What is Sexual Addiction?

Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC

Wondering if you are or your spouse is a sex addict?

This straight forward article will break down what makes a sex addict an “addict”. You can use the information as a self test or to evaluate your spouse.

In This Article

  1. What Is Sexual Addiction?
  2. Self Assessment

About the Author

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 10,000 hours of clinical experience. Shaun specializes in marriage counseling, affair recovery, sex and porn addiction treatment. You can schedule an appointment with Shaun for online counseling or in-person at our Springfield, Missouri counseling center.

What is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction can best be understood in two parts.  These are “sex” and “addiction.”  The first of these, sex, includes the cognitive, emotional, relational, and physical expression of sexuality.  It is not limited to the act of sexual intercourse, but includes all variations of sexual expression, thoughts, emotional components, and relationship dynamics.

The second component is addiction.  Addiction pathology is similar, in many ways, regardless of the object of the addiction.  In this case, sex is the object.  Addiction is a form of pathological avoidance of reality.  It is an issue of escape.  Perhaps you have spoken to someone who is addicted and experienced the frustration attempting to get them to see and acknowledge reality.  It’s like the are living in another world.  Addiction, often times, originates as a means of escaping the loneliness, hurt, sadness and fear.    Addicts are committed to their avoidance.  They will expend considerable effort to maintain this system, despite its destructive impact on both them and others.

The sexually addicted individual utilizes sex as a means of destructive escape.  Sex is no longer a part of a healthy, marital relationship, as God designed it to be.  Instead, the addict becomes obsessively focused on increasing the arousal and intensity of sexual behaviors, at the expense of intimacy.  Sex addicts compulsively seek out and obtain sexual gratification in harmful ways.  They may utilize pornography, prostitution, anonymous encounters, swinging groups, voyeurism, and compulsive masturbation, to name a few.

Self Assessment

  1. Do you keep secrets about your sexual behavior or romantic fantasies from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
  2. Have your desires driven you to have sex in places or with people you would not normally choose?
  3. Do you need greater variety, increased frequency, or more extreme sexual activities to achieve the same level of excitement or relief?
  4. Does your use of pornography occupy large amounts of time and/or jeopardize your significant relationships or employment?
  5. Do your relationships become distorted with sexual preoccupation? Does each new relationship have the same destructive pattern which prompted you to leave the last one?
  6. Do you frequently want to get away from a partner after having sex? Do you feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
  7. Have your sexual practices caused you legal problems? Could your sexual practices cause you legal problems?
  8. Does your pursuit of sex or sexual fantasy conflict with your moral standards or interfere with your personal spiritual journey?
  9. Do your sexual activities involve coercion, violence, or the threat of disease?
  10. Has your sexual behavior or pursuit of sexual relationships ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?
  11. Does your preoccupation with sexual fantasies cause problems in any area of your life – even when you do not act out your fantasies?
  12. Do you compulsively avoid sexual activity due to fear of sex or intimacy? Does your sexual avoidance consume you mentally?

If you answered “Yes” to more than one of these questions, we encourage you to seek help.

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References

  1. Griffiths, M. (2001). Sex on the Internet: Observations and implications for Internet sex addiction. Journal of sex research38(4), 333-342. [1]
  2. Young, K. S. (2008). Internet sex addiction: Risk factors, stages of development, and treatment. American Behavioral Scientist52(1), 21-37. [2]
  3. Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Internet sex addiction: A review of empirical research. Addiction Research & Theory20(2), 111-124. [3]
  4. Sexual Addiction – Wikipedia [4]
  5. Bethesda Workshops – Christian Intensive Treatment for Sex Addiction [5]
  6. SAA – Self Assessment [6]

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