What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction is a method of medicating feelings and/or coping with stress to the degree that one’s sexual behavior becomes the major coping mechanism in their life. The individual often cannot stop the sexual behavior for any great length of time by themselves. The sex addict spends a lot of time in the pursuit of his or her sexual behaviors/fantasies or they have a binge of sexual behaviors.

Why do people become sexually addicted?

This is different for every sex addict but generally speaking there are biological, psychological, and spiritual reasons. The following is a short explanation of each reason why someone can become a sex addict.

The biological addict is someone who has conditioned their body to receive endorphins and enkephlines (brain chemicals) primarily through reinforcing a fantasy state with the ejaculation that provides these chemicals to their brain.

Psychologically, the need to medicate or escape physical, emotional or sexual abuse can demand a substance, the early addict finds the sex medicine usually before alcohol or drugs.

Spiritually, a person is filling up the “God hole” in them with their sexual addiction. The addiction is their spirituality — it comforts them, celebrates them, and is always available and present. Then there is the sex addict who can be addicted though two, or even three, of the above reasons. This is why a specialist in sex addiction is the best route for the recovery from sex addiction.

Related Story – read Maureen’s story of experiencing sexual abuse as a child.

What’s the difference between sex addiction and a high sex drive?

I have heard this question on almost every national talk show or radio show I have been on over the years. A person with a high sex drive is satisfied with sex. It’s not about a fix for something. When their partner says no to the idea of intercourse it doesn’t make them fly off the handle thinking their partner is totally rejecting them. There is no desire to leave the house or act out in some other way.

Can you be addicted to masturbation?

Yes. This is by far the most common sex addiction that I have treated in working with sex addiction. This usually is the first sexual behavior many of us will have on a repeated basis. This is usually where the sexual compulsion starts and this behavior, regardless of other acquired behaviors, usually stays active. This behavior usually starts early in adolescence while the brain is still developing.

What role does pornography play in sex addiction?

For many sex addicts, pornography combined with regular masturbation is the cornerstone. Many sex addicts have great difficulty getting sober from this combination of behavior. The pornography with accompanying fantasy creates an unreal world that the sex addict visits throughout their adolescence and other developmental stages and creates an object relationship that conditions their emotional and sexual self to depend upon these objects and fantasies to meet their emotional and sexual needs- hundreds of times before having sex with a real person.

Related: Read Jeff’s story of overcoming porn addiction.

Can someone be a sex addict and not be sexual (or intimate) with their spouse or committed relationship?

YES! We call this later stage of sex addiction — sexual anorexia. In this stage of sex addiction, the addict prefers the fantasy world and fantasy sex with themselves or others instead of relational sex with their spouse or partner. The addict/anorexic avoids relational sex and hence this couple has sex infrequently and often only at the non-addicted partner’s request.

What is it like to live with a sex addict from a partner’s perspective?

Partners living with sex addicts typically report common feelings, such as aloneness, the sense that the partner can’t open up and tell you about his “real” self. Confusion comes as a result of doing certain behaviors that are still not enough and hopelessness that there isn’t enough. Anger from many unmet needs, as a person and as a woman, are often common.

Can partners get help even if the sex addict doesn’t?

Yes. Even if the addict stays in denial of their addiction, the partner can receive help and support. The feelings of anger, loss, loneliness and many other feelings encountered over the years of living with this addiction will affect a person. These feelings need to be dealt with therapeutically whether they stay married to the addict or not. I tell those who seek my help that their partner’s addiction is in no way their doing. The addiction started many years before they even met. This addiction would have grown and damaged anyone they would have related to, and in any relationship.

Is there recovery for sex addiction?

Yes, there is recovery for sex addiction. Recovery takes time and hard work, especially in the first year, but with guided help the sex addict can experience restoration in their emotional, relational, sexual, financial and even spiritual lives. I have seen marriages made better than they ever were. Addicts can live much happier lives than they ever thought possible. I have been in successful recovery therapy for over eleven years and I know it’s available for those who choose to work for and maintain recovery.

Is there research on sex addiction available?

There is research being done in the field of sexual addiction. The monitored mail list of Heart to Heart Counseling centers provides weekly research information as well as excerpts from 101 Practical Exercises for sexual addiction recovery, as well as Twelve Step discussions. You can subscribe on the homepage of my site.

Can women be sex addicted?

Yes! The number of women desiring treatment is growing significantly. The behaviors are the same as their male counterparts including: masturbation, pornography, internet activity, anonymous encounters, and affairs. Over twenty recovering female sex addicts contributed in writing She Has a Secret: Understanding Female Sexual Addiction. This book plus the Secret Solutions Workbook, with over 115 helpful techniques for recovery just for women is available through my online store.

Is there any way to help our children not become sexually addicted?

Yes! Even though many of our adult male clients report that their fathers were sex addicts (porn, affairs, prostitutes etc.), they also report getting little to no proper sexual information to balance their sexual perspective. We have created two DVDs addressing healthy sexuality for teens. Born for War teaches young men practical tools to defeat the sexual landmines their generation faces and offers scriptural truths to empower them to desire success in the war that is thrust upon them. Princes Take Longer Than Frogs helps single women ages 15-30 successfully navigate through the season of dating and how to distinguish between a Prince and a Frog.

This article was written by: Dr. Doug Weiss

Photo Credit: Andrew Neel