What are Sexual Addictive Behaviors?


The term “sexual addictive behaviors” covers a very wide range of activities.  In that sense the term does not refer so much to a specific activity as it does to the way it is done and the impact it has on your life.  It is much the same as saying that playing the slot machines in a casino is not what makes you a gambling addict.  What makes you a gambling addict is why you gamble, for example, to escape dealing with painful emotions and or other life difficulties, how you gamble, for example is it now and then or is it several hours at a time every chance you get, and the results of the gambling, for example that you neglect your life, go into debt or lose your job.

In the same way it is not whether you masturbate or not, whether you hook up with random sex partners on websites, or any other particular sexual behaviors that make the behaviors sexually addictive.  As with gambling, over eating, compulsive shopping, hoarding and other problem behaviors sexual addictive behaviors are a matter of the role the activity plays in your life rather than the type of behavior.

Sexual Addictive Behaviors are Excessive  

Sexual addictive behaviors are considered addictive because they are done in a compulsive way.  That there is a compulsion involved is usually clear once you know the whole story.  The behavior of looking at internet pornography is not necessarily an addiction.  But if the person is spending ten or more hours a week looking at internet pornography, doing it when he or she is at work and is supposed to be working, or is doing it late into the night and can’t get up the next morning, then this is one sign of a sexual addictive behavior is present. Click here to see a list of the ways sexual addictive behaviors are commonly defined.

Sexual Addictive Behaviors are a Way to Self-Medicate

Another aspect of the sexual addictive behaviors that are considered compulsive or addictive is that they serve the function of a drug in the person’s life.  See the blogs “This is your brain on cyberporn” and “Sex Addiction as a pathological relationship with a Drug” for more information on sexual addictive behaviors as drugs.  Sexual behaviors can be used to numb out in exactly the same way as drugs and in fact many drug addicts and alcoholics have sexual addictive behaviors and vice versa.

Sexual Addictive Behaviors have Negative Life Consequences

A third necessary criterion for sexual addictive behaviors is that they are addictive when the activity has negative consequences and the behavior is continued despite these consequences.  In other words continuing in the behavior even though you have had financial or marital problems, aren’t there for your kids, have trouble getting ahead in your work and even getting in trouble with the law.  The sexual addict continues the behavior despite how damaging it is.

Sexual Addictive Behaviors are Chronic and Progressive

Last but not least is the fact that sexual addictive behaviors share with other addictions the fact that the addiction is chronic and progressive if the addict does not get help.  Most people who become entrenched in a pattern of sexual addictive behaviors cannot stop on their own no matter how bad the consequences are. It is a pattern of behavior that exists over time and usually does not resolve itself but rather tends to increase or “escalate” in terms of the obsession with the behaviors, the frequency of the behaviors, the risks taken in the process, and the increasing disregard for what is socially acceptable.  Click Here for information treatment options.