How do you know if you’re addicted to sex?

I want to thank you for taking time to ask your question.

I think this is a good question, and a lot of people actually are trying to figure out if there is such a thing as a sex addiction.  In our current mental health profession there is a lot of debate going on about this. But let’s talk about some of the criteria for what we would call pornography or sexual addiction, and what I’m going to refer to is some of Dr. Patrick Carnes’s work; he’s probably the foremost expert on sex addiction. This information comes from my book “Treating Pornography Addiction,” and can also be applied to sexual addiction.

An addiction would consist of the following things:

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  1.  A recurrent failure to resist impulses to act out sexually.
  2. Extensive or longer periods of time that you’re acting out sexually.
  3. Ongoing and unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control your behavior.
  4. An inordinate amount of time spent obtaining sexual materials, acting out sexually either through masturbation or with another person, or recovering from sexual experiences. (These also might be just periods of time where you are in a type of trance where you are trying to seek out some type of outside sexual experience. That would be just one example. It could also include pornography, voyeurism, or other types of behaviors.)
  5. Feeling preoccupied with a fantasy, sexualized thoughts, and/or preparatory activities.
  6. Viewing pornography or acting out sexually actually takes time away from your obligations such as your occupation, academic work, domestic, or social activities.
  7. Continuing the behavior despite the consequences. (This is one of the core things that is often related with an addiction).
  8. Tolerance–the more frequent or intense the sexual experiences or pornography that you’re consuming, the more you need of it over time to achieve the same effect.
  9. Deliberately limiting social, occupational, or recreational activities in order to keep time open for your sexually acting out or pornography viewing.
  10. Distress or restlessness, irritability, and these are actually what we call the withdrawal symptoms. Some of the common withdrawal symptoms that we see include dizziness, body aches, headaches, sleeplessness, restlessness, anxiety, mood swings, and depression.

Dr. Patrick Carnes has found that sex addicts have 5 or more of those symptoms that we just described above. As you do an evaluation I would encourage you to go through those 10 items and if you find yourself with 5 or more, then you may consider yourself as possibly having a sex addiction. In that situation I would suggest that you seek additional support and help; you can do that by researching the resources I have available on this website, in particular at www.treatingpornaddiction.com and you can also do so by visiting sash.net and look up local clinicians in your area or groups in your area.

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