Compulsive sexual behaviors refer to an excessive preoccupation with sexual thoughts and activities. This can manifest as an incessant desire to have sex, masturbate, watch pornography, or flirt excessively.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities in moderation, people with a compulsion towards sex may find that their behaviors start to interfere with their daily life. If you find yourself unable to control your sexual thoughts and behaviors, it may be time to seek help.
Sexual addiction is a very misunderstood phenomenon. Linda Roberts, an experienced clinical psychologist, notes that the label of “sex addiction” is often used incorrectly. “Sexual addiction is not simply about having a lot of sex or being sexually active. It is a complex condition that can involve a range of behaviors,” Roberts says.
The DSM-5 does not recognize “sex addiction” or “hypersexual disorder” as stand-alone diagnostic categories. Instead, it uses the term “compulsive sexual behaviors” to describe problems with excessive or uncontrolled sexual behavior.
It is important to note that not all sexual behaviors that are considered outside of the “norm” should be considered a sign of a problem.
“Although engaging in activities like kink or pornography may not be indicative of a sexual disorder, if these behaviors are causing problems in someone’s life (e.g. Hampering their ability to focus on other aspects of their life, or secretive and dishonest behavior) it may be beneficial for them to consult with a professional,” she says.
If you find that you’re unable to control your sexual urges and they’re adversely affecting your life, then you may be suffering from compulsive sexual behavior.
This can manifest in a number of ways, such as neglecting your responsibilities or losing interest in things you used to enjoy. So let’s delve deeper into the signs to watch for.
1. You can’t maintain a monogamous relationship
A big sign that you may be struggling with a sexual addiction is an inability to maintain a monogamous relationship. “If you find that you are repeatedly drawn to people outside of your committed relationship or you are unable to remain faithful to your partner, this could be a sign that you are struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors,” Roberts explains.
It is also important to consider the context of your relationship. Are you in a healthy and supportive relationship where both partners are satisfied with the sexual activity? Or are you in a relationship where you feel like you’re not getting enough attention or affection? If it’s the latter, it may be time to seek help for your compulsions.
2. You constantly enjoy the company of prostitutes
If you find yourself constantly seeking out the company of prostitutes, this may be a sign that you have a problem with compulsive sexual behavior.
This is particularly true if you find that you cannot control your urges, even when you know that it is harmful to yourself or your loved ones (or illegal depending on what state you live in).
Many men engage with prostitutes for reasons other than sexual addiction, but if you find that you are engaging in this behavior compulsively, that’s a red flag.
Paying for sex is not inherently bad, but if you find that you cannot control your urge to do so, it may be indicative of a problem.
3. You spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about sex
Do you find that you are constantly thinking about sex? Are you fixated on pornography or sexual images? Do you spend a lot of time planning your next sexual encounter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be a sign that you are struggling with uncontrolled sexual urges.
People with compulsive sexual behaviors often report that they cannot control their sexual thoughts.
They may find themselves fixated on sexual images or thinking about sex even when they’re not actively engaged in sexual activity. This can be extremely distressing and make it difficult to focus on other aspects of life.
4. You risk your job or reputation for sex
One of the most telling signs that you may be a sex addict is if you are willing to risk your job or reputation for sex.
This could manifest as having an affair with a colleague, watching pornography at work, or sending sexually explicit texts or emails.
Similarly, if you are in a position of power or authority, and you are using that power to pressure people into having sex with you, it is a sign of a bigger problem.
5. You frequently engage in risky sexual behavior
Another common sign of sexual addiction is engaging in risky sexual behavior. This can include things like unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, or sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
People with a sexual addiction often engage in risky behavior because they are unable to control their sexual impulses. They may also do it because they believe that it will make them feel better or because they are trying to escape from other problems in their life.
Risky sexual behavior can often lead to negative consequences, such as STDs, unwanted pregnancy, or emotional problems. If you find that you are regularly engaging in risky sexual behavior, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional.
6. You use sex as a coping mechanism
If you find that you are turning to sex to cope with problems or difficult emotions, it may be a sign that you have a compulsive sexual disorder.
People who struggle with this may use sex as a way to numb themselves from difficult emotions or to avoid dealing with problems in their life. This can lead to a vicious cycle in which sex is used to cope, leading to feelings of shame and guilt, which in turn lead to more compulsive sexual behaviors.
According to Roberts, “People who use sex as a way to cope are often avoiding other issues in their life. They may have unresolved trauma, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Avoiding these problems can lead to more serious consequences down the road.”
“If you are using sex to cope, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you to understand the root causes of your compulsions and give you tools to deal with them in a healthy way,” she says.
7. You live a secret double life
One of the most common signs of a sexual addiction is leading a double life. This may mean maintaining a “normal” life with a family and a job, while secretly leading a life that revolves around sex.
This can be a very difficult way to live, and can often lead to feelings of isolation, shame, and guilt.
A person with a sexual addiction may go to great lengths to hide their activities from their family and friends. They may have multiple partners and engage in risky sexual behaviors.
As mentioned earlier, they may also spend a lot of money on prostitution. All of this can lead to financial problems, which can further add to the stress of living a double life.
8. You often feel ashamed or guilty after sex
One of the most tell-tale signs of a sex addiction is feeling guilty or ashamed after engaging in sexual activity. This is because people with this disorder often equate sex with shame or humiliation. As a result, they may feel extreme guilt or regret after engaging in any kind of sexual activity, even if it was consensual.
This feelings of guilt or shame can be so intense that they lead to avoidance of all sexual activity. In some cases, people with a sex addiction may become celibate as a way of coping with their disorder
9. You watch way too much porn
If you find that you can’t go more than a few hours without watching pornography, it may be a sign that you have a problem.
While there’s nothing wrong with watching pornography in moderation, it can become a problem if it’s the only way you’re able to get sexual gratification.
Compulsive pornography use can lead to a decrease in sexual activity with a real-life partner. It can also cause erectile dysfunction and other problems with sexual performance. In severe cases, it can lead to social isolation and anxiety.
10. Your sexual addiction has caused strained relationships
If you find that your sexual behaviors are causing problems in your relationships, it may be another sign that you are struggling with sexual addiction.
Relationship problems caused by compulsive sexual behaviors can include:
- Lying and deception
- Withdrawal from intimacy
“When sex addicts engage in these behaviors, it can lead to a disconnection from their partner on an emotional level. This can be very hurtful and damaging to the relationship,” Roberts says.
“It’s important to act on this immediately by seeking couple’s counseling or sex addiction therapy to get to the root of the problem. Without treatment, this almost always leads to the breakup of the relationship.”
So I’m a sex addict, what do I do?
If you think you may be struggling with a compulsive sexual disorder, the first step is to reach out for help. This can be a difficult thing to do, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you on your journey to recovery.
The first step is to find a therapist or counselor who specializes in sexual addiction. This is someone who will be able to provide you with the support and guidance you need to begin working on your recovery.
In addition to therapy, there are also 12-step groups available, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous. These groups provide a space for you to share your experiences and connect with others who are going through similar struggles.
You can also start a new activity or habit that help takes your mind of sex altogether:
- Find a new hobby: Take up painting, hiking, biking, or another activity that you enjoy and can immerse yourself in.
- Exercise: Hire a trainer or join a fitness class. A new fitness routine can help to release endorphins and improve your overall mood.
- Practice mindfulness: Start a meditation practice or sign up for a yoga class. Learning to focus on the present moment can help to reduce anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
- Immerse yourself if some good books: Visit your local library or bookstore and check out some novels, biographies, or other books that interest you.
Dealing with a compulsive sexual disorder is no cake walk. It takes a lot of effort on your part but it can lead to a life time of rewards.