Knowing you are a sex addict doesn’t mean you are bad or perverted or hopeless. It means that you may have a disease, an obsession from which you may be healed. –
Dr. Patrick Carne
There have been literally thousands of articles and books written on the topic of sexual addiction. So why write another one? The vast majority of the clients I see in my office are dealing with the aftermath of the damage caused by unwanted, sexually compulsive behavior. One of the most challenging aspects of coming to terms with this kind of behavior is being confronted with the possibility that there may be an addiction at work. Nobody wants to embrace the notion that they are a “sex addict.” However, if that diagnosis fits, then we are able to accurately identify the best way to freedom and health. Inevitably, nearly all of my clients ask me the same question: “How do I know if I’m an addict?”
What follows is the first in a two-part series in which I discuss (1) some of the symptoms and characteristics of sexual addiction, and (2) what the process of successfully finding freedom from compulsive sexual behaviors looks like.
10 Symptoms of Sexual Addiction
Sexual addiction is very similar to other addictions in terms of its signs and symptoms and how they manifest themselves in a person’s life. If you can identify with at least two or three of the items listed below, it would probably be a very good idea to speak to a professional counselor about how these issues impact your daily life and your relationships. If you struggle with a legitimate sexual addiction, you are likely to experience some of the following:
1. Loss of Control
A very clear indication of sexual addiction is that the addict is engaging in sexual behavior more than he wants to. Usually addicts will find themselves having thoughts such as, “I don’t even want to be doing this right now.” The loss of control can extend into other areas of life that are neglected because of the time spent thinking about and acting out addictive sexual behavior.
2. Compulsive Behavior
There is usually a pattern of out-of-control behavior that has occurred over time. The addict usually feels as if the desire to participate in the behavior is uncontrollable and irresistible. They feel compelled to act.
3. Repeated (Unsuccessful) Efforts to Stop
Addicts repeatedly attempt to stop the addictive behavior but they are unsuccessful in doing so. The behavior is beyond the reach of their will power.
4. Loss of Time
There is a significant amount of time lost because of the addict doing, planning, and/or recovering from the addictive behavior.
Addicts usually spend some time obsessing about, planning, or fantasizing about the behavior before acting out the behavior.
6. Inability to Fulfill Obligations
In light of the disproportionate amount of time invested in the addiction, and because the loss of control is pervasive across many areas of the addict’s life, a toll is often taken upon work, school, health finances, family, and friends.
7. Continuation of the Behavior Despite Negative Consequences
In spite of the cost experienced across multiple domains of life, the addict continues in his self-destructive behavior.
8. Escalation of Addictive Behavior
The addict needs the behavior to become more extreme, more frequent, more novel, or more risky in order to experience the same level of satisfaction.
The addict will lose, limit, or sacrifice valued aspects of their life, such as hobbies, family, relationships, employment, sleep, health, and finances in order to act out the addictive behavior.
Stopping the behavior creates distress for the addict. They will likely experience increased anxiety, restlessness, agitation, irritability, or physical discomfort.
The easiest way to get a rough idea of whether you have a sexual addiction is to take a quick assessment such as the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST)
Christian Counseling for Sexual Addiction
In my next article, I will discuss how you can find freedom from sexual addiction. If this article has stirred something in you and you have questions about what to do next, it is very important for you to know that you are not alone. You may be one of the rare individuals who actually has the courage to be honest about it and to look for help. There is hope for you and change is possible.
Christian counseling is an excellent place to start the process of getting over an addiction to pornography. With the help of a good Christian counselor, you (and your spouse) can begin to find the solutions you are seeking.
“Old Front Seat,” by Pawel Kadysz, Unsplash.com, “Man in the Woods,” by Ali Inay, Unsplash.com