References Sex Addicts Anonymous by International Service Organization of SAA, Inc.Sex is such a little discussed topic that it can be difficult to know what is “normal,” and what is not. You may think you are the only person struggling with what may actually be a fairly common occurrence, or you may not realize that you’re behavior is seriously unhealthy. This makes self-diagnosis of sex addiction particularly tricky. Below are some common symptoms of unhealthy or addictive sexual behaviors. Disclaimer: This does not serve as an official diagnosis of a psychological condition. If you are struggling with compulsive or destructive sexual behavior, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor for an official consultation.
1) Ritualizing Sexual Behavior
Yes, sexual activity is often initiated by small romantic or erotic acts like a candlelit dinner, sensual touching, steamy messages, etc. However, these behaviors are not necessarily rituals, as you do not perform them the same way every time. With compulsive sexual behavior, the preparation to act out sexually has a greater significance, and a more rote regimen than typical romance or foreplay.
2) Compulsive Fantasies or Actions
A thought or action qualifies as compulsive when you cannot resist the urge to think or act upon it. One of the major hallmarks of sex addiction is that a person continues to engage in certain sexual behaviors, even though they recognize them as unhealthy. You may fantasize about violent or grotesque sexual acts, and recognize them as such, but continue because of the sexual gratification they offer.
You can’t help yourself from acting out in ways that hurt yourself or others. This damage may come in the form of criminal charges, or sexually transmitted diseases. You are aware of the consequences of your actions, either to others or yourself, yet you cannot keep yourself from doing them.
3) Socially Intolerable Forms of Acting Out
Sexual addiction is not engaging in less mainstream or “alternative” sexual behavior. There is a difference between consensual, safe sex between adults that is considered unusual by mainstream society, and destructive, compulsive sexual behavior that is not necessarily fulfilling even for the initiating individual. One way of determining whether your behavior falls under the umbrella of sexual addiction is to see whether your increasingly unconventional behavior is the result of a slippery moral slope. You may have found yourself justifying a certain behavior by bargaining with yo
urself that it’s OK to engage in it, because you would never engage in a certain other, more heinous, act.
“I’ll do this, but I would never do that.” Another sign is that your behavior is harmful to yourself, or ignores the rights or wishes of others.
4) Prioritizing Sex and Romantic Obsession Over More Legitimate Priorities
This may seem like a given, but if you find yourself making excuses for why your sexual behavior is more important that your family & friends, job, and personal health, you need to seek help from a professional Christian counselor. One way to measure this is to examine how you ranked your top priorities in previous years, and what that looked like in your daily life. How do those years compare to your life recently?
Romance and sexuality are important parts of a healthy, intimate relationship, but that does not justify making the other priorities in your life take a long-term back seat.
5) Your Sexual Behavior has Begun Affecting your Quality of Life
While a major component of addiction is physiological dependence, another significant draw is the psychological boost. You begin pursuing the “high” because it makes you feel better. But after a while you have to keep chasing it because it feels so awful not to. Sexual addiction can affect your quality of life in a variety of ways– negative health consequences such as diseases, damage to personal relationships, or the compulsive behavior so supersedes other responsibilities you lose your job.
Again, this is another opportunity to use comparisons to see how sexual behavior is affecting your life. How does your quality of life, with regard to personal health, relationships, and job performance, compare to the past few years? Is it better or worse?
Christian Counseling for Sex Addiction
If you find yourself wondering, “Am I a sex addict?” Or, if anything in this article hit a little too close to home, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They will help you examine your sexual behavior, and determine whether it is affecting your life in an unhealthy way. A professional Christian counselor will use biblical principles and therapeutic techniques to help you understand why you engage in certain sexual behaviors, and how to develop a healthier approach to sex.
“Alone in Line,” courtesy of Montecruz Foto, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Man with Sunglasses,” courtesy of Anna Langova, Public Domain License, courtesy of All-Free-Download.com