How do you know if you’re struggling with sex and/or porn addiction? What are the signs of sex addiction? Are the symptoms of porn addiction different from those for sex addiction?
These are questions that we are often asked and questions that many struggle to find the answer to. In this article we will explore some of the most common sex addiction symptoms and what to do if you recognise them in yourself.
Ultimately any behavioural addiction, such as gambling, gaming, sex or porn, is defined as a pattern of behaviour that is causing problems in someone’s life, but in spite of those problems, they can’t stop. The type of behaviour is not what defines it as addiction, but the dependency on it. If we were talking about alcohol addiction, we wouldn’t list all the beverages that are addictive, it is getting drunk that can be addictive, not gin or whiskey. Similarly, sexual arousal can be addictive, whether that’s through watching pornography, having physical sexual encounters, or fantasising about them. It's not the behaviour itself that is the problem but the relationship to the behaviour. When we become dependent on something and can't stop doing it, in spite of the problems it's causing in our lives, we generally use the term addiction. So what this boils down to in terms of symptoms, whether that’s of sex or porn addiction, is that life is becoming increasingly unmanageable. Some example signs of sex addiction include:-
- Spending more time than you want to on sexual activities
- Engaging in activities that are against your personal value system
- Increasing feelings of anxiety or depression
- An increased sense of isolation from others
- Neglecting other important areas of your life, such as work, relationships, study or hobbies
- Lying to others about what you’re doing, or how often you’re doing it
- Putting yourself in risky situations
- Feeling bad about yourself because of what you’re doing, or because you can’t control the time you spend on it.
If you recognise some of the signs above in your life, then perhaps sex addiction, or porn addiction does accurately describe what you’re struggling with. The following questions can also help:-
1. Does your sexual behaviour or porn use have a ‘significant’ negative impact on other areas of your life such as maintaining or forming relationships, spending time with family and friends, concentrating on work or studies, getting into debt, risking your mental or physical health, maintaining personal and legal boundaries?
2. Do you find yourself struggling to concentrate on other areas of your life because you are preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about your porn use or sexual behaviour?
3. Have you noticed that you need more and more stimuli or risk, or that you are watching what you would describe as more extreme porn, in order to achieve the same level of arousal and excitement?
4. Have you tried to limit your porn use or sexual behaviours, or stop all together, but repeatedly failed?
If the answer is ‘Yes’, to all of these questions, then I would strongly recommend you reach out for further help. There’s an online questionnaire at Am I A Sex Addict that you can use which will help you to find out how serious a problem this is for you. Some people have a ‘mild’ addiction, while for others it is much more severe. If you discover you are at the milder end, then you may find that you can work through a self help resource such as the Kick Start Recovery Programme which you will find at www.sexaddictionhelp.co.uk. But if it’s severe, then you’ll probably benefit from therapy and recovery work with a counsellor who specialises in sex addiction or perhaps joining a 12 Step support group such as SAA or SLAA.
The most important thing is to get help now. Please don’t leave it until you’ve hit rock bottom and your life has become even more unmanageable. Identifying the symptoms of sex addiction is a first step, the second is resolving them so you can stop sex addiction.