sex addict is a Christian, he or she will pray and ask forgiveness, and lives in an endless cycle of sin-confess, sin-confess.
It is not surprising that sex addicts often have clinical depression, social anxiety, and/or suicidal thoughts. The National Institutes of Health published a study that found that, among sexually compulsive men, 28% showed signs of depression, compared to 12% of the general population.
Signs of Sex Addiction #6: Escalation
What happens in any chemical dependency is that the user’s body develops a tolerance so that more and stronger doses are required to achieve the high. This is true with the sex addict. In order to get the same euphoric feeling, the addict must increase the amount of time engaging in the behavior and also increase the intensity, which often means increasing the riskiness. Because of this, sex addicts will violate their personal values, spiritual commitments, and even the law in order to get the anticipated payoff. They wind up doing things that they never thought they would like having multiple partners, engaging in extreme sex acts, or hooking up with strangers in seedy places.
Signs of Sex Addiction #7: Emotional disconnection
Sex addiction in men usually manifests in objectification. In women, it usually manifests in domination. In both cases, the person has disconnected emotionally. The focus has become sex, not love, not closeness, not sharing, not intimacy…just the sex itself, sex for the sake of sex. Sex becomes a form of escape from reality and/or a way to avoid true intimacy. A false intimacy from prostitutes, strangers, and porn models or actors is substituted for true intimacy. This always causes problems in the sex addict’s real-life relationship as the addict demands sex and the partner withdraws from sex.
If these 7 signs of sex addiction describe you, there is help and there is hope. I urge you to read more about sex addiction treatment and reach out to me for a free consultation. In a safe, non-judgmental counseling space, I can help you address the root issues driving your sex addiction so that you can break free from its grip.
Bob Bahlmann is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Christian Counseling Associates in our Plano office. He holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health and Counseling and also a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Moody Theological Seminary. He is also a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.