Some couples have similar sex-drives leaving both feeling satisfied in the relationship. But sometimes one person’s sex drive may be stronger than his or her partner’s. Often this difference can be worked out between the couple by setting proper boundaries. But what if boundaries are crossed or even broken? If this happens repeatedly, you may wonder if your partner is an addict. Or, perhaps you are asking, “How do I know if I’m a sex addict?”
How Can Sex be an Addiction?
Sex is a normal part of life so it can be hard to image intimacy as an addiction, something in which one has no control. But the truth is 9 million Americans suffer with uncontrollable urges to masturbate or have sex. This number only shows those who seek help.
The key here is recognizing the difference between an intimate relationship and a compulsion to have sex or masturbate, even if it causes damage. Before answering the question, “how do I know if I’m a sex addict?”, you must understand behavioral addictions.
What are Behavioral Addictions?
Behavioral addictions are compulsive and repetitive actions that a person does to feel good despite negative outcomes. Each time you engage in sex, masturbation, or pornography your brain rewards you by releasing dopamine. This release of dopamine in the brains reward system makes you feel good.
While a normal brain function, some people become addicted to the feeling of the dopamine rush. When this happens, he or she engages in more sexual activities to get that brain reward. Over time, the brain needs more and more stimulation to get the same dopamine rush. At this point, you become obsessed with all things sexual and your personal life crumbles as risky behaviors cause relationships to breakup, health to deteriorate, and sometimes finances to be strained.
Sex addiction is not the only behavioral addiction treated. Gambling, shopping, technology, food, and even exercise can become compulsive activities that cause pain and ruin relationships. While these abusive behaviors are known as addictions, there is still a misconception as to the seriousness of the problem with compulsive behaviors.
Family members and friends often accuse the person struggling with compulsive behaviors of just being selfish. The general belief is he or she can control the behavior, but chooses not to care enough about others to stop. This is where education on the seriousness of behavioral addictions is needed to save relationships and get the person struggling proper help.
Are Behavioral Addictions as Serious as Drug and Alcohol Addictions?
In 2011, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released a new definition of addiction, which included behavioral addictions, not just chemical. They stated addictions are characterized by five traits.
- The first trait is an inability to consistently abstain from substances and behaviors. One may stop for some time, but without treatment relapse will occur.
- The second trait is an impairment of behavioral control. Someone who struggles with addictions has faulty judgment and problems with perception.
- The third trait is an increase of hunger, cravings, for activities that seem rewarding. These cravings are overwhelming and consumes most of the person’s thoughts.
- The fourth trait is a decrease in the ability to recognize problems with one’s own behaviors and how they affect others. You are incapable of seeing how the compulsions are hurting others while engaged in the activities.
- The fifth trait is a dysfunctional emotional response to normal situations and conversations. Side-effects of addiction includes increased anxiety, stress, paranoia, and an inability to recognize one’s own feelings or the feelings of others. Any question of concern over a person’s behaviors are met with accusation of attacking the addict and not seen as concerns of a loved one.
These five traits are seen in those struggling with substance abuse and those struggling with compulsive behaviors. These five traits lead to serious problems in relationships, health, and finances.
What are the Differences Between Behavioral and Drug and Alcohol Addictions?
While every addiction shares five common traits, some professionals believe substance addictions carry more weight because the physical risks to the user. For example, alcohol addiction can cause damage to the liver and other organs. While true, this belief is not complete.
Those struggling with sex addiction can also cause harm to their physical body. Risky behaviors such as unprotected sex with multiple partners and prostitutes can cause sexual diseases including HIV/AIDS. This disease is also of high concern for those sharing needles for drug abuse.
Other behavior addictions also cause harm to the physical body. Food addictions, both overeating and Anorexia or Bulimia, can cause damage to the organs. In many cases the damage is irreversible and people have died.
When someone is engaged in a behavioral or chemical addiction, he or she loses sight of self-care. Health is affected and disease is common in long-term abuse situations. If these five traits and self-care has become an issue for you in your sex-life, it may be time to ask a serious question.
How Do I Know If I’m a Sex Addict?
This question can be hard to answer as some people choose to lie and cheat with the ability to stop at any time. But for the sex addict, these behaviors are uncontrollable without treatment. If any of the following traits ring true for you, please seek help.
1. You lead a double life where everyone sees you as a nice person, but when it comes to sex, you don’t care about the people involved. You will use and leave anyone that can give the sexual release craved.
2. Other aspects of your live are in chaos because you are focused on sex as your priority. Work is left undone, home responsibilities go unnoticed, and finances dwindle as you wine and dine your way into the new person’s bed.
3. You always fantasize about the next conquest or the new porno you want to buy. You cannot concentrate on normal activities because of fantasizing about sex or seeking porno on the computer.
4. Consequences are not thought about when having sex. You don’t mind missing a week’s work to binge on new porno. When you have sex with others, you are more daring, having sex in places where you might get caught, or having increasingly rough sex.
5. If rough sex becomes destructive sex for you or your partner then seek help.
6. When sex or masturbation interferes with your relationships or becomes the reason all relationships fail, it is time to seek help.
7. When you hate yourself because of your sexual activities but cannot stop despite trying to, it is time to seek help from a professional.
Getting Help for Sex Addiction
Often after recognizing you have a problem, it can be hard to admit that problem to another person for fear of judgment and the consequences that come with taking responsibility for one’s actions. Don’t let that fear keep you in destructive patterns. If you are asking, “How do I know if I’m a sex addict?”, then you already recognize problems surfacing in your life. Take the next step and call Northlake Recovery to learn about treatment options for sex addiction. All calls are confidential and supportive. We understand sex addiction is a compulsive behavior, not a moral issue. Call (561)-770-6616 for help right now.