Are You Addicted to Sex?

Sex addiction is often something we associate with the realm of celebrity, serial cheats, and the promiscuous but is it that clear cut? Do you need to be having sex every day to be an addict? Or is it more about your relationship with sex? Well, as it goes, sexual addiction is defined more by you personally.

Plenty of people can have multiple sexual partners and not be addicts. You could watch porn every day and not be an addict. You could have sex 5 times per day and not be an addict. The difference between healthy sexual behaviours and sexually compulsive behaviour is, more simply, the level of control you feel and your level of distress associated with the activity. So the activity itself isn't what defines sex addiction- it's how the action can negatively impact the person's quality of life, mental state, or the people around them and their relationships with those people.

So how can you tell if you have a problem if you're not having excessive amounts of sex with hundreds of people? It is suggested that you consider the following:

  • Do you feel that you are unable to control the behaviour?

  • Have you tried to quit or reduce a sexual behaviour and failed?

  • Are there severe consequences to the behaviour that you ignore?

  • Do you frequently pursue destructive or high risk sexual activities knowing the harm it could cause?

  • Do you find yourself needing to take more risk or engage in activities more often to achieve the same high?

  • Are sexual activities followed by feelings of shame or depression?

  • Do intense mood swings motivate the activity? Do the activities cause mood swings?

  • Are you neglecting you social life, health, work, or studies for the sake of sexual activity?

  • Are you dedicating increasing time to the sexual activities be it fantasising, planning, executing, or recovering?

  • Do you consider your sexual activity to be getting in the way of you succeeding generally or especially in relationships?

  • Do you lie about your sexual activity to others?

  • Do you find yourself thinking about little else?

If multiple of these points apply to you there could be an issue, although it's not as clean cut as "well, I think about sex a lot so I must be an addict". The real components to addiction are distress, disruption, compulsion, and reliance and so it's very much about self assessment and understanding in yourself what is a healthy relationship with sex and what is a lack of control.

It is also worth noting that it doesn't necessarily have to be sex itself that you are addicted to- people are also commonly addicted to masturbation, pornography, specific fetishes, prostitution, voyeurism, phone sex/sexting, and illegal sexual activity. This being said sexual addiction is not to be confused with disorders such as Pedophilia or bestiality which cannot be treated in the same way.

So what do you do if you're concerned? There are online tests you can take, I'd recommend the one by The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity which can be found here. Their website also offers advice on how to get help and options for therapy. The UK also has various sex addicts anonymous (SAA) meetings and it is worth searching in your local area for support groups. As the treatment is still questioned widely, most of the treatment plans relate to therapy and support groups as opposed to medications although, if one of your triggers is stress, anxiety, or depression this may be able to be treated separately to alleviate symptoms.

What is most important to remember is that sexual addiction, while still not widely recognised or as extensively researched as other addictions, is something you can find support for and isn't something to be ashamed of. Regardless of your level of discomfort with your current sexual activity, there is always the potential to create a healthier relationship with sex and find sexual fulfilment without feelings of guilt or shame.

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