The subject of sex addiction is one of enormous confusion among the masses. There will always be those who confuse a healthy and quite comprehensively safe sex life with sex addiction, simply because they themselves have different opinions on what constitutes ‘normal’ sexual activity. And then of course there will be those who are in every respect full blown sex addicts, though may personally believe that everything they are doing is quite normal and healthy…even though it’s quite to the contrary.
It’s a tricky subject because sex addiction manifests in a variety of forms. Some people find themselves addicted to pornography, others cannot stop flirting, some compulsively masturbate on a near-constant basis and others simply cannot get enough of sex itself. What often tends to make the difference is when and where the individual in question find they are in a situation they cannot control, a situation that is having a detrimental effect on their life or a situation that is making them feel embarrassment, shame and regret.
Making a concrete diagnosis can be difficult, but tick one or more of the following boxes and it could be that you are battling a genuine sex addiction:
First of all, if you are living something of a double life and have found yourself needing a second partner away from and kept very much secret from your primary partner, this could be a sign of sex addiction. Now, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean that each and every person who has cheated or is cheating on a partner is necessarily a sex addict. The difference in this instance lies in whether or not you know what you are doing is wrong and are trying desperately to stop, but have completely lost control of your actions and behaviours.
Addiction to sexual material can constitute a detrimental addiction in its own right. In some instances however, it represents just one element of the respective individual’s overall addiction to sex, sexual material and anything even remotely related to sex. Once again, there will always be plenty of people for whom there really is no such thing as having too much pornography. Nevertheless, they remain in control and will usually be quite proud of their collections. At the other end of the scale, those who cannot get enough of pornography who get very little pleasure out of it and are ashamed of their actions may have an addiction to address.
Another telltale sign of sexual addiction is when the individual in question becomes aware of the fact that their relationships are suffering due to their actions. It could be their personal relationships, domestic relationships, professional relationships or social relationships – if what you are doing is having a detrimental effect on your life and is somewhat beyond your control, this is the very dictionary definition of addiction.
There will always be plenty of people for whom quite explicit and elaborate sex really is the only type of sex they have any interest in. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between this type of behaviour and the type of behaviour that sees individuals constantly and compulsively seeking out more and more elaborate, risky or perhaps even dangerous sexual adventures, simply to gain any gratification whatsoever. And what’s more, those with genuine addictions will usually find that no matter how elaborate the sex is, they still come out with the same feelings of shame and remorse.
When an individual’s sex life has reached a point where it is getting them in regular trouble with the law, this more often than not means they have crossed the line into problematic behaviour – perhaps an addiction to sex. This could include a compulsion to view sexual material online despite knowing the fact that this particular type of sexual material is illegal, or perhaps regularly utilising prostitutes and brothels to gain gratification. Again, when you are doing these kinds of things even though you know they are wrong and you would prefer not to do them, you are looking at a textbook case of addiction.
Regret, Shame and Remorse
Last but not least, and already touched upon a number of times, the very definition of addiction is that of continuing to do something that makes you feel shameful, regretful and remorseful. You know that you should not be doing it, you do not want to do it and you have made repeated efforts to stop doing it. Nevertheless, you continue to do it anyway which immediately shows that you have lost control over your behaviour. When this is the case, you have an addiction that really must be brought to the attention of the professionals as early as possible.