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Using Sex as a Coping Mechanism 

Man sits on the edge of a bed with a remorseful look on his face

Coping mechanisms are a set of behaviors and habits that have been formed throughout your life to help you manage distressing situations. Using sex as a coping mechanism is often a way to cope with trauma, adverse developmental experiences, or a lack of attunement. 

You may turn to sexual acts to cope with life, stress, body image issues, or relationship problems. In this way, you use sex to distract yourself intentionally and as a way to “self-medicate” during times of emotional discomfort. 

It is essential to understand that sex addiction is not directly related to the act itself. Sex addictions are defined by the relationship you have with sex.

How Do I Know if I am Using Sex as a Coping Mechanism?

There are questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are using sex as a coping mechanism.

Reflect on these questions before engaging in sex. Am I: 

  • Using sex to fill some sort of void? 
  • Having sex to experience comfort? 
  • Avoiding something emotionally distressing by having sex? 

More often than not, using sex as a coping mechanism creates a vicious cycle

You feel distressed, so you have sex to alleviate those feelings. However, the relief is only temporary, and you end up feeling worse. So, you turn to sex again. Rinse, wash, repeat. 

While sex can sometimes be a healthy coping mechanism, it is this cycle of overuse from which problems arise. Behind your behavior is usually sadness, hopelessness, anger, or even grief. 

Signs You Have an Unhealthy Relationship with Sex:

  • You put yourself in dangerous situations to have sex 
  • You’re not using sex for pleasure, instead as a way to cope 
  • You ignore the boundaries of others 
  • You’re preoccupied with thoughts of sex, procuring sex, and having sex
  • You continue participating in compulsive sexual behavior despite the negative consequences 

Whether you call it sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior, many people live with it and are affected by it. Those with sex addiction often feel that they are living a double life and making their lives and the lives of others more challenging. 

How to Stop Using Sex as a Coping Mechanism 

Generally, people who identify as sex addicts need a sex addiction program to create lasting recovery. However, few people seek out treatment due to feelings of shame about their sex addiction. People may turn to therapy because of an external motivator, such as their spouse finding out about their infidelity or being arrested for solicitation. Others may not be in crisis but have become exhausted by their behaviors and simply don’t understand why they can’t stop. 

When you’re ready to stop using sex as a coping mechanism, Begin Again is here to help. During your time in our treatment program, you’ll learn to: 

Understand Root Cause

Addiction is a response to trauma, adverse developmental experiences, or a lack of attunement during your formative years. These experiences create wounds that damage the ability to be vulnerable or express themselves authentically. 

Identify Triggers

Sights, sounds, and sensations that happen in the present moment can awaken and trigger past traumatic memories. By identifying your triggers, you can learn to process those events and healthily cope with them when they arise. 

Use Healthy Coping Alternatives

Healthy coping mechanisms include meditation, grounding techniques, awareness, journaling, and leaning on a support system. 

A couple with darker skin tones holds hands with their fingers interlaced
Intimacy feels vulnerable. If you’re using sex as a coping mechanism, the higher levels of emotional intimacy are unachievable.

Improve Intimacy in Your Relationships

Intimacy problems sever our ability to connect with others emotionally, denying our basic human need to bond deeply with others. 

There are five levels of emotional intimacy:

  1. Safe Communication: This level is the most basic intimacy level and is devoid of emotional connection or vulnerability. The risk of rejection is very minimal. These are the friendly conversations you have with the barista at your local coffee shop or the person at the grocery checkout. 
  2. Opinions and Beliefs of Others: At this level, you begin to share ideas or beliefs of other people – like politicians, famous people, coaches, etc. – to monitor someone’s reaction. That is how we feel other people out before divulging our personal opinions. 
  3. Personal Opinions and Beliefs: You are beginning to feel more confident about the relationship, so you begin to share your own opinions or beliefs. You may start with something small – like who should pick up the check on a first date – but will eventually share more profound views that reflect who you are as a person. 
  4. Feelings and Experiences: This is the first level that exhibits real vulnerability as you begin to share how you feel about things and even past experiences. 
  5. Your Needs, Emotions, and Desires: The top-tier of intimacy, the level means you are sharing your deepest emotions. You believe that you will not be rejected, judged, or used. This level of intimacy is reserved for your romantic partners, best friends, and closest relatives. 

14-Day Men’s Intensive Program at Begin Again Institute

Using sex as a coping mechanism is an indicator of sex addiction. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, sex addiction is about the relationship you have with sex. If you are using sex as a coping mechanism, your relationship with sex is likely unhealthy. 

Begin Again Institute can help you find the root cause of your addiction and stop the behaviors by seeking treatment. If you are ready to live your life without the heaviness of sex addiction, apply for our 14-Day Men’s Intensive today. 

  • Category: Sex Addiction
  • By Ryan Pryor
  • March 3, 2021

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