Sexual addiction is the term used to describe any sexual activity that feels ‘out of control’. Having a very high sex drive does not make you a sex ‘addict’. Neither does engaging in specific sexual activities, having many partners, looking at porn or engaging in cyber-sex. At Relate, we think that none of these are relevant unless you do. What is relevant is if someone feels that they are engaging in any sexual activity that they can no longer control and is likely to result in harm to themselves, a partner or partners, or to family and friends. So, ‘being sexually addicted’ is not defined by the activity itself but by the possible negative effect on the individual’s quality of life and on those around them.
If you’re worried that your activity is out of control it might help to consider if the following statements are familiar. For example do you:
Feel that the behaviour is out of control.
Believe that there may be severe consequences if you continue but carry on any way.
Persistently pursue destructive high risk sexual activities, want to stop but are unable to do so.
Need more and more of the sexual activity in order to experience the same level of high followed by feelings of shame and depression.
Experience intense mood swings around repeated sexual activity.
Spend more and more time planning, engaging in or regretting and recovering from sexual activities.
Neglect social or work commitments in favour of the sexual activity.
Repeatedly try to stop and perhaps stay stopped for a while, only to start up again.
Many or none of the above may accurately reflect how you’re feeling about what you do. The important thing is to talk to someone if you’re worried. Our therapists can offer support and help to people who recognise their activities are causing problems. We can offer careful assessment and lots of discussion because we understand that this is a complex issue where many other factors could contribute to your experience of your difficulty.
Likewise if you’re worried about a partner, you can talk to us in complete confidence. We can help individuals or couples to explore the impact of out of control activities on their relationship and support each of them to find a way forward.
If you think sex addiction may be an issue, tackling it on your own can feel very daunting and isolating so getting professional help may be a useful step.