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Sexual Addiction Is…

Sexual addiction is a dysfunctional preoccupation (meaning this specific preoccupation negatively affects their work, relationship, family, legal, health, and social situations) with sexual fantasy and behavior, often involving the obsessive and repetitive pursuit of non-intimate sexuality, pornography, compulsive masturbation, romantic intensity, and objectified partner sex. It is defined by:

• Loss of control over the pursuit of sex – Sex addicts consistently break promises made to themselves and others to curtail, shift, or eliminate certain sexual behaviors, and often continue to act out those behaviors in secret.

• Ignoring and/or denying the consequences caused by sexual acting out – Sex addicts continue to engage in problematic (for the particular individual) sexual behaviors despite negative consequences, often blaming the consequences on someone or something else. This can cause temporary or permanent harm to intimate relationships and family life, along with employment, school, legal, and physical and emotional health problems.

• Escalating patterns of problematic sexual behavior – Sex addicts, seeking to maintain or escalate the emotional and physical “high” of sexual acting out, will end up engaging in problematic sexual behaviors more frequently and/or for longer periods of time, and many will escalate to more intense sexual behaviors, some of which are illegal.

Unlike those who enjoy sex as personal exploration, recreation, or part of healthy intimacy, the sex addict’s focus is on using the excessive pursuit of sexual images and experiences to bolster an unstable emotional and internal world. Sexual fantasy, urges, and behaviors are used to prop up flagging moments of emotional self-stability, at the same time masking underlying social deficits, extensive histories of trauma, and personality challenges. In this way, sex addicts use sexual fantasy and behaviors to distract and dissociate from life stressors and challenges. Over time, the search for sexual intensity becomes a driving force and sole life focus. In this way, sex addicts lose opportunities to grow emotionally, becoming instead dependent on sexual fantasy, urges, and behaviors to self-regulate.

Most sex addicts describe a numbing rush of intensity when engaged in their obsessive pursuit of sex. By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S
This trance-like “bubble” is actually a neurobiological state induced by the intense fantasies and actions that lead toward actual sex. In essence, sex addicts are hooked on the dissociative neurochemical high produced by their intense sexual fantasy life and that fantasy life’s related ritualistic behaviors. Ultimately, sex addicts find as much excitement in fantasizing about and searching for their next sexual encounter as in the sex act itself. As such, they can spend hours, sometimes even days, in this elevated state—high on the goal/idea of having sex—often without any physical contact. Minutes turn into hours and hours turn into days as the sexual addict secretly obsesses, plots, and carries out plans related to porn, strip clubs, massage parlors, sex-finder apps, prostitutes, affairs, and other potentially addictive sexual behaviors.
Sexual Addiction Is NOT…

The diagnosis of sexual addiction is not made simply because an individual engages in fetishistic or paraphilic sexual arousal/behavior, such as cross-dressing or BDSM. Such behaviors may lead the individual to keep sexual secrets, to feel shame or distress, and even to feel out of control, but they are not considered sexual addiction, per se. Nor are unwanted homosexual or bisexual arousal patterns and behaviors. Sexual addiction is not defined by what or whom an individual finds arousing—even if that arousal pattern is unwanted or ego-dystonic. Sexual addiction is instead defined by self- and other-objectified repetitive patterns of sexual urges, fantasy, and behavior utilized to self-medicate, dissociate, and/or stabilize emotional distress and other psychological triggers and conditions. Simply put, healthy people don’t consistently utilize sexual arousal as a means of feeling better when having a bad day. Sex addicts do, as sexual arousal is for them a primary emotional coping mechanism.

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