Healthy sexual expression is a normal, healthy part of being human. And just as our shapes, sizes, likes and dislikes vary, so do our sexual desires. Unfortunately, like so many other aspects of life, likes and desires can grow beyond healthy enjoyment into obsessions and/or harmful behaviors that threaten our own, and others well-being.
What is sex addiction, compulsive or problematic sexual behavior?
Like other addictions, especially behavioral addiction such as gambling, eating disorders and gaming, problematic sexual behavior is when life balance is lost and the need to feed the problematic behavior takes over life. The person with the problematic behavior is in a state of denial, believing that their choices are their own without any impact on others. They may live in this state for a long time before reality sets in. A reality strike occurs in many ways. It may be the partner who leaves, the arrest, loss of job, exposure or pain to self or others that can no longer be denied.
Symptoms of sexual addiction
The signs of sex addiction are unique to every patient struggling with these compulsions. Still, some symptoms are relatively reliable indicators. Do you or someone you love:
- Lie to conceal sexual behavior?
- Maintain a preoccupation with sex even when it has a negative impact on personal relationships, professional performance, productivity and daily life?
- Experience chronic, obsessive sexual fantasies?
- Struggle to control intrusive sexual thoughts?
- Have compulsive sexual encounters with multiple partners?
- Engage in risky sexual behavior?
- Feel unable to control sexual activity?
- Feel guilt and/or remorse after sex?
If you answered “yes” to more than one of the above, sex addiction could be the cause.
Questions to assess problematic sexual behavior
- Commitment. Are you keeping your promises?
- Values. Are you OK with what you are doing?
- Responsibility. Are you protecting others?
- Negative consequences. Is everything OK?
- Control. Are you in control of yourself?
Sexual behavior that conflicts with your commitments, values, responsibility to others or self-control is problematic sexual behavior. We can help.
Sexual addiction therapy
Most therapists do not have the training to address problematic sexual behavior. We do. This is important in identifying and guiding our clients toward healing. What some may find surprising is that problematic sexual behavior often has little to do with sex. Attachment wounds, intimacy disorders and trauma can play important roles. For some it is conditioning, the unending availability of unhealthy sexual content that has become so invasive in our culture. It is complex interweaving variables that must be addressed, teased apart and relearned to revitalize healthy sexuality. The partners and family members who have been impacted also need the opportunity for healing. Without this, the system remains vulnerable to the repetition of addiction, betrayal and pain. We value and honor the courage and strength it takes to engage in this healing journey.