Secretly worried you are a sex addict? Or suspect someone you know might be?
Learning the myths vs reality of sex addiction can be helpful.
7 Myths About Sex Addiction
1. Sex addicts have sex all the time.
Addiction is never actually a quantity issue. Yes, if we drink often we might be more likely to be an alcoholic. And if we have a lot of sex, we might be more likely to be a sex addict.
But some sex addicts, for example, merely think about sex nonstop and have very little (if any) real sexual encounters.
We are an addict not because of how often we engage in a behaviour, but because we are out of control to stop a behaviour even when it is resulting in negative consequences.
So sex is an addiction if your thoughts and actions around sex run your life in ways that damage your relationships, social life, family life, and possibly even your career.
Of course an addict often spends a lot of time convincing him or herself there is no problem and they are in control. But note that the very fact you are questioning if you are in control likely means there is an issue worth looking at.
[Read our comprehensive Guide to Addiction for more about the symptoms of addiction.]
2. You can easily spot a sex addict.
Yes, some people evidently lack sexual boundaries and/or come across as overly sexually available. This is often a sign of not just addiction but codependency or even a personality disorder, such as histrionic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.
But many sex addicts are the last person you’d suspect. Addiction is often by it’s very nature hidden.
The pain and shame that drive addiction thrive in secrecy. This is why such an important part of any 12-step recovery process is to admit the problem to others.
3. Sex addicts love sex.
Many sex addicts engage in sexual fantasy or behaviours that leave them feeling mired in shame and self-hatred after. They might think about things that repulse them yet turn them on, or have sex with people they don’t even like.
In therapy, a sex addict might discover they are very out of touch with themselves and their desire. They have to go back to square one with discovering what they truly like and don’t like when it comes to sex.
4. Sex addicts are always players.
You can be in a relationship and still be a sex addict. Perhaps, for example, you constantly self-pleasure and fantasise, or have ongoing sexual chats with strangers over the internet behind your partners back.
Or you might use sex addictively with your partner, demanding it constantly and getting angry or upset if they can’t meet your needs, and using sex over communication whenever the relationship falters.
Some sex addicts carry out their addiction by always thinking they are ‘in love’. They have many intense relationships one after another (this can overlap with love addiction or romance addiction).
5. Sex addicts are predators.
A sexual predator seeks power over another person, and the rush or ‘high’ is about degrading or hurting the other person. They often show little to no remorse, blaming the other person for the interaction or claiming it was beyond their control.
A sex addict is seeking relief from inner pain. Sexual addiction is not about the other person at all. The person they hurt is themselves, and they suffer shame and guilt after.
Note also that sex addiction does not always involve other people. It can be carried out via compulsive self pleasuring, or through things like excessive visits to strip bars or use of online chat rooms.
6. If you are a sex addict, it’s because you have sexual issues.
Sex addiction is not at root about sex at all. Like all addictions, it is rather a maladaptive coping mechanism and a response to trauma. Addictive behaviour allows us to even briefly escape who we are, and all the thoughts and feelings we don’t like.
It is true, however, that the trauma driving sexual addiction is often sexual abuse as a child. This can leave you with problematic thoughts, feelings, and boundaries around sex. That said, other forms of trauma can also lead to sex addiction, including neglect, physical abuse, manipulation, or lack of attachment.
7. Sex addiction is fun.
Many people like to joke they are a sex addict. But for those who truly do suffer sexual addiction, life is far from fun.
Sex addiction brings a constant cycle of highs and lows that leave you out-of-control, mired in self-hatred and shame, and unable to trust yourself. It often comes hand in hand with depression, anxiety, high levels of stress, other addictions like overeating and overuse of alcohol and drugs, and severe loneliness. And there is nothing enjoyable about any of that.
Would you like to talk to an experienced counsellor or psychotherapist who deals with sexual addiction? Harley Therapy connects you with registered and professional therapists across the UK, and also worldwide via Skype.
Still have questions about sex addiction? Want to share a personal experience with other readers? Post below in our public comments box.