Sexual addiction, also referred to as sex addiction or love addiction, is a disorder marked by persistent and excessive focus on sexual thoughts, desires and behaviors which an individual cannot manage, in spite of efforts to stop or the painful consequences resulting from his/her choices. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, an estimated 12 million adults in the US are affected by sex addiction.
Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Sometimes, it’s challenging for individuals to differentiate between a healthy sexual appetite and an unhealthy obsession with sex. Key indicators we look for in the clients who come to us for help with their sex addiction include:
- Sexual thoughts, desires or behaviors (or attempts to manage them) consume an increasing amount of the individual’s time and mental energy, resulting in decreased competency at work and decreased satisfaction in romantic or marital relationships.
- The individual is engaging in high-risk behaviors, in spite of potential harmful consequences (viewing pornography at work, having unprotected sex, being sexual with clients or co-workers, hiring prostitutes, meeting strangers for anonymous sexual encounters, etc.)
- The individual hides his/her sexual behaviors from others, lying and deceiving others in order to continue the behaviors.
- The individual begins “crossing lines” of personal beliefs or values in his/her behaviors, which results in extreme emotional distress and feelings of guilt and shame (a married person using pornography begins acting out with other people, violating a personal value of fidelity in marriage, etc.).
- The individual begins trying to regain control of his/her behaviors by spending less time engaged in sexual pursuits or making personal vows to stop. However, the individual’s attempts are unsuccessful, and the behaviors continue or escalate.
Are Affairs Evidence of Sex Addiction?
While a single emotionally and/or sexually involved affair is generally not an indicator of sexual addiction, multiple affairs usually signal that an individual’s sexual behaviors have become unmanageable. This is especially true if an individual values fidelity in marriage and has continued to behave in ways that contradict his/her internal value system, as well as promises made to others.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Because our sexuality is such a sacred and private part of us, we often do not disclose our sexual thoughts, desires or behaviors with others. Individuals who hold a Christian worldview may feel especially ashamed of their sexual desires and choices and usually attempt to manage their sex addiction privately without help from others.
At HopeQuest, we believe that recovery from sexual addiction is only possible in the context of safe relationships in which we are truly known by others and find grace and acceptance for the parts of us that we believe are unlovable. Our treatment approach is multi-dimensional, informed by evidenced-based research and integrated with Christian principles which promote healing and growth.