If You Recognize Any Of These Signs, You Might Be A Sex Addict

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What Is Sex Addiction? Symptoms & Signs Of A Sex Addict

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction, officially referred to by the World Health Organization as Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder, looks a lot like alcoholism and drug addiction except the
"drug of choice" is sexual fantasy and activity, rather than an addictive substance.

Is addiction a disease? What are the signs of addiction of the sexual nature?

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Like all other types of addiction, sex addiction is identified based on three primary criteria:

  1. Preoccupation to the point of obsession with the substance or behavior of choice.
  2. Loss of control over the use of the substance or behavior, typically evidenced by failed attempts to quit or cut back.
  3. Directly related negative consequences — relationship trouble, issues at work or in school, declining physical health, depression, anxiety, diminished self-esteem, isolation, financial woes, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, legal trouble, etc.

If you’re like most people, you readily understand the concept of substance addiction. If you are not addicted to anything, yourself (like cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications, illicit drugs, etc.), you probably know someone who is.

At the very least, you’ve seen relatively accurate portrayals of substance abuse on television and in the movies.

Behavioral addictions — like sex addiction — are usually more difficult to fathom. Nevertheless, people can and do become addicted to behaviors just as often and just as easily as they become addicted to highly pleasurable, self-soothing, and dissociative substances — and with similarly problematic results.

For an active sex addict, sexual fantasies and behavior are priority number one. Sexual activity (either solo or with others) takes place no matter what, regardless of potential or actual consequences.

Often, sex addicts will tell themselves, "This is the last time that I am going to behave in this way." But before long, they’re right back at it, showing and engaging in the same or very similar behavior.

Sex addicts organize their lives around sexual fantasy and the behaviors that follow. They spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about, planning for, pursuing, and engaging in sexual activity.

Sex becomes an obsession to the point where important relationships, interests, and responsibilities are ignored. Nearly always, sex addicts find themselves living a double life, keeping their sexual acting out hidden and a secret from family, friends, and everyone else who matters to them.

RELATED: 3 Crucial Ways To Overcome Sex Addiction

Sex addiction symptoms and patterns of fantasy-driven behavior that are typically exhibited by sex addicts include (but are by no means limited to) the following:

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  • Compulsive use of pornography, with or without masturbation
  • Compulsive use of one or more digital sexnologies — webcams, sexting, dating/hookup websites and apps, virtual reality sex games, sexual devices, etc.
  • Consistently being "on the hunt" for sexual activity
  • Multiple ongoing affairs or brief "serial" relationships
  • Consistent involvement with strip clubs, adult bookstores, adult movie theaters, sex clubs, and other sex-focused environments
  • Engaging in prostitution and/or sensual massage (hiring or providing)
  • A pattern of anonymous and/or casual sex hookups with people met online or in-person
  • Repeatedly engaging in unprotected sex
  • Repeatedly engaging in sex with potentially dangerous people or in potentially dangerous places
  • Seeking sexual experiences without regard to immediate or long-term potential consequences
  • A pattern of minor sexual offenses such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, frotteurism, etc.

Like other addicts, sex addicts typically use their behavior as a way to "numb out" and escape from stress and emotional (and sometimes physical) discomfort — including the pain of underlying emotional and/or psychological issues like depression, anxiety, early-life trauma, and the like.

In other words, sex addicts don’t use compulsive sexual fantasies and behaviors to feel good and have fun, they use them to feel less (i.e., to distract themselves from what they are feeling). As such, sexual addiction is not about having fun, it’s about controlling what one feels.

If you think that you or someone you care about may be addicted to sex, a free and anonymous screening quiz can be found on the Sex and Relationship Healing website. That website also offers free webinars, interactive discussion groups, podcasts, and blogs about sexual addiction and related issues. 

RELATED: The Crucial Difference Between A Sex Addict & A Sexual Harasser

Robert Weiss PhD, MSW, CEO of Seeking Integrity LLC, is a digital-age sex, intimacy, and relationship specialist.