Sex Addiction: How Do You Know? Find Out Here

The Tiger Woods situation created a media frenzy and hyped up interest in the topic of “sex addiction”.  Sex addiction does exist.  Do not doubt it. I have counseled many sex addicts over the course of my practice.

Sex addiction has a number of closely related definitions.  The National Council on Sexual Addiction’s definition is “persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others”. states  “that it is used to describe the behavior of a person who has an unusually intense sex drive and an obsession with sex. Sex and the thought of sex tend to dominate the sex addict’s thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships. … It is associated with risk taking.” It leads to destruction of relationships, families, careers, etc…

Behaviors associated with sexual addiction include:

  1. Compulsive and excessive masturbation
  2. Multiple affairs
  3. Multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands
  4. Consistent use of pornography
  5. Unsafe sex
  6. Phone or computer sex (cybersex)
  7. Prostitution or use of prostitutes
  8. Exhibitionism
  9. Obsessive dating through personal ads (watching others) and/or stalking
  10. Sexual harassment
  11. Molestation

Sexual addiction is like any other addiction.  It is a form of self medication giving the addict a short term burst of pleasure, adrenalin rush, as do other addictions, i.e. excessive use or behaviors related to alcohol, drugs, smoking, eating, shopping, gambling.  That activity which gives intense pleasure, is out of balance, and harms one’s life or that of others is considered an addiction.

Most all addictions emanate from attempts to block or ameliorate painful feelings and thoughts associated with earlier hurtful, possibly traumatic, experiences in one’s life.  Dysfunctional family, abuse, neglect, trauma all are creators of such pain and lead one to find inappropriate behaviors to stifle the pain.  Oftentimes these memories are buried in the unconscious – but they still are present and impact an individual through life to some degree. Addictive behavior creates an adrenalin rush masking and soothing the pain. A state of being is created that is stimulating and numbing. These “highs , however, become less and less over time and it then takes more and more of addictive behaviors to get that high state of being.

Dr. Patrick Carnes is probably the leading sex addiction expert in the United States. Many years ago I heard him speak at a Medical Conference in Atlanta.  Any skepticism I may have had in regard to the existence and impactfulness of sex addiction was erased by his compelling and well documented presentation. It is at his Center that Tiger Woods allegedly went for   treatment.  Dr. Carnes’ book, IN THE SHADOWS OF THE NET, addresses compulsive sexual addiction on the internet.  If you have further interest in the topic of sex addiction I encourage you to google him.  His website has much valuable information as well as online tests to help assess one’s sexual addiction proclivity. I attended a Conference a year ago entitled: “Sex  Addiction, Cybersex, and Family Treatment Implications”. The presenter was Dr. Stefanie Carnes, Patrick’s daughter. Her latest book is MENDING A SHATTERED HEART: A GUIDE FOR PARTNERS OF SEX ADDICTS. I recommend it.  Her presentation was based on solid research.

Treatment for sex addiction is available and can be effective if the sex addict overcomes the usual defense of denial, owns the problem, and commits to a process of recovery. Usually some kind of crisis has to occur to open the eyes of the addict that a serious problem exists. Significant others of the sex addict can be most impactful in helping the addict recognize the problem and get on the path of recovery and wholeness.  Certain therapists are qualified to be of assistance, as well as treatment recovery centers that exist around this country.  Many of the therapeutic models include the Twelve Step program.

Various support groups are available in the State of Georgia and around the country.  SAA (Sex Addiction Anonymous), SCA (Sexual Compulsives Anonymous), SRA (Sexual Recovery Anonymous) would be a few of the more well known and effective groups.

Sexual activity, like any other activity, is one that can be healthy and additive to the person and his or her significant other.  Sex is a core part of a person’s nature and is meant to be expressed for personal and couple pleasure. There are moral, physical, and psychological factors that are the parameters of expression.  Balance is important here.  There are those prudish people who are afraid of and critical of sexual expression. At the other extreme are the sexual libertines who cross healthy boundaries in making sexual expression cheap and degraded.

There is so much more that could be written about sexual addiction and I encourage you to learn more about it particularly if you, or someone special to you, may have this addiction. Sex, and especially sexual addiction, is not easily spoken of in polite society.  Its importance and interest, however, invite all to learn more and become comfortable, loving, and pleasured by its appropriate expression.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

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