Addicted to sex? Symptoms of sex addiction

To understand whether or not you’re addicted to sex, symptoms require an evaluation of how compulsive sexual acitivty is, whether or not it’s harmful, and how sex affects your life. More from expert Dr. David Jacobs here.

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Are you a sex addict?

Sex addiction has fully entered the vernacular. Just turn on the TV or browse the internet and you’ll see reports of celebrity scandals attributed to different kinds of sex addiction, advertisements for sex addiction treatment, and debates on why sex addiction is or is not an actual addiction.

Sex addiction as a compulsion

Whatever the case, I think the common usage of “sex addiction” has developed to mean compulsive sexual activity of some kind. Is there a causal contributory role for biology in compulsive behavior? Professional opinion is divided. Calling a behavior compulsive is to say that somehow self-control has been compromised with regard to the behavior under consideration (in this case sex), but the person may simultaneously be functioning at a very high level in other areas.

The person who acts compulsively may struggle against the compulsion and feel tormented. If the individual acts in a manner that is personally ego-syntonic, there is less inclination to say he is acting compulsively. Acting from compulsion is not conceptually compatible with acting in a manner that is congruent with one’s own values, tastes, and standards. Of course how a person feels about his sexual activities may dramatically change post-discovery and confrontation by another person.

So am I a sex addict?

I think what should be considered is the following:

1. How compulsive (judged from the inside) is the activity?

2. How harmful or damaging is the behavior to yourself and others?

3. How much thought and effort is made to hide what you do?

4. How much of a distorting effect does the activity have on your life as a whole and how much destruction and mortification discovery will cause?

If you answered the preceding questions with “a whole lot” and “very much so”, then you are probably well advised to admit to yourself that you have a problem with sex. Most people delay trying to come to terms with their problem with sex until a life changing crisis occurs. Sometimes some good comes out of a life changing crisis, but you can’t count on a happy ending.

Some things may end that you don’t want to end. A line from a Bob Dylan song may be appropriate: “You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.”   Still, it will be very helpful to look into sex addiction counseling or forms of psychotherapy to treat possible sexual compulsion and get to the root of the problem.  Help is out there!

About the author
David H. Jacobs, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in practice in San Diego, CA and an analyst/critic of contemporary psychiatry. Dr. Jacobs has been in practice for over 20 years and works primarily with clients with addictions. He is also the associate editor of The Journal of Mind and Behavior and Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry.
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