The phrase “sex addiction” has emerged in popular society in recent years, due to several high-profile celebrity cases, including Harvey Weinstein, Tiger Woods, and Kevin Spacey. Though it is a newer term in popular culture, the concept of compulsive sexual behavior as an addiction has been around since the early 1970s.
What is Sex Addiction?
Sex Addiction is not yet recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), though it is anticipated that it will be included in the next edition and it is considered one of a handful of “process” or “behavioral” addictions. Process addiction is a medical term that refers to addictions that are not related to substances, but rather to a behavior such as sex, gambling, and gaming.
The individual is not addicted to a substance but the behavior or the feeling brought about by the relevant action.
In sex addiction, the sexual behavior is no longer associated with pleasure or enjoyment in the relationship or with the development of intimacy. The sexual acting out becomes intertwined with the management of feelings—escaping painful dynamics in one’s life, relieving anxiety, avoiding primary relationships, punishing one’s partner, and an out-of-control arousal system that is never satiated or satisfied.
Having a sex addiction does not mean you are addicted to sex, but rather you have a compulsive relationship to sexual behavior and it is interfering with your life.
Sex Addiction Behavior
The behaviors exhibited in sexual addiction can be wide and varied, ranging from chronic infidelity, compulsive masturbation, or pornography use to voyeurism or constant demand for sexual behaviors within the primary relationship. Though the specific behaviors may vary, there are many common traits amongst those struggling with sex addiction, including, but not limited to:
- chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies.
- compulsive relations with multiple partners, including strangers.
- lying to cover behaviors.
- preoccupation with having sex, even when it interferes with daily life, productivity, work performance, and so on.
- inability to stop or control the behaviors.
- continued acting out despite negative consequences, personally or professionally.
Dealing with Sex Addiction
If you or your partner identify with one or more of these symptoms, you may be dealing with an addiction. If an addiction is present, it is important to understand that the relationship to the addiction is the primary relationship in that person’s world. One of the hallmarks of addiction is there is always an escalation of behavior—increased time, cost, and risk—that, if untreated, will get worse.
Seek a clinician who has specific training in addiction, ideally a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) to evaluate and assess your behaviors and history of acting out to determine if there is an addiction and to help identify a course of treatment.
It is important to recognize that not everyone who lies about their sexual behavior is an addict, nor is everyone who cheats a sex addict. But, if you do have a sex addiction, you will need specialized help and support in overcoming these damaging behaviors and addressing the toll it has taken on you and your relationships. We at the Marriage Recovery Center would love to help you do that!
For more information, please contact us at (206) 219-0145.