How Do You Know if You're Addicted to Sex?

First things first: if you’ve found yourself reading this article because you’re cruising the internet looking for help, welcome. Sex is complicated, and if you’re trying to figure out some of those complications right now, it’s really important that you know you’re not alone! When it comes to sex, there are safe and unsafe ways to practice it, healthy and unhealthy ways to engage in it, and lots of differing opinions on what those things mean. When you’re trying to figure all of that out for yourself, it can be overwhelming, even scary, especially if you feel like you’re experiencing some kind of sex-related problem.

Sometimes, the fact that sex is even on your mind in the first place feels like the problem, especially if it’s the only thing on your mind. If you find yourself constantly thinking about or engaging in sex acts, you might be worried that you have a sex addiction. But is sex addiction even a thing? Like many activities, it’s important to remember that sex in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It’s a natural part of our lives as humans, and when conducted in healthy ways, it can be a part of a healthy life. When it crosses over into unhealthy territory, however, there are risks. Sex addiction is one of those unhealthy territories.

What Is Sex Addiction?

First of all, sex addiction is not actually recognized in the DSM-V as its own mental disorder. Many scientists are still not convinced that it’s definable enough to be considered an illness in its own right. There are, however, plenty of scientists that link hypersexuality or addictive sex behaviors to other addictions or disorders as a leading symptom. If you think you might be struggling with a sex addiction, it’s important to identify and understand your symptoms so that you can seek help and support as you look into the source or underlying issue that’s causing your addictive behavior. Some signs to be aware of are:

  • Sex, thoughts of sex, and use of porn dominate your life so much that you’re missing out on other activities such as school, work, or gatherings with family and friends.
  • You’re willing to pursue sex at the risk of your personal safety, health, and treasured relationships, whether that means engaging in dangerous activities, practicing unprotected sex, or cheating on a partner or spouse.
  • Your pursuit of sex-related activities is mixed with feelings of anxiety, shame, depression, and regret.

The key here is that there is usually no real sense of fulfillment in committing the addictive acts, just a cycle of shame and guilt, constantly repeating the same behaviors even though you know there will be a negative consequence.

What To Do If This Sounds Like You

Like any addiction or compulsive behavior, this condition boils down to brain chemistry and low self-esteem. The very first thing you need to do is get help. Talking with a professional about the details of your addictive behaviors, as uncomfortable as that might sound, is the only way to thoroughly and correctly diagnose what’s going on. They can help you figure out whether you’re also dealing with love addiction or a number of other mental illnesses that could be driving your need for false intimacy and physical release.

A professional can also recommend treatment, whether that be medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two to help you heal from self-hatred and retrain your brain to become less dependent on the chemical rewards it gets from engaging in unhealthy sex activities. Tell your trusted friends and family members and let them show you the love they’re probably dying to give you.

Finding a support group where others who struggle with sex addiction can also be a huge source of comfort and make it easier to talk about something you’ve been hiding. It’s always healing to know that you aren’t alone on your journey and to walk alongside someone who understands your story. We also have several partner organizations you can check out, such as Captivesfree and XXXChurch, or you can ask your counselor for recommendations.

You Are Not Your Addiction

It bears repeating that feelings of regret and shame are key symptoms of sex addiction. If you find yourself struggling to keep your head above water because of those thoughts, please know that you are not defined by your mistakes. Whether you’ve had an unhealthy relationship with sex in the past, or you’re actively engaging in addictive behaviors today, your worth as a person is a completely separate thing from the regret and shame you feel about these activities. You are not your addiction. You are not your mistakes. You are not broken, dirty, or used up. 

You are a unique treasure, created in the image of the divine, and carrying a soul capable of more love, joy, and peace than you could ever imagine. Jesus makes it very clear that a person’s mistakes do not impact how beautiful and worthy you are of love and redemption—he hung out with everyone, from shepherds and tax collectors, to prostitutes and politicians. He treats everyone as a precious child of God, and that includes you. Reach out to TheHopeLine if you’re wondering how to connect with the way Christ sees you, because living one more second in that pit of regret and shame is not what you deserve. You deserve love! Plain and simple.

If you are fighting an addiction to pornography, you are not alone... Read 7 Steps Towards a Porn-Free Life for help.

-Jen DeJong

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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