What Is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Like an alcoholic unable to stop drinking, sexual addicts are unable to stop their self-destructive sexual behavior.

Sexual Addiction

Sex addiction is a destructive and difficult problem. It ruins relationships, costs jobs, causes arrests, and destroys self-esteem and physical health. Sadly, millions of people are affected. And it is not primarily a moral problem rather, it is a problem of out-of-control feelings and behaviors that has both psychological and neurological components.

It has been reported that nearly 12 million people suffer from sexual addiction in the United States. Due the accessibility of sexual material available on the internet, cable television and videos, these numbers are increasing. Despite common misunderstandings, this addiction is not simply about “too much sex” or “having a high sex drive.”

How to Recognize Sexual Addiction

People with sex addiction use sex just as those addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is an anesthetizer that allows them to escape painful realities in order to help regulate their moods whenever they feel stress, anxious, lonely, afraid, rejected, and/or feel privileged, entitled, or use the behavior as a justification for reward. As the dependence on the sexual behavior progresses, they typically experience emotional states that mirror those of people addicted to other addictive behaviors.

At Sexual Addiction Recovery, we will identify the various aspects of problematic sexual behaviors including typical patterns of consequences, evolution and timing of behavior patterns, as well as a person’s therapy readiness.

We work on the deeper levels to get at the root cause of the addiction so it doesn't re-surface later. Unfortunately, many “addiction counselors” do not know how to work at these levels - many only work on the surface level of the addiction and do not know how to do the deeper work that is essential so that the addiction does not resurface.

Although it is not always easy to know how to recognize a sex addict there are several sex addiction symptoms you can use to determine whether you or a loved one may be struggling with unhealthy sexual behaviors.

Sex addiction is generally characterized by a pattern of increasing, repeated sexual behavior, which is often uncontrollable despite that person's intentions and efforts to stop the behavior. As with any addiction, problematic thoughts and behaviors may be rationalized and the addiction denied, even when the condition develops to such an extent that it causes the loss of intimate relationships, family, friends, or one's career. NorthPoint utilizes twenty (20) sexual characteristics that are called “collateral indicators” which help determine the presence of sexual addiction.

Collateral Indicators

There are twenty (20) sexual characteristics that are called “collateral indicators” which help determine the presence of sexual addiction. In addition, we can identify various aspects of problematic sexual behavior including typical patterns of consequences, evolution and timing of behavior patterns, as well as a person’s therapy readiness.

Addition is an Addiction is an Addition

Like other addictions, people who are addicted keep engaging in the behavior despite negative consequences. Addicts cause damage not only to themselves but also to their spouse/partner as well as to their family. Despite the danger, addicts return to the same behaviors over and over again, whether it's Internet porn, soliciting sex anonymously, seeking affairs, masturbating or exposing themselves in public, or for that matter any other sexual act that one may engage in.

Knowing you are a sex addict doesn’t mean you are bad or perverted or hopeless. It means you may have a disease, an obsession from which many have healed.1

Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Like an alcoholic unable to stop drinking, sexual addicts are unable to stop their self-destructive sexual behavior.2

The defining factor—for all addictions—is how the activity affects your life. If someone is preoccupied to the point of obsession with sexual fantasy and activity—solo or with others, has repeatedly tried and failed to quit or cut back, and is experiencing negative consequences as a result, that raises red flags for sexual addiction. Sex addicts put so much at risk: their personal lives, their social lives, their jobs, along with the threat of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, their health.3

References:

1. Dr. Patrick Carnes
2. www.sexhelp.com
3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-author-speaks/201702/sex-addiction-101

For your convenience, we have provided Scholarly Articles to help you increase your awareness in sexual dysfunction/addiction.

Please note: The majority of the links provided open to an abstract of the paper, though some provide access to the full article. This depends on the availability, or not, of open source versions of the publication.

The Studies are grouped in four themes to make your search easier to navigate:

A. Neuroscience studies on Internet pornography users and those with Compulsive Sexual Behaviors

B. Literature reviews on Internet pornography addiction and Compulsive Sexual Behaviors

C. Studies reporting relationships between porn use or sex addiction and sexual dysfunctions, low libido, and decreased arousal to sexual stimuli

D. Studies reporting relationships between porn use and less sexual or relationship satisfaction

A. Neuroscience studies on Internet pornography users and those with Compulsive Sexual Behaviors

  1. Preliminary investigation of the impulsive and neuroanatomical characteristics of compulsive sexual behavior (2009)
  2. Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011)
  3. Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance (2013)
  4. Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity (2013)
  5. Cybersex addiction: Experienced sexual arousal when watching pornography and not real-life sexual contacts makes the difference (2013)
  6. Empirical Evidence and Theoretical Considerations on Factors Contributing to Cybersex Addiction From a Cognitive-Behavioral View (2014)
  7. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014)
  8. Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014)
  9. Enhanced Attentional Bias towards Sexually Explicit Cues in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014)
  10. Cybersex addiction in heterosexual female users of internet pornography can be explained by gratification hypothesis (2014)
  11. Implicit associations in cybersex addiction: Adaption of an Implicit Association Test with pornographic pictures. (2015)
  12. Novelty, Conditioning and Attentional Bias to Sexual Rewards (2015)
  13. Neural Substrates of Sexual Desire in Individuals with Problematic Hypersexual Behavior (2015)
  14. HPA axis dysregulation in men with hypersexual disorder (2015)
  15. Symptoms of cybersex addiction can be linked to both approaching and avoiding pornographic stimuli: results from an analog sample of regular cybersex users (2015)
  16. Getting stuck with pornography? Overuse or neglect of cybersex cues in a multitasking situation is related to symptoms of cybersex addiction (2015)
  17. Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015)
  18. Sexual Excitability and Dysfunctional Coping Determine Cybersex Addiction in Homosexual Males (2015)
  19. Subjective Craving for Pornography and Associative Learning Predict Tendencies Towards Cybersex Addiction in a Sample of Regular Cybersex Users (2016)
  20. Exploring the Relationship between Sexual Compulsivity and Attentional Bias to Sex- Related Words in a Cohort of Sexually Active Individuals (2016)
  21. Critique of Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with "Porn Addiction" (2016)
  22. Altered Appetitive Conditioning and Neural Connectivity in Subjects With Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2016)
  23. Compulsivity across the pathological misuse of drug and non-drug rewards (2016)
  24. Compulsive sexual behavior: Prefrontal and limbic volume and interactions (2016)
  25. Can pornography be addictive? An fMRI study of men seeking treatment for problematic pornography use (2016)
  26. Ventral striatum activity when watching preferred pornographic pictures is correlated with symptoms of Internet pornography addiction (2016)
  27. Mood changes after watching pornography on the Internet are linked to symptoms of Internet-pornography-viewing disorder (2016)
  28. Executive Functioning of Sexually Compulsive and Non-Sexually Compulsive Men Before and After Watching an Erotic Video (2017)

B. Literature reviews on Internet pornography addiction and Compulsive Sexual Behaviors

  1. Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics (2015)
  2. Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015)
  3. Cybersex Addiction (2015)
  4. Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science (2016)
  5. Should compulsive sexual behavior be considered an addiction? (2016)
  6. Compulsive Sexual Behaviour as a Behavioural Addiction: The Impact of the Internet and Other Issues (2016)
  7. Neurobiological Basis of Hypersexuality (2016)
  8. Searching for clarity in muddy water: future considerations for classifying compulsive sexual behavior as an addiction (2016)
  9. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016)
  10. Integrating psychological and neurobiological considerations regarding the development and maintenance of specific Internet-use disorders: An Interaction of Person-Affect- Cognition-Execution model (2016)

C. Studies reporting relationships between porn use or sex addiction and sexual dysfunctions, low libido, and decreased arousal to sexual stimuli

  1. The Dual Control Model - The Role Of Sexual Inhibition & Excitation In Sexual Arousal And Behavior (2007)
  2. Use of pornography in a random sample of Norwegian heterosexual couples (2009)
  3. Unusual masturbatory practice as an etiological factor in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual dysfunction in young men (2014)
  4. Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014)
  5. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014)
  6. Adolescents and web porn: a new era of sexuality (2015)
  7. Patient Characteristics by Type of Hypersexuality Referral: A Quantitative Chart Review of 115 Consecutive Male Cases (2015)
  8. Men's Sexual Life and Repeated Exposure to Pornography. A New Issue? (2015)
  9. Erectile Dysfunction, Boredom, and Hypersexuality among Coupled Men from Two European Countries (2015)
  10. Masturbation and Pornography Use Among Coupled Heterosexual Men With Decreased Sexual Desire: How Many Roles of Masturbation? (2015)
  11. (Critique of) Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with "Porn Addiction" (2015)
  12. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016)
  13. Male masturbation habits and sexual dysfunctions (2016)
  14. The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics (2016)
  15. Altered Appetitive Conditioning and Neural Connectivity in Subjects With Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2016)
  16. Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men (2016)

D. Studies reporting relationships between porn use and less sexual or relationship satisfaction

  1. Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction (1988)
  2. Men’s leisure and women’s lives: The impact of pornography on women (1999)
  3. Adult Social Bonds and Use of Internet Pornography (2004)
  4. Sex in America Online: An Exploration of Sex, Marital Status, and Sexual Identity in Internet Sex Seeking and Its Impacts (2008)
  5. Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Sexual Satisfaction: A Longitudinal Study (2009)
  6. Wives' Experience of Husbands' Pornography Use and Concomitant Deception as an Attachment Threat in the Adult Pair-Bond Relationship (2009)
  7. Sexual media use and relational satisfaction in heterosexual couples (2010)
  8. Exploring actor and partner correlates of sexual satisfaction among married couples (2010)
  9. Sexual media use and relational satisfaction in heterosexual couples (2011)
  10. Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality (2011)
  11. Individuals who never viewed SEM reported higher relationship quality on all indices than those who viewed SEM alone (2011)
  12. Associations between young adults’ use of sexually explicit materials and their sexual preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction (2011)
  13. A Love That Doesn’t Last: Pornography Consumption and Weakened Commitment to One’s Romantic Partner (2012)
  14. Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction (2012)
  15. Pornography use: who uses it and how it is associated with couple outcomes (2013)
  16. Pornography and Marriage (2014)
  17. Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships (2014)
  18. Associations between relational sexual behaviour, pornography use, and pornography acceptance among US college students (2014)
  19. Korean Men’s Pornography use, Their Interest in Extreme Pornography, and Dyadic Sexual Relationships (2014)
  20. Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations (2014)
  21. Factors Predicting Cybersex Use and Difficulties in Forming Intimate Relationships among Male and Female Users of Cybersex (2015)
  22. Male Partners’ Perceived Pornography Use and Women’s Relational and Psychological Health: The Roles of Trust, Attitudes, and Investment (2015)
  23. Relationship of love and marital satisfaction with pornography among married university students in Birjand, Iran (2015)
  24. Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence from Longitudinal Data (2016)
  25. A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples (2016)
  26. Differences in Pornography Use Among Couples: Associations with Satisfaction, Stability, and Relationship Processes (2016)
  27. From Bad to Worse? Pornography Consumption, Spousal Religiosity, Gender, and Marital Quality (2016)
  28. Sexually explicit media use and relationship satisfaction a moderating role of emotional intimacy? (2016)
  29. Effect of soft core pornography on female sexuality (2016)
  30. Internet Pornography Consumption and Relationship Commitment of Filipino Married Individuals (2016)
  31. Till Porn Do Us Part? Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorce, (2016)
  32. Perceptions of relationship satisfaction and addictive behavior: Comparing pornography and marijuana use (2016)
  33. The effects of sexually explicit material use on romantic relationship dynamics (2016)
  34. Cyberpornography: Time Use, Perceived Addiction, Sexual Functioning, and Sexual Satisfaction (2016)
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