Things aren’t always what they seem. How a person presents themselves isn’t necessarily the truth about who they are or what is going on in their life. There are signs to look for – things to notice – which will help determine if what you observe indicates someone may be living with an addiction to sex.
Sex addiction is an addiction just like alcoholism or drug addiction. The problem with sex addiction is that many people don’t understand it or even believe it exists. The signs of sex addiction may reveal that someone has an issue.
What is a Sex Addiction?
Compulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality, and hypersexuality disorder are other names for sex addiction. It’s an obsessive concern with irrational sexual fantasies, urges, or actions. People with sex addiction experience intense emotional anguish, which can negatively impact their relationships, jobs, and mental and physical health.
So, what causes sex addiction? Addiction originates from deep painful experiences. Although those traumatic events can occur at any time, they frequently do so early in life. These events are characterized by the fact that the person could not process them and sought a coping method – which happened to be sexual behavior. They repeated that behavior to feel better without realizing that doing so caused an addiction. Now they can’t stop.
Determining whether someone has a sex addiction requires recognizing its various signs.
The 15 Signs of Sexual Addiction
T.C. Ryan, author of Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction and Pastoral Consultant at Boulder Recovery, said, Dr. Patrick Carnes first researched and published the signs of sex addiction in 1991. At that time, there were 10. In the years since mental health experts identified more, T.C. said.
Recognizing the signs of sex addiction can help you know if it’s time to discuss it with someone you love or seek treatment.
1. Using Sex to Cope
People can use sex to deal with adverse emotions like stress or anxiety that result from trauma. People may use sex to destress and relieve other adverse emotions from difficult situations that left unresolved trauma in their adult lives. If sex is a form of coping instead of an expression of intimacy between two people, it could result in sex addiction.
2. Feeling a Need to Limit Behavior
One of the signs of sex addiction is feeling a need to limit behavior. The individual knows their sexual behavior is out of control, but they continue to engage in it anyway.
People addicted to sex may feel like they can’t stop their behavior even though they know it’s hurting them. They may feel ashamed or guilty about their actions, but this doesn’t stop them from attempting to relieve these feelings.
3. Inability to Control Impulses
People with sex addiction struggle to control their sexual thoughts, fantasies, and urges. They may engage in sexual behavior they later regret and feel ashamed of, but they can’t stop acting out. People with sex addiction may also spend a lot of time thinking about sex and planning how to act out their urges.
4. Experiencing Severe Consequences
People with compulsive sexual behavior tend to lose control of their behavior and engage in risky sexual activity with serious consequences. They may have sex with many partners or pay for sex from sex workers. They may lose their jobs or families as a result of their behaviors. Some people with sex addiction may struggle with other impulse control issues, such as substance use.
5. Can’t Stop Carrying Out Behavior
The inability to stop carrying out certain behaviors is one of the main characteristics of sex addiction. If you are unable to control your sexual thoughts or desires, this may be an indication that you have an issue with sex addiction. An addition is unlikely to disappear or stop on its own, no matter how much you try.
6. Engaging in Risky Acts
Sex addicts tend to engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or having multiple partners. They may also experience stress and anxiety when they feel like they can’t get their needs met. Being unable to meet these needs leads many people into addictive behavior patterns for emotional relief.
7. Excusing Sexual Habits
Many people with sex addiction are aware of their problem but deny it because they fear losing loved ones, being ostracized, or losing their job. They may justify their behavior by blaming others for their actions. They might also try to convince you their behavior is normal and they just have a higher sex drive than others.
8. Tolerance and Escalation
A person who is tolerant of a substance requires increasing amounts of it to achieve the desired effect. As a person engages in sexually addictive behavior, they will often escalate the type of activity they pursue to gain arousal or relief from stress or tension. Escalation is common among those who live with addiction. Addictions escalate. That’s what they do.
9. Relational Distress
Sex addiction creates an emotional disconnect. People may have difficulty maintaining long-term relationships or staying in touch with friends and family. In some cases, they may even lose interest in sex with their spouse because the excitement of a new relationship is more appealing to them.
They often try to hide their activities from others and may feel shame about their sexual behavior. They also may feel guilt or shame about their actions’ effects on others, such as emotional pain or financial loss.
10. Mood Swings and Outbursts
Mood swings and outbursts are other signs of sex addiction. When a person acts out sexually, they tend to make irrational decisions and act impulsively. This behavior can cause mood swings and outbursts due to the guilt, shame, or frustration with their own behaviors.
11. Obsessive Thinking
Sex addiction is a progressive disorder. The more you engage in the behavior, the more likely you will experience negative consequences, and the stronger your compulsion to continue will become. Eventually, you may spend several hours daily engaged in sexual fantasies, thinking about sex, or planning for future sexual encounters with partners, sex workers, or virtual partners. There never seems to be enough sex, and it becomes all-consuming.
12. Excessive Time Spent Acting Out
Addiction consumes a person’s time. Someone may spend most of their time thinking about sex, planning sexual encounters, or acting out. They may visit sex workers or engage in anonymous sex, have multiple affairs, visit strip clubs or adult bookstores frequently, or spend hours each week viewing pornography online. As the need for sex increases, more time must be spent feeding the addiction.
13. Neglecting Responsibilities
Neglecting responsibilities due to sex addiction is one of the most common signs of sex addiction. Neglecting responsibilities can include work, family, friends, or other important commitments.
This sign is so common because someone with a sex addiction feels they need to have sex to function normally. They may have trouble controlling their sexual urges and use sex to manage stress or anger, making it difficult to concentrate on anything other than their next sexual encounter.
14. Loss or Decline of Sexual Functioning
It’s not uncommon for someone to be unable to have sex with their partner or perform sexual acts if they have a sex addiction. They may avoid sex completely or be unable to perform sexually.
When you are addicted to something, it becomes your main priority in life, and if you suddenly don’t have it anymore, you will experience withdrawal.
When you become addicted to sex, your brain creates withdrawal symptoms such as depression, self-loathing, anxiety, and other emotional problems. This is why people have difficulty stopping even though they know their behavior is causing pain.
The Connection Between Sex Addiction and Faith
For men of faith, sex addiction is that much more challenging because of the guilt and shame that comes with it. Men of faith tend to think they need to keep addiction a secret, but you can’t keep secrets and heal. If anything, the secrecy challenges your faith and moves you further from God.
“Faith doesn’t automatically resolve the causes of your struggle. And your recovery isn’t guaranteed by faith, either,” T.C. said. “Our Creator made us for relationships, for connection. Addiction is a sure indicator that there was damage to our capacity for healthy connection.”
It’s vital, then, for Christian men to understand addiction and how it’s affecting them and their loved ones. Then they must commit to recovery.
Help at Boulder Recovery
If you’re worried that you or someone you love is showing signs of sex addiction, the best thing to do is to talk to someone. That might be a friend, a family member, or a professional counselor.
Boulder Recovery is here to offer help. We’re a Christ-centered, Scripture-based, and clinically innovative men’s program specializing in treating intimacy disorders.
With our 14-Day Men’s Intensive, you’ll be able to address the trauma that can cause various intimacy disorders by learning techniques to help heal trauma and attachment issues.
You should have no fear or shame in reaching out for help. Get in touch with Boulder Recovery to begin your road to healthy relationships.