Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. It can be best understood by comparing it to other types of addictions. Individuals addicted to alcohol or other drugs, for example, develop a relationship with their "chemical of choice" - a relationship that takes precedence over any and all aspects of their lives. This pathological relationship with mood altering sexually addictive experiences leaves many sex addicts feeling powerless and alone. Some symptoms may include:
Frequently engaging in more sex and with more partners than intended.
Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex; wanting to cut down and unsuccessfully attempting to limit sexual activity.
Thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities or continually engaging in excessive sexual practices despite a desire to stop.
Spending considerable time in activities related to sex, such as cruising for partners or spending hours online visiting pornographic Web sites.
Neglecting obligations such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex.
Continually engaging in the sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or potential health risks.
Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve the desired effect, such as more frequent visits to prostitutes or more sex partners.
Feeling irritable when unable to engage in the desired behavior.
Should you seek help?
The PATHOS is a brief screen to help identify whether or not a person has problematic sexual behaviors.
Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts? (Preoccupied)
Do you hide some of your sexual behavior from others? (Ashamed)
Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like? (Treatment)
Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior? (Hurt others)
Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire? (Out of control)
When you have sex, do you feel depressed afterwards? (Sad)
If you answered “Yes” to 2 or more of these questions, it is recommended you speak with a trained therapist to explore your responses. For further information about sex addiction or to take a 45-question sex addiction screening test at Recovery Zone Canada.
The dynamics of sexual addictions are complex; so much so that mental health professionals must take a specialized approach to understanding sexual addiction and recovery. As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), I utilize the most up-to-date evidenced-based practices, including Dr. Patrick Carnes 30 task approach to facilitate movement from a life of addiction to sobriety. Utilizing Facing the Shadows workbook and the Recovery Start Kit, clients will have access to a set of tools that provide a tangible long-term framework for recovery.
During the initial phase of sex addiction recovery you will be supported in establishing abstinence from your sexually compulsive activity in order to allow your body and brain to become stabilized. Ongoing treatment will help you work through the early relational trauma or other factors related to the addiction so as to prevent relapse and build the foundation for a stronger sense of self. Ultimately allowing you to enter into a healthy intimacy with yourself and others.
Working with a CSAT practitioner, you will have access to valuable tools and comprehensive assessments, including:
Sexual Dependency Inventory 4.0
Post-Traumatic Stress Inventory – Revised
Money and Work Adaptive Styles Index
Assessments for partners
The World Health Organization added compulsive sexual behavior as a mental health disorder in 2018. Compulsive sexual behavior refers to repetitive sexual activities, including pornography, becoming a central focus of a person’s life to the point that they neglect their “health and personal care or other interests, activities, and responsibilities.” If your porn viewing has become compulsive, is interfering with how you feel about yourself, and has impacted your ability to function in your relationships, at work, and other aspects of your day-to-day life, know that you can get help. If you are concerned about your porn viewing, there are some warning signs of porn addiction to consider. You might have a porn addiction if:
You are consumed with thoughts of porn even when you are not actively watching it.
You view porn on your cell phone at work or in social situations where you might be seen.
You feel ashamed, guilty, or depressed about your porn viewing.
You continue to watch porn despite the harm it has had, is having, or may have on your relationships, work, or home life.
You experience reduced sexual satisfaction with partners when pornography is not involved.
You hide your porn and porn viewing from your spouse, domestic partner, and family members.
You get upset when asked to cut back on or stop looking at porn.
You lose track of time when viewing porn.
You have tried to quit watching porn but have not been successful.
Some research has found that habitual porn viewers also have a greater incidence of erectile dysfunction and low libido, further differentiating "healthy" porn viewing from potentially harmful compulsive behaviors.
Links & Resources
A 5 Part Series exploring the Neuroscience behind Porn Addiction and how to overcome it. Based on works of Gary Wilson (2020).
Porn Blockers are protective software that give recovering sex, porn and love addicts protection from temptations that lie within their laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other device. Porn Blockers provide recovering individuals the power to protect themselves from the addiction and the accountability needed to rebuild trust with themselves and the people they love. There are numerous protective software program available online. Some examples are:
NoFap® - www.nofap.com/porn-addiction A community-based porn recovery website. They offer their users the tools to connect with a supportive community of individuals determined to quit porn use and free themselves from compulsive sexual behaviors.