Boulder Recovery Blog

Human sexuality is a gift. It’s nurturing and fulfilling, a healthy and affirming way to love and be loved intimately.  

In this shadowy world, though, many things meant for good can be co-opted for other purposes. Sexuality is one of them. What is part of a healthy connection becomes a primary coping behavior of disconnection. 

But how can you know if our sexual struggles are signs of a sex addiction? 

15 Signs of Sex Addiction

We have Dr. Patrick Carnes to thank for his ground-breaking research into compulsive sexual behavior disorder. In his 1991 book, “Don’t Call It Love,” he identified 10 signs of sexual addiction. In the years since mental health experts identified more. 

Following are 15 signs of compulsive sexual behavior disorder. If even some of these are your experience, you most likely struggle with sex addiction. 

1. Using Sex as a Primary Coping Strategy

Intrusive thoughts about looking at pornography or engaging in sexual behavior pop up when you’re doing other things. You find yourself preoccupied with thinking about sex and obsessing about the next time you can be sexual. You use sex to cope with loneliness, stress, boredom, depression, or anxiety. 

2. A Desire to Limit Sexual Behavior

You recognize that your sexual behavior doesn’t match your values, and you make repeated promises to stop. You pray, asking for God’s forgiveness and help, promising you will change.

3. Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior

You constantly watch porn at work, late at night, in the car, or when you should be doing something else. You also have intense sexual urges that are seemingly impossible to control. And maybe spend money you shouldn’t on sex. You excessively watch porn, masturbate, or engage in other sexual activity. 

4. Severe Consequences of Sexual Behavior

Your sexual behavior begins having severe consequences. These consequences may include losing your relationship or job, financial or health problems, or criminal matters.

5. Inability to Stop, Despite Adverse Consequences

You want to stop the sexual behaviors causing your problems, but you feel like you can’t. Your sexual urges seem irresistible. Even if you can stop, you can’t stop for long.

6. Engaging in Self-Destructive or High-Risk Behavior

Another sign of sex addiction is that you pursue risky or inappropriate sexual behavior without thinking about the negative consequences. You engage in behaviors that will hurt you or others, but you dismiss any concerns that arise.


A white man sits in a dark room in a white shirt holding a remote control

7. Denial

You ignore the negative impact your behavior has on your life. You suspend all concerns about possible negative consequences of your behavior. Instead, you think, “Everyone does this” or “I’m not really hurting anyone.” You compartmentalize your life, so you don’t have to think about what you’re doing. And you ignore the voice that says, “You really shouldn’t be doing this.”

8. Indulging in Trade-Offs for Sex

You use your sexuality to obtain something unrelated to the relationship. Or, you give something to someone else in return for sexual gratification.

9. Tolerance and Escalation

Your sexual urges become more robust, and you need more varied sexual experiences to stimulate arousal. Your porn viewing escalates to more diverse and extreme content to maintain your interest and get the same high. You masturbate excessively

10. Relational Distress

Maintaining a healthy, stable relationship is complicated or unsatisfying. You lose interest in sexual intimacy with your spouse or partner. You engage in cheating and infidelity. But you hide this behavior by clearing your browser history, lying, and gaslighting. 

You have sex with multiple partners, sometimes with people you wouldn’t usually be attracted to or want to be with. Your sexual behavior starts to impact your relationships with family and friends negatively. 

11. Severe Mood Changes Because of Sexual Activity

Your sexual behavior is often preceded by restlessness, boredom, or depression, and followed by guilt, shame, or emptiness. You are dissatisfied, even while engaged in sexual activity. 

You’re also becoming stressed about trying to cover up infidelity and keeping your sexual behaviors secret. 

You grapple with loneliness, isolation, and despondency. Hopelessness permeates your thinking. You think, “I’m never going to overcome this” or “What difference does it make what I do now,” or “No one would understand or accept me if they knew what I was doing”

12. Excessive Time and Effort Spent Pursuing, Participating In, and Recovering from Sexual Behavior

Whether you binge and then have a lengthy period of cessation or are steady in your activity, you increasingly invest more energy and effort in pursuing sexual activity.

13. Neglect of Important Activities Because of Sexual Behavior

You avoid, exclude, miss, or fall behind in your responsibilities. And you might neglect important social, academic, occupational, or social activities because of your sexual behavior. You find yourself sometimes making quick, grandiose make-up to others you’ve disappointed because you don’t follow through with commitments.

14. Loss or Decline of Sexual Functioning

You lose interest in your spouse or partner. And you might need different and gradually more extreme porn to function sexually. You also need new and different sexual behaviors to achieve the same high. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction causes an inability to be sexual with a real person.

15. Withdrawal

When you discontinue your sexual behaviors, you feel distress, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and even physical discomfort. 

All these signs are indicators our souls are in distress. 

Compulsive sexual behavior is a result of experiencing hurt, trauma, and loss. But then it adds to that distress. It’s a self-reinforcing dynamic that few of us can resolve on our own. 

In summary, the signs of sexual addiction look like this:

  •     Using sex to cope with life stressors rather than connect with others
  •     Loss of control
  •     Continuing despite negative consequences
  •     Cravings and preoccupation
  •     Tolerance leads to escalation of levels and risk
  •     Denial
  •     Withdrawal

 What About My Faith?

Faith can help us with our struggles in so many ways, but an interesting thing happens when you become mired in compulsive sexual behavior. Faith doesn’t automatically resolve the causes of your struggle. And your recovery isn’t guaranteed by faith, either. 

Our Creator made us for relationships, for connection. Addiction is a sure indicator that there was damage to our capacity for healthy connection. 

How Boulder Recovery Can Help

All of us need help. We need others. What gets broken in a relationship has to be healed in the relationship.  

That’s where Boulder Recovery can be so strategically helpful. We integrate competent therapy and trauma treatment within a healthy Christian framework. 

Our 14-Day intensive program utilizes the latest application of therapeutic trauma treatment with addiction research, recovery applications, and the truth of the Gospel, all in the context of a genuine Christian community. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive porn use or sexual behaviors, contact us today to learn about availability for our upcoming 14-Day Men’s Intensive.


  • Category: Addiction
  • By Lawrence Buddoo
  • October 27, 2021

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