If you’re a fan of the popular crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, you might be familiar with some of the episodes that deal with sex addiction. Told through the lens of a compelling whodunit, these episodes tackle some of the common misconceptions about sex addiction, including the belief that sex addiction is “fun” or something people use as an excuse. In this article, we’re going to do the same thing, although– sadly!– we don’t have an exciting mystery for you to solve! But we are going to learn what sex addiction is, what it isn’t, and how to know if you have one.
What is a Sex Addiction?
Sexuality is, first and foremost, a spectrum. Some people are asexual, which means that they experience little or no sexual attraction to other people. But even that is not a black and white issue; it’s not as simple as saying that some people don’t like sex at all and other people love it. People who do not identify as asexual can experience a wide variation in sex drive and sexual attraction. Some people may only experience sexual arousal if they are romantically attracted to another person. Some people have a very healthy and high sex drive while others have an equally healthy and low sex drive. In short, our sexual orientations, preferences, and needs can differ as much as our personalities. People are not cookie cutter copies of each other and neither are our relationships with our sexuality.
However, despite this normal variation, there is still a very big difference between a person who has a high sex drive and a person who is experiencing sex addiction. A healthy person with a high sex drive may desire to have sex frequently but their relationship with sex isn’t controlling their life. They may enjoy pornography or masturbation but only on an occasional and controlled basis. Despite their healthy enjoyment of sexual pleasure, masturbation is not their only hobby, and their need for sexual gratification does not interrupt their life, relationships, or ability to fulfill their responsibilities.
But for someone with sex addiction, it’s different. Just as an alcoholic is unable to control himself in a bar, so someone with sex addiction is unable to regulate their pursuit of sex. This lack of control can cause them to struggle with holding down a job, maintaining healthy relationships with sexual or romantic partners, and/or maintaining healthy relationships with their family.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sex Addiction?
So, how can you tell the difference between a high sex drive and a sex addiction? This list of symptoms can help you identify a few key differences that are only present in people who are struggling with sex addiction. If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms, it’s a good indicator that your relationship with sex is unhealthy. Symptoms can include:
- Feeling an obsessive need for sex
- Compulsive sexual behaviors
- Frequent engagement in high-risk sex (for example, having unprotected sex or sexual activity with multiple people you don’t know)
- The feeling that your need for sex is like an itch you have to scratch
- Strange or kinky sexual preferences
- Feeling that it’s impossible to be satisfied by only one sexual partner
- Prioritizing your need for sex ahead of your relationships or responsibilities
- Feeling that your need for sex is beyond your control
Although this is not a comprehensive list of sex addiction symptoms, these are some of the most common hallmarks of sex addiction. So, if any of the symptoms on this list reflect your experience, it may be time to seek help.
How Can I Get Help For a Sex Addiction?
If you’re struggling with sex addiction, it’s vitally important that you get help from a licensed mental health professional. You can take the first step by taking the Mind Diagnostics Sex Addiction Test. This short test will ask you a few specific questions about the symptoms you are experiencing and provide you with a list of some helpful next steps. Included in that list of future actions is the recommendation that you seek assistance from a therapist, along with a directory of therapists near you who are qualified to treat sex addiction.
Reaching out for help can sometimes be a scary or overwhelming decision, but you should know that no one is judging you and there is no shame in getting help for mental illness. People sometimes feel embarrassed to admit that they are struggling with a sex addiction but the truth is that sex addiction is no worse or more embarrassing than an addiction to alcohol or drugs. If your addiction to sex is controlling your life, you should know that you deserve to find peace and happiness. Therapy can help you reclaim control and remind you that you’re not alone in this battle. So, don’t let fear hold you back! You have the power to take back control and you can do it today.