Sex addiction became a popular topic in the media as stories of Tiger Woods' situation continue to break. But many don't really understand what makes something a sex addiction. Dr. Patrick Carnes defines sex addiction as "any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment." Behaviors can include "compulsive masturbation, compulsive heterosexual and homosexual relationships, pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, child molesting, incest, rape and violence." When you look at the spectrum of these behaviors it is easy for many to say "I'm not a sex addict. I've never physically hurt anyone. I only look at porn." However, if the addict engages in sexual activities in a secretive, compulsive way, then "just looking at porn" could fall into a sex addiction category. Sex addiction is a serious issue and can cause you to loose people and things you hold dear. Remember that sex addiction usually starts smaller and grows into a bigger issue. If you find yourself rationalizing behaviors that might seem like a "borderline" sex addiction, it's a good idea to get help now before it grows into something else. The following are questions from Sex Addicts Anonymous' website to help people identify if they are a sex addict. If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, Imagine Hope can help you look at what steps you need to take to be free from this addiction.
- Do you keep secrets about your sexual behavior or romantic fantasies from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
- Have your desires driven you to have sex in places or with people you would not normally choose?
- Do you need greater variety, increased frequency, or more extreme sexual activities to achieve the same level of excitement or relief?
- Does your use of pornography occupy large amounts of time and/or jeopardize your significant relationships or employment?
- Do your relationships become distorted with sexual preoccupation? Does each new relationship have the same destructive pattern which prompted you to leave the last one?
- Do you frequently want to get away from a partner after having sex? Do you feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
- Have your sexual practices caused you legal problems? Could your sexual practices cause you legal problems?
- Does your pursuit of sex or sexual fantasy conflict with your moral standards or interfere with your personal spiritual journey?
- Do your sexual activities involve coercion, violence, or the threat of disease?
- Has your sexual behavior or pursuit of sexual relationships ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?
- Does your preoccupation with sexual fantasies cause problems in any area of your life - even when you do not act out your fantasies?
- Do you compulsively avoid sexual activity due to fear of sex or intimacy? Does your sexual avoidance consume you mentally?
If you answered yes to any of these, it's time to get help. You deserve a healthy sex life free from the grips of addiction!
Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.