Sex addiction symptoms: What defines a sex addict?
Have you ever paid for sex?
Have you been outside of your values sexually?
Have you hidden your use of pornography from your partner?
Does this mean you’re a sex addict?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Paying for sex can signal a sex addiction, but so can sex with your spouse when it’s solely and selfishly about you and your orgasm. Paying for sex alone isn’t enough to know.
Sex outside of personal values can signal a sex addiction, but what if your values include hiding porn or having sex with prostitutes? Being outside your sexual values isn’t enough to know.
Keeping secrets can signal a sex addiction, but when the lies are “only” occasional, insensitive, or immature, do they still signal a sex addiction? Dishonesty alone isn’t enough to know.
As clinicians, we define “sex addiction” using a set of well-defined symptoms. We then use both formal and informal means to assess for these symptoms.
Make your own informal assessment.
Carefully read the following ten symptoms and assess yourself. Is there a fit?
It takes courage to face a reality that no one wants to be true, but if sex addiction is your reality, then make a decision for recovery now and save yourself and those you love from more years of struggle …
Because, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, odds are good … it’s a duck!”
The 10 symptoms of sex addiction:
Loss of control – Maybe you looked at porn at work, or took flirting at the office too far. Maybe you actually did the thing you told yourself you would never do. Have you really been in control of your decisions around sex? If they really knew, would others you respect call your behavior out of control? Be honest. What would they say?
Compulsivity – One time drunk and inappropriate at the company party is “out of control.” Drunk and inappropriate at every company party is a pattern we call compulsive. Do you have a pattern of “out of control” sexual behaviors that are outside your values? Note: You wouldn’t keep it a secret if it weren’t outside your values, right?
Efforts to stop that fail – When you tell yourself you can never do that thing again and you do it anyway; you’ve made an effort to stop that’s failed. Have you tried to stop or control your behavior? What happened?
Loss of time – “It’s no big deal, just a little porn.” Really? For three hours! Ever stay up way too late surfing porn or staring at a web cam? Ever get stuck on whether he or she called, emailed, or texted, or just in scanning the room looking for opportunity? Sex addicts can spend plenty of time acting out or in sexual fantasy.
Preoccupation – Sex addicts withdraw into more than just sexual fantasy; they escape the moment through things like work, the Internet, smoking pot or drinking, gambling, even exercise. Feelings, memories, relationships, or anything that’s real is placed on eternal hold. Preoccupation (with sex or otherwise) promises escape, but for sex addicts, it’s more like a prison.
Inability to fulfill obligations – For some sex addicts, nearly everything outside of their addiction can seem like an obligation. It all feels heavy and depleting. They lose track of time, they drift off and forget, and they fail to keep their word.
Escalation – Without help, it always gets worse. Think about the intensity of behaviors and the risks you took just a few years ago and then think about what’s true now. See a rising pattern? You will, because it takes more intensity over time just to feel something. More intensity. More novelty. More often.
Withdrawal – Yes, it’s true. Sex addicts experience withdrawal. Irritability, anxiety, mood shifts, and insomnia are common. So are physical symptoms like body aches, sweats and chills, and fatigue. You won’t like it, but you won’t die either.
Continuing despite consequences – She’ll leave if it happens again, but it does, so you hide it. You could be fired if you surf porn at work, but you do and you swallow the fear of discovery. You risk disease and infecting your partner, but that doesn’t stop you. Sex addicts act out despite knowing very bad things can and do happen.
Losses – Over time, sex addicts lose it all. Count your blessings if you haven’t … yet. Losing your marriage, partner, family, job, money, self-respect, or even your freedom is not required to get sexually sober. The sad truth is sex addicts suffer great losses – and so do those whose lives they touch.
How did you do?
When these symptoms of sex addiction add up, regardless of what we call it, you have a very real problem. It’s a problem that only grows worse with time.
No one ever raised their hand and said “sign me up for a sex addiction!” That’s just not how it goes. Whether you were sexually victimized, had far too early sexual experiences, or simply discovered a relative’s porn collection, what happened shouldn’t have happened. If it did, it wasn’t your fault as a child and it certainly didn’t model healthy sexuality.
You are not responsible for the things that were true in your childhood but as an adult, you are responsible for that legacy and your behavior.
Be honest with yourself about these ten sex addiction symptoms and if you need a more formal assessment, then take the Sex Addiction Screening Test.
Make a decision to do “whatever it takes.” to get and stay sexually sober and learn about the causes of sex addiction here. You can connect the dots between what happened and get clear about how it contributed to your problem today.
Walk this walk and discover how life can be when you live with honesty, integrity, and healthy sexuality.