Sex Addiction – Signs and Symptoms You Need to Know
Too many of us think we have a high sex drive or perhaps just fetishes that make things more fun and exciting. However, there is a line between having fun and risking your life. In this article, we will discuss whether you may be at risk or currently have an undiagnosed sex addiction.
Acknowledging Sex Addiction
Almost 15 years ago, I sat in a therapist’s office and unknowingly took a test to see if I had a sex addiction. If I were in school, I would be proud of all my positive answers. The only questions I answered negatively were: “Have I had sex with children or wanted to have sex with children?” and “Have I ever gotten in trouble with the law because of my addiction?”
Later, I realized that my past behavior could have gotten me in trouble with the law. It was the first time I realized that I had a sex addiction. But, in all honesty, I had spent a lifetime ignoring my emotions and reality.
Part of the reason why we don’t seek treatment because we don’t see how our behavior hurts ourselves and others. Also, we do not believe our issues are common. However, sex and love addiction is more common than you think.
Sex and love addiction is more common than you think
As stated earlier, one of the common reason why addicts do not seek treatment is because they believe their situation is unique. However, as of 2022, 6-8% or 24 million Americans suffer from sex addition.
Even if you are not ready to seek therapy, you at least owe it to yourself to take this simple test to see if you may have an issue with sex or love. It is the same test that I used in the beginning of my recovery journey.
How sex and love addicts become addicted
Most recovering sex addicts like myself were sexually abused or traumatized by adults or other children, directly or indirectly. In other cases, they were exposed to sexually explicit material at an early age.
Another risk factor is being raised in a performance-oriented home where output and results were valued above all else. Trying to orgasm or climax as quickly as possible is normal for those who received praise for being as speedy as possible.
Regardless of the reason, it is normal to feel disconnected from your feelings and desire sex as an escape from reality.
It takes time to become comfortable with the past pain that caused internalized shame. Let me explain my story with the hope that you will seek help if you suffer from any form of sexual addiction.
Raised in a performance-oriented household
I grew up in a household where I only received praise from my parents only when I never complained and gave them what they wanted. And so I kept my mouth quiet and was a good girl.
In order to keep the peace, I cooked, cleaned, and stayed silent when my father left for the weekends to do God knows what.
Silence was paramount. As such, I stayed quiet as I saw not one, but both of my brothers melt down emotionally.I even stayed quiet when my mother molested me sexually.
All that mattered in my childhood home was performance and silence.
Suffering in silence
Even if you cannot relate to my background, please understand that it is normal to attract emotionally stunted people. The reason is because performance-minded people shut down the right feeling-side of their brain, ignoring their pain and discomfort. Moreover, emotionally stunted people attract each other because of their limited emotional maturity.
In summary, trauma, abuse and violence during childhood is excellent training for anyone to abusive and harmful partners who will abuse you sexually and verbally. I have first-hand knowledge of this fact.
Many sex addicts hold powerful careers. I recently read an interesting article about Wall Street executives who make six, or even seven-figure salaries, but are caught up in drug and sex addiction. Even with all their wealth, some people’s need to achieve or past trauma still haunts them, and it is literally ruining their lives.
The progression of the disease – sexual abuse
As a young woman, I had numerous abusive romantic relationships. In one such relationship, the man I was with sexually assaulted me. However, despite this, I continued to date him for almost a year. I even had hopes of getting married to him.
If you grew up in a family environment where there was a history of abuse, it may seem acceptable to remain in toxic relationships.
That is why I refrain from judging anyone who may not be able to leave a toxic relationship immediately or has had multiple abusive relationships.
Healing from sex addiction
Like all addictions, you will never fully recover. The addiction permanently rewired your mind. Your goal in recovery is to manage the temptations. For example, although I have been in recovery for over a decade, there are moments when I desire lust-based attention from men.
Part of your healing and recovery process is to understand your affinity for abnormal or deviant sexual behavior. Why is that important – you may ask? It is because as humans, we tend to want to duplicate things to resolve internal confusion and pain and gravitate towards things that are familiar, despite being unhealthy (e.g., junk food, smoking, or vaping despite having emphysema or asthma).
The vicious cycle of self pity and shame
Unfortunately, addicts tend to repeat the same patterns that contribute to their addiction due to internalized shame and self-pity.
For instance, if someone feels unworthy of healthy relationships, they may engage in casual sex with no emotional connections. Such behavior does not equate to a genuine relationship and will likely end in heartbreak or an abrupt end, further cementing the belief that they are unlovable.
To heal, one must disentangle and confront false and often hurtful memories from the past.
It takes a minimum of two to five years to stabilize from a sex or lust addiction, depending on how deep the shame issues run.
Part of your healing journey must include creating a relapse prevention plan. This is where you work with your therapist or a trauma-informed coach like myself to develop a relapse prevention plan that includes strategies to cope with triggers and cravings. This will help you navigate challenging situations and reduce the risk of setbacks.
Your self-care plan
In order to heal, you must develop a self-care plan. Many addicts used their substance of choice (i.e. lust) to ignore stress, escape reality and find comfort in fantasy. Self care includes activities that help improve your mental, spiritual and physical health.
Some activities include:
- Regular exercise which release endorphins and relieve stress naturally.
- Hobbies that don’t remind you of your addictive past.
- Meditation (here are some recommendations)
Get in touch with your feelings
Part of your healing and recovery process requires embracing your feelings. There is no timeline on the healing and recovery process.
It takes time to de-thaw your emotions if you were punished for expressing yourself to others. Here are some tips that will help you:
- Be patient with yourself. It took years to develop a sex or love addiction. It takes time to love yourself back to health.
- Keep sharing your past pains with others. I highly recommend twelve step programs like Sexaholics Anonymous.
- If you are not married or in a significant, long-term relationship, then consider ending any current relationships. An active addiction can distort your perception of love and romance, and you may need time to understand what a healthy relationship looks like. Additionally, it’s important to avoid dating during the first year of recovery because your thoughts and emotions may not be clear or fully developed yet.
If you can relate to my story, then know that you are a survivor. And while you may think that you are okay, you can learn more tools to heal and improve your mental health.
Never let your own ego get in the way of your healing.
Despite years of risky casual sex and porn use, I wasn't addicted to sex.— Denise Lee (@DeniseGLee) August 13, 2023
I was addicted to lust and dopamine hits.
I was hooked on:
-Being looked as a sex object
-Objectifying people. They were just tools for my sexual gratification
-The high from risky sexual…
Remember to keep practicing patience and persistence. Recovery from sex addiction or lust addiction takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that setbacks may occur. Persevere through challenging times and celebrate your progress along the way.
Best of luck on your healing journey. Remember, you are not alone and get support if you need it. If needed, find a trauma-informed coach like me or find a therapist who has experience with PTSD and sex addiction for additional support.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE
The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.
Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat you or anyone with a suspected mental health illness. Please, if you need help, seek appropriate help from a lawyer, health care provider or law enforcement officer.