What is Sex Addiction?

What are the signs and patterns of sex addiction?

At Addcounsel, we have identified and observed signs and patterns of sex addiction as follows:

  • A compulsive craving to act out sexually which is way beyond the realms of a high sex drive
  • Neglecting professional and personal commitments in order to satisfy the urge to act out
  • Compulsively acting out despite a lack of satisfaction and subsequent feelings of self-disgust and shame
  • Regularly acting out sexually with strangers and confusing sex with emotional intimacy
  • Entanglement in affairs/encounters outside a committed relationship, thus jeopardising familial stability and wellbeing
  • Compulsively fantasising about sex
  • Having intrusive sexual thoughts leading to a compulsion to act out
  • Placing sexual gratification and behaviours that may lead to temporary relief above all things including family, work and social engagements
  • Intense feelings of remorse, guilt, shame and self-loathing after the event especially when acting out has led to a breakdown of trust in a relationship
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Secretive consumption of porn
  • Compulsively viewing porn
  • Visiting strip clubs and similar venues rather than socialising with friends/family
  • Acting out indiscriminately with sex workers regardless of gender
  • Unsuccessfully attempting to control sexual urges. Repeatedly making promises to oneself or loved ones to change behaviour but finding that a relapse soon follows
  • Acting out in sexual behaviours despite wanting to stop
  • Engaging in more extreme/risky sexual behaviours such as compulsively attending orgies in vain attempts to recapture the effect experienced before sex became an addiction

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Causes of Sex Addiction

There are numerous factors at play which may be linked to sexual compulsive behaviour and addiction. Some of them are listed below:

Genetics and biological factors

A person’s genetics can certainly increase the probability of developing any form of addiction or dependency, including sex. If there’s a history of severe promiscuity and sex addiction in one’s family of origin, the probability may increase. Biological factors and changes in brain chemistry whilst acting out sexually may develop into an addiction.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors such as being raised in an extremely dysfunctional and stressful household can increase the likelihood of sexual compulsive behaviour in an attempt to self-soothe. Unhealthy or repressive cultural norms around sex may also contribute. 

Past trauma or abuse

An individual who has been abused physically, emotionally and/or sexually may find relief acting out sexually which could subsequently lead to a dependency. Some incest survivors and those sexually assaulted in childhood may recant their abuse by acting out sexually.

Underlying mental health conditions

An individual with an underlying mental health condition/dual diagnosis may use sex to self-soothe or numb out from emotional and psychological distress. This can happen when there’s a delayed diagnosis of a mental illness, and a dependency has developed as a result.

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Consequences of Untreated Sex Addiction in Spousal relationships

The ramifications of untreated sex addiction can be hard to come to terms with when a sexually compulsive individual starts their recovery. Marriages have been seriously tested because of sex addiction, mostly due to a breakdown in trust and a lack of intimacy. As the years pass, a spouse may feel betrayed, unseen and greatly undermined by their partner’s sexually compulsive behaviour.  For the sex addict, there’s an enormous sense of guilt and self-disgust because they can see the consequences of their untreated addiction, but simply can’t stop. 

At Addcounsel, we know how hard this is to come to terms with and face in recovery. We know that sex addiction impacts an entire family unit, leaving distress and a world of pain in its wake. Here are some of the direct consequences sex addiction will have on a marriage/intimate partnership:

  • Assuming that a couple has agreed on monogamy, the discovery of possibly years of serial infidelity can be devastating. Depression, Complex PTSD and PTSD are very common among individuals with sexually compulsive partners
  • Low self-esteem, lack of self-worth and overwhelming feelings of shame
  • Heightened risk of contracting STDs/genital injury increases among sex addicts
  • Divorce and a subsequent sense of betrayal felt by any children from the marriage
  • Longstanding friendships may be decimated when friends take sides after a messy divorce
  • Loss of reputation potentially leading to financial ruin
  • Vulnerability to being blackmailed by an unscrupulous person(s) with the threat of exposing the behaviours. This may happen if a sex addict is an ultra-high-net-worth individual or has a high public profile which could be of interest to media outlets
  • In some rare cases, extreme violence toward a sex addict may occur as a consequence of a spouse enduring years of humiliation
  • Grief and a sense of loss will be felt by both the sex addict and spouse, as a result of the breakdown in a marriage
  • A loss of any ability to trust oneself or another due to the emotional wounds inflicted over a period of time. Post divorce, a sex addict may not be able to trust a new partner due to projecting their sexual compulsive behaviour on to them, and a spouse of a sex addict will have severe trust issues because of their partner’s history. Put simply, deep emotional wounds may last for a long time.

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