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Am I a Sex Addict?

What to Do If You’re Worried About Your Sexual Behaviors

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Updated July 06, 2011

Do you think you might be a sex addict? These days it’s getting easier and easier to worry about your sexual behaviors and activities as there is increasing pressure to conform to sexual norms. Politicians imply that the only healthy sex we can have is sex inside a heterosexual marriage (this despite the fact that most of us who are having sex aren’t in heterosexual marriages). Most, but not all, of the major religions agree with this, and take it further by narrowing the kind of sex married people can have down to one or two things. And there is a booming sex addiction industry ready to give you a test, sell you a book, and find you a therapist if you think about sex too much, masturbate more than once a day, or are interested in anything other than heterosexual intercourse. The result is that many people with healthy sexual interests and desires begin to think they have a problem.

The first thing to know is that if you don’t feel like you have a problem and your sexual or romantic partner or partners don’t feel like you have a problem, then chances are pretty good that you don’t have a problem. But if you do feel like you are engaging in sexual activities or have sexual thoughts or feelings that you can’t control, it is probably a good idea to talk to someone about them.

Trying to Define It for Yourself
If you are experiencing significant distress you may want to start out by seeing a mental health professional (see below for more on that). But if you’re not feeling completely overwhelmed, you may want to start by trying to clarify the problem for yourself. Here are some questions you may want to consider:

  • What specifically are you doing that is causing concern?
  • If the sexual behavior involves someone else, have you talked to them about your concerns? If so, do they see it as a problem?
  • Is this something you’ve always experienced, or is it new?
  • How much of your worry comes from what you imagine other people would think or say about this, and how much comes from how you feel about it?
Ultimately, talking it out with a professional is a good idea, but having some thoughts to go in with can help. You may want to try writing your own sexual history as an exercise.

Feeling Out of Control and Being Out of Control
The sex addiction literature doesn’t always distinguish between feeling out of control and being out of control. Other therapists suggest that in some cases if you can take ownership for your actions it can help you better control them. Giving some thought to what you get out of engaging in the sexual behavior or fantasy may also provide clues as to how to better manage it in your life.

Remember That Sex Is Healthy
If you encounter the sex addiction literature or sex addiction counselors you may begin to think about your sexuality as unhealthy, and sexual behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, as something not worth the bother. This is never the case. It may be that you need help managing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, but to try and eliminate sexual desires other than ones deemed “appropriate” by a therapist is not only wrong, it won’t work. We all have variations in our desires and fantasies. We may need to prevent ourselves from acting out our desires some of the time, but that doesn't make them wrong. Finding a balance between feeling in control and experiencing a healthy sexuality is crucial to long-term satisfaction and happiness.

Finding the Right Help
Getting the right support and mental health services is crucial to developing a solution that works for you. I recommend beginning with a professional who has experience in human sexuality and more than one way of working with people around sex. Often sex addiction counselors may not have an extensive background in sex therapy or even in psychotherapy or counseling. Make sure the person you see has had more training than courses in sex addiction. The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists has a referral list which is highly recommended.

Read more about finding a sex therapist.
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