Sexual Addiction

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  • Sexual Addiction can be any behaviour that is beyond your control

    Addicts usually attempt to control their behaviour but fail and continue despite the risks or damage to their lives

  • The problem is becoming more common

    The rise in internet usage and the sheer volume of opportunities do not help

    The 'net is anonymous and this reduces the fear and shame that normally suppresses problem behaviour

  • Problems may arise from a difficult childhood

    Those who experienced abuse in childhood or who had a parent with an addiction are at greater risk of developing problems with sexual behaviour

  • What to do

    First, acknowledge that you have a problem. Then, get professional or specialist help. Your chances of recovery are vastly increased if you do.

  • More Info?

Impact of Addiction / Problems

Sexual Addiction Tests and Questions

Therapy and Treatments

I am receiving an increasing number of referrals and requests for information or help from people who believe that their sexual behaviour is problematic. Much of this is linked with the Internet. I am therefore providing these pages as a service to those who may be thinking of seeking help or who may at the present time find this is too big a step to take. The information may also be of use to those who suspect their partner may have a problem.

What is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction is any sexual activity that feels 'out of control'. A sufferer becomes dependent upon the behaviour, even if they know it is damaging to them or their family and in spite of the risk of legal, relationship, work, social or financial problems.

It is not the type of activity that defines addiction. Any sexual activity can be the subject of addiction and the addict may engage in many different activities or just one. The essential difference between the addict and the non-addict is that the behaviour is out of their control, despite their attempts to modify it or 'return it to normal'.

Some Facts About Sexual Addiction Some Facts About Internet Pornography
  • Over 1 in 20 (6%) of the British population is sexually addicted

  • 4 out of 5 people seeking help are men

  • 1 in 5 sex addicts questioned in a major study were homosexual

  • 42% of sex addicts in this study also had a problem with either alcohol or drug dependency and 38% had eating disorders

  • Virtually all those seeking help have themselves experienced some form of abuse in their families of origin; 97% emotional abuse, 83% sexual abuse and 71% physical abuse

  • Almost 9 in 10 (87%) come from families where another family member had an addiction of some kind

  • 7 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women view pornography on the internet

  • Hard core pornography is now accessed by 1 in 3 of all internet users

  • There are 4.2 million pornographic websites (12% of all sites)

  • Sex related sites are the Net's no. 1 sector, worth $2.5bn

  • 70% of all viewings of porno sites take place between 9 and 5 

  • 1 in 6 of all employees in a US study said they had problems with sexual behaviour online

Am I Addicted?

There are many online tests for addiction and the chances are that you may already have tried one or more of these and confirmed what you suspected and are now looking for information on what to do about the problem. However, just in case, at the end of this page is a link to a series of questions which can be used to recognise obsessive or compulsive sexual behaviour. 

Why Me?

It's not because you are a bad person, or because you are weak or indeed foolish. Thinking thoughts like this will not help you. Rather, it will make you feel further shame and convince you that nothing can be done. Hence you will return to the behaviours and may even 'give up' on yourself.

If you are struggling with addictive or compulsive behaviours it is likely that you have a low self esteem, regard yourself as less valid, drive yourself hard to compensate or have difficulty expressing your feelings and frustrations as you encounter them in life generally. You may experience life as painful, have difficulties in relationships or feel unloved or not good enough/deserving. You may be a perfectionist. You may not be used to asking for help and may be independent and even highly successful in life.

The chances are that the root of these feelings will lie in your experiences as a child, although your behaviour as an adult and your subsequent shame may be making things a lot worse.

You may use sexual behaviour as a way to 'lose' yourself or temporarily rid yourself of painful feelings. The problem is, you may find you need more and more gratification for this to work. As your behaviour gets more and more extreme or out of control, so you will tend to feel greater shame. The highs are not as high but the lows are worse than ever.

If you get 'found out' you may stand to lose a great deal. You may have tried to stop, perhaps even with some success, but staying stopped is very hard.  All you need to get started again is a period of anxiety or stress. An argument may be all the excuse you need, or you may convince yourself that you 'deserve a treat'. Once is never enough however and you will quickly lose control again.  You may find yourself right back into the problem behaviours, despite knowing the risks. 

What Can I Do?

  • As with all addictions, you first of all must acknowledge that you are unable to control your sexual behaviour. 

  • You have to accept that you have tried and failed, that it is beyond your control and that you need help. 

  • You also have to accept that you cannot just 'cut down' or expect to get your behaviour back into 'normal limits'. 

    • There may be no acceptable norm for your behaviour, for example, cybersex, visiting massage parlours, strip clubs or prostitutes - certainly not from a partner's point of view. 

    • If you view pornography and are addicted, you will not be able to confine your usage to within controllable limits. Usage will always escalate if you are addicted, just as an alcoholic cannot confine his/herself to mere 'social drinking'.

    • You will need to accept that there is no dodging the issue. You cannot substitute one (unacceptable) behaviour for another supposedly more acceptable alternative, such as viewing 'mainstream' or 'soft core' pornography, rather than 'hardcore', illegal or fetishist material

Some or all of this may be hard to do. It may even go against your nature to admit or acknowledge that you are powerless; many addicts are highly effective or successful individuals who enjoy a great deal of autonomy or control in most areas of their lives.

Ultimately you need to seek professional help. Many of my clients tell me that they spent hours surfing the web for information or looking for self help books before plucking up the courage to contact me. In my opinion, this work, unlike much other therapy, cannot be done on a self-help basis.

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Page last modified 21 Mar 2013