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Am I a Sex Addict? What is a sex addict?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

First Step Men's Therapy helps men across Ontario, Canada develop healthier relationships with themselves and others. We offer individual, couples, and group counselling to men and their families online using our secure telehealth platform.

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Sex Addiction typically isn't about sex

Sex Addiction is often debated amongst clinicians and experts regarding whether it exists, and should it be pathologized as an addiction. While sex addiction is not diagnosable, it is important to recognize that some individuals struggle with their sexual behaviour to the point that their lives, and their behaviour, becomes unmanageable.

Unmanageability might look like:

  • financial debt or difficulty with money

  • partners that leave or threaten to leave

  • children that do not want to speak to or have contact with individual

  • sexually transmitted diseases

  • loss of job

  • affair partners and secret families

  • arrest/legal issues

  • inability to function or be present

  • depression or shame associated with behaviour

  • co-existing addictions to alcohol or drugs that are associated or paired with sexual behaviour

At its core, sex and porn addiction is rooted in a deep desire to escape reality and often is used to medicate feelings associated with hurt, betrayal, worry, and loneliness. One of the biggest challenges that individuals face with these addictions include impaired thinking (denial) and difficulty in stopping the addictive behavioural patterns.

Secrets and denial often fuel and prolong sex addiction

Many sex addicts resort to living in and with secrets, and often their view of reality is heavily distorted with one person living many, separate lives, also known as compartmentalization. Each individual, despite different stories and circumstances, brings a heavily distorted belief system about themselves and the world that leads to addictive, compulsive, and harmful behaviour that can impact their relationships, families, work, and in some cases, ability to survive.

Questions to ask yourself in you are uncertain about having a problem with sexual behaviour

Some things to consider when looking at whether sex/porn are a problem in your life are:

  • Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?

  • Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behavior?

  • Has your sexual behavior ever created problems for you and your family?

  • Did your parents demonstrate inappropriate sexual behavior?

  • Do you hide some of your sexual behaviors from others?

  • Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?

  • Have important parts of your life (such as job, family, friends, leisure activities) been neglected because you were spending too much time on sex?

  • Have important parts of your life (such as job, family, friends, leisure activities) been neglected because you were spending too much time on sex?

  • Has the Internet created sexual problems for you?

  • Have you purchased services online for erotic purposes (sites for dating, pornography, fantasy and friend finder)?

  • Have you used the Internet to make romantic or erotic connections with people online?

  • Have you attempted to stop your online sexual behaviors?

  • Have you engaged prostitutes and escorts to satisfy your sexual needs?

  • Have you spent considerable time surfing pornography online?

  • Have you stayed in romantic relationships after they became emotionally or physically abusive?

  • Have you maintained multiple romantic or sexual relationships at the same time?

  • Have you cruised public restrooms, rest areas or parks looking for sex with strangers?

  • Do you use alcohol or drugs to have sex or to make sex enjoyable?

  • Have you maintained multiple romantic or sexual relationships at the same time?​

Fetishes and paraphilias are not. in themselves, sex addiction

Often, people mistake certain sexual behaviours (kink/BSDM/group sex) as indicative of a sexual addiction. This myth tends to cause confusion and often requires further exploration into whether or not it is a sex addiction or perhaps a moral incongruence. Do these behaviours cause negative consequences? Do you find it difficult to stop these kinks/fetishes? Are you hiding them from partners rather than being open and honest about them? Do you feel guilty or shame after partaking in these activities? Do you need one particular kink to get aroused but struggle with sex when not engaging in a fetish?

What are some of the root causes of compulsive sexual behaviour?

Individuals with a sex addiction may have had:

  • sexual, emotional, or physical abuse in childhood

  • disengaged or rigid family systems that did not permit or allow for intimacy

  • parents who struggled with an addiction

  • enmeshed family systems where the family, or certain family members, are too close and lead to feelings of engulfment

  • poor romantic relationships with attachment wounds such as abandonment, rejection, loss, abuse, betrayal, or neglect

Can therapy help me with my compulsive sexual behaviour?

Therapy can be an component to understanding whether your sexual behaviour is problematic and harmful to yourself and others. Assessments such as the Sexual Dependency Inventory SDI-4 offer a wide range of scales and measures that can help to understand the nature of the problem and how to create a targeted treatment plan to address the underlying causes of such behaviour. Often, once the individual has achieved some space (sobriety) from the behaviour, the real work of understanding what is underneath the sexual addiction becomes an important task within the therapeutic relationship.

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What is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist?

Want to learn more about what is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist: Click here

First Step Men's Therapy works with sex addiction as a main specialty, utilizing the training and resources of the Certified Sex Addiction Therapist training program and the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals. More about this work can be found through the IITAP website at Recovery Zone Home Page.

Sex Addiction Counselling and Therapy in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Ottawa, Kingston, Barrie, Sudbury, Hamilton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Barrie, North Bay, Thunder Bay, St. Catherine's, Belleville, Newmarket, Hamilton, Pickering, Oshawa, and Peterborough.

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