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Is Sex Addiction Real?

Since the news reports that surfaced regarding Tiger Woods and speculations about his life, as a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), I am often asked:  “Is there really such a thing as sex addiction?”  Yes, in my training and in my observation, there is such a thing as sex addiction.   As a CSAT I sit with many people whose lives have been negatively impacted by unwanted, continued behaviors that they feel powerless to stop with regards to pornography, internet pornography, and/or sexual behaviors.  Their lives, their marriages, their relationships, and the productivity of their lives are impacted in severe and dramatic ways as a result of their sexual-seeking behaviors.

Sex addiction is not about sex.  Sexually directed behaviors become the vehicle to avoid one’s pain in the way an alcoholic might use alcohol to check out from the pain of daily life.  Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder, a relationship disorder, and a family of origin disorder that manifests itself in sexual acting out.

There is a criteria for screening whether or not one has a sex addiction.  To meet the criteria one must struggle with 3 or more of the following:

  1. Loss of control.  There is clear behavior that one spends more time doing what they intend to be doing. 
  2. Compulsive behavior.  There is a pattern of out-of-control behavior over time. 
  3. Efforts to stop.  One has made repeated attempts to stop the problematic behavior and these attempts to stop the behaviors fail.
  4. Loss of time. Significant amounts of time are lost engaging in the problematic behavior or recovering from the behavior.
  5. Preoccupation. One spends time obsessing about the behavior or obsessing because of the behavior.
  6. Inability to fulfill obligations.  The behavior gets in the way or takes priority over work, school, family, friends or other obligations.
  7. Continuation despite negative consequences. The behavior continues even though one knows they are having problems in social, legal, financial or physical realms of their life.
  8. Escalation.  There is a need to make behavior more intense, more frequent, or more risky.
  9. Losses. One has experienced losses, or limiting, of valued parts of life in such things as hobbies, family, relationships, and work.
  10. Withdrawal.  Stopping the behaviors causes considerable distress, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, or physical discomfort.

Source:  Patrick Carnes, PhD,  Don't Call It Love pp 11-12