How can you tell if you are addicted to sex?

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What are the signs? How can you tell if you need help?  When does having sex become an addiction? These are some of the many questions people have about sex addiction.

What is an Addiction? 

Paraphrasing an article on WebMD says, ‘Sex addiction a lack of control over sexual thoughts, urges, and impulses. While sexual impulses are natural, sex addiction only refers to behaviors that are done in excess and significantly impact one’s life in a negative way.’ 

There is no doubt that compulsive sexual behavior does exist and can be problematic in people’s lives. Plenty of studies show how pornography and online sex addiction play a role in relationship problems and divorce rates. There’s also evidence showing compulsive sexual behavior experimentally induces symptoms similar to what drug addicts experience.

In a nutshell, sex addiction is out of control sexual activity despite the consequences. Sex addiction often includes pornography-related compulsive behavior and often finds a way into a person’s psyche no matter the costs to relationships, emotional health, self-esteem, and physical health.

Symptoms of sex addiction:

  • Compulsive sexual behavior is a priority over other life interests and daily activities. Unfortunately, sex addicts choose to engage in their behaviors even when they know it will negatively impact their lives. People with sex compulsively put their sexual desires over the quality of their relationships and even their health.


  • There is an inability to stop thinking about having sex or stop engaging in compulsive sexual behavior despite the potential risks.


  • You feel like you can’t cut back even with the risk of losing a relationship, emotional health, self-esteem, or financial well-being. Sometimes, we all make choices that aren’t good, but this is different from someone who can’t stop engaging in behavior even when they know it isn’t good for them.
  • The sex addict experiences an increasing tolerance to sexual activity and needs more of it to get the same effect. This behavior is one of the most common signs of an addiction. Like with drug addicts, sexual addiction can change the brain to make it more difficult to stop the addictive behavior.


  • Sex addicts experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back or quit their compulsive sexual behavior. Symptoms include anxiety, irritability, cravings for sex/porn, etc.


  • You continue to engage in compulsive sexual behavior even when you know the risks associated with it. For example, ignoring sexually transmitted diseases or engaging in sexual activity despite being aware you have a partner who is resistant to this behavior. Or it can mean not using protection when you know you’re at risk for an unwanted pregnancy.


  • Using compulsive sexual behavior as a way to self-medicate distressing feelings or difficult life experiences. Most people can recall a time when they used food, shopping, or other behaviors to cope with difficult emotions. However, if you find yourself doing things you wouldn’t usually do to achieve that “high,” then it might be an addiction.


  • Engaging in compulsive sexual behavior reduces the amount of time spent on essential life activities. For example, sex addicts may spend more time watching pornography or having sex with people they don’t know than their work or family responsibilities.
  • A sex addict continues to engage in compulsive sexual behavior even after having medical concerns as a result. For example, they are aware that risky sexual behavior has led to contracting an STD. Still, they continue to engage in it anyway.


  • Compulsive sexual behavior leads to interpersonal conflict with family members, friends, co-workers, or partners. If you find yourself engaging in behaviors that your loved ones don’t appreciate.


  • Sex addicts often continue their compulsive sexual behaviors despite knowing they are causing problems or distress to themselves and others around them.


What to do if you think you are addicted to sex?  About It?


The good news is that sex addiction is treatable. You can find help in individual and group therapy, as well as 12-Step programs like Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). There are also multiple books available on the topic, including “Out of the Shadows” by Patrick Carnes, a go-to resource for treating sex addiction.


There is hope and support for recovery.

It isn’t enough to just tell a sex addict to stop being so selfish and/or irresponsible – especially early in the process. Instead, approach the issue from the standpoint of understanding why this behavior took place and how it can be treated. For instance, if a sex addict was abused as a child, then specifically addressing those issues instead of simply focusing on their current behavior will get the individual much further in their recovery.


  • Sex addicts benefit from support from loved ones. It can be difficult for family members or partners of sex addicts to understand the situation and what they should do about it, but education can go a long way toward helping them feel secure and supported while the addict works.


  • Sex addiction treatment should not be aimed at shaming or humiliating addicts. Many professionals are aware of the shame that’s often associated with sex addiction, so they take great care to avoid making the patient feel this way during their sessions.


  • It is essential for sex addicts to develop healthy coping skills in order to deal with life stressors and difficult emotions. It’s also important to develop a better understanding of how sex addiction developed as a coping skill.


  • Sex addicts should continue with professional therapy. In fact, some professionals recommend following up on sex addiction treatment for several years as a form of relapse prevention. Get help from those who understand the issue and know what they’re doing.


Remember, if you find yourself asking whether or not you have a problem with sex, then it’s usually safe to assume you do. It can be challenging to deal with sex addiction alone. Still, there are many resources available that can help support you throughout the process. 


If this comes up for you, please consider checking out some of our other resources. 


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