Because the term Sex Addiction is fairly new and remains controversial among professionals there is no generally accepted answer to the question ‘Is sex addiction a real disease?’
To be clear, sex addiction is not a valid medical diagnosis. Professionals and the general public disagree as to whether is even exists. There is no doubt that the behaviors exist but whether or not sex addiction is a true addiction that can be treated with methods used for other types of addictions is not understood.
My simple definition.
Sex Addiction is an unhealthy coping mechanism characterized by a set of escalating, compulsive sexual behaviors with negative consequences. These unhealthy coping mechanisms, the inability to consider consequences, impulsive and compulsive sexual behaviors, chronic lying and a lack of an ability to form intimate relationships leads me to believe that Sex Addiction is not a disease in itself any more than a cough is a disease. I believe these behaviors are a symptom of an underlying Personality Disorder.
But, because the term Sex Addiction has become associated with these behaviors I will continue to use the term until a better one is found.
Online searches about the meaning of the term sex addiction will give an almost endless result of opinions. Here are just a couple to ponder:
Here’s my opinion.
Sex Addiction is a set of escalating, compulsive sexual behaviors that have negative affects on the person engaged in the behaviors as well as everyone who is associated with that person. This includes family, friends, employers, employees, intimate partners, and just about anyone within their social circle.
Sex Addicts find it difficult or impossible to control their behavior in spite of serious consequences such as job loss, social scorn, financial ruin, loss of relationships and family, arrest or legal repercussions. I consider Sex Addiction a maladaptive behavior that may be, but is unlikely to be able to be modified.
Sex Addiction takes on many forms from all types of pornography, compulsive masturbation, voyeurism, exhibitionism, the use of prostitutes and escorts, multiple affairs, and, more seriously, pedophilia and rape.
If it is escalating, compulsive and harmful it is an addiction. If your sexual activities are harmful to you and your relationships, and if you have tried to stop the behaviors but have been unable to–you are a Sex Addict.
How do you know if you are a Sex Addict?
Most of us have periods of time in our lives when we feel out of control, frustrated or depressed. Often during these times we may act sexually in ways that are embarrassing and out of character. Does this make us Sex Addicts? Absolutely not.
There are many online tests that can help you to determine if your sexual activity is becoming problematic, but personally, I think this is much too serious of a problem to diagnose with an online test. If you feel that you have a problem with Sexual Addiction a trip to a counselor is a wise choice.
Are Sex Addicts just people with a high sex drive?
Our society is notorious for glamorizing bad sexual behavior, especially in males. Bragging rights excepted there are differences in sex drives among all of us. But, just having an appetite doesn’t make us run out and act like animals. Sexual Addiction is not just about a desire for sex; it’s about a deep-seated hunger for validation, a need for acceptance, a need to feel wanted, needed and whole. The Sex Addict tries to satisfy those unmet needs with sex. And–it never works. People with high sex drives just enjoy more sex than most of us, but they do not act in ways that are unhealthy or detrimental to themselves or others.
Is Sex Addiction a disease or just a symptom of a weak personality?
Technically Sex Addiction is not listed as medical diagnosis, thus it is not reimbursable through insurance. It is certainly a disorder that causes physical and emotional harm to a person and most counselors and professionals prefer to label Sex Addiction a compulsive disorder or a lack of impulse control. Whatever we call it, it is a problem and needs more research into ways to help addicts overcome their issues. There are hormones and brain chemicals involved as well as personality traits stemming from childhood. I have no doubt that many cannot control their actions without professional help.
What causes some people to become Sex Addicts?
Sex Addiction has such complex roots it would take volumes to try to explain all the possibilities. I am dedicating an entire section of my eBook on Personality Disorders that offers insight into the development of personality and Personality Disorders.
Are you born a Sex Addict?
It’s the old ‘nature or nurture’ question that may never be answered, but there is some very interesting new research on brain chemistry that may provide some surprising insight.
Common Traits of Sex Addicts
Sex Addicts have eerily similar personality traits and childhood experiences that leave no doubt that the two are correlated. Almost every woman I have talked with describes conversations and behaviors that sound as if she were talking about my husband, rather than hers. Here are a few of the most common personality traits of Sex Addicts.
Engage in compulsive lying
Lead double lives
Lack coping skills
Unable to form intimate bonds
Use sex to medicate their emotional pain
Feel overwhelming shame and guilt
Lack self esteem
Engage in ‘Black and White’ thinking
Live in denial
Feel out of control
Here are some traits that identify someone with a Sexual Addiction:
1. Behaviors associated with sexual addiction include multiple partners, multiple affairs, and unsafe sex.
2. The term sex addiction describes the behavior of someone who has an unusually strong sex drive or sexual obsession.
3. Most sex addicts live in denial of their addiction, and the associated risks and consequences.
4. Sex addiction is defined by an addict’s compulsive use of sex to address non-sexual emotional needs. That compulsive behavior completely dominates the addict’s life.
5. Sex addicts turn to sex when they need comfort, like binge eaters turn to food.
6. Sex addicts may engage in exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, compulsive masturbation, or cybersex.
7. A sex addict has an uncontrollable urge to have sex with many different partners.
8. A sex addict may withdraw or become frustrated over his inability to cut back or stop engaging in his addictive behavior.
9. Like other addicts, a sex addict becomes preoccupied with a behavior that is used to numb his or her feelings.
10. A sex addict lacks normal coping mechanisms and uses sex as a way to self-medicate every feeling.
11. Sex and thoughts of sex dominate a sex addict’s thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships.
12. Some sex addicts are known to be shameful, suicidal, and prone to other addictions, as well.
13. A sex addict, like all addicts, continues such behaviors despite decreased pleasure and the negative and serious consequences they bring.
14. People with a sex addiction often have a history of emotional and sexual abuse.
15. Most sex addicts have an intense preoccupation with sexual urges, fantasies and behaviors.
16. Sex addiction is characterized by the addict’s lying or minimizing his involvement with sexual activities.
17. Someone who is addicted to sex will use sexual activities to escape from their problems.
18. A sex addict will often waste time or neglect other responsibilities because of his sexual preoccupation.
19. The majority of people who struggle with sex addiction are men, and their sex addiction becomes the most important need in their lives.
20. Like an alcoholic unable to stop drinking, sexual addicts are unable to stop their self-destructive sexual behavior.
21. Sex addiction is almost always about a secret life. The addict displays increasingly secretive behavior and deception.
22. A sex addict will continue to engage in certain sexual behaviors despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships or even arrest.
23. Sexual addiction is often accompanied by other addictions, such as an addiction to work or chemicals.
If you are a partner of a sex addict and would like more information on my online support groups or coaching for partners, just click this link. Sisterhood Of Support