Am I an Addict?
Daniel R Sullivan, MA, LPC, NCC
One of the major questions people often ask me when they come in for therapy is: Am I a sex addict? Whether it is spicing things up with your partner or an addiction that is bringing chaos into your life, sex is a hot topic that everyone loves to explore. Far be it from me to deny you what you want, so today’s topic will be sex.
Working with clients from a variety of cultural backgrounds here in Chicago, I find that while sex may be a challenging issue to discuss many clients have a lot of questions related surrounding intimacy.
Recently I had a conversation with some friends regarding sex addiction. Some balked at the idea of sex every being addictive, indicating that it was just the latest mental health fad meant to stop us from enjoying the experience. Some wondered if the Internet could be addictive.
Others believed that like drugs, alcohol, or gambling, one could use physical contact with others to avoid the challenges of life. However, one question arose within both camps; “How do you know the difference between sex addiction and just a very healthy active sex life?”
The answer might surprise you. Here of five of the areas I explore with my clients. I hope that it will clear up some of the confusion.
1. It’s not about the act
The type of sexual behaviors you participate in and enjoy is not a qualifier for whether or not you are a sex addict. Just because a person chooses a non-monogamous lifestyle or enjoys kink play is not a definer of addiction. Think of that mentality as a Victorian attitude that still has a stronghold on many people.
2. Are you hiding?
Sex addicts hide this part of their life from friends, family, and partners often choosing to keep anything related to sex hidden. Intimacy is something you should be open with your partners about, not a secret shame.
3. Riddled with guilt?
Sex addicts are often riddled with guilt and shame after any sexual activity, often feeling unsatisfied no matter how much sexual activity has taken place. Healthy sex should be exciting, fulfilling, and enjoyable, something that you embrace and explore, not indignity.
4. Escalating behaviors
Sex addicts may participate in sexual activity regardless of the consequences. Thus, sex addicts often isolate loose careers and destroy relationships. Healthy sex is experienced without creating unhealthy chaos in your life. Usually, there is a pattern of escalating behaviors and risk taking under this specific point.
5. Avoiding intimacy?
Sex addicts use sex to avoid intimate connections, give them respite from grief, and rarely enjoy sexual activity. However, the thought process remains more, more, more. Healthy sex explores a variety of connections within a sexual context, they are not afraid of any form of intimacy.
Keep in mind that each person is unique. A part of that uniqueness is a person’s sexual thoughts and behaviors. So, while some of the aforementioned areas may indicate a sexual addiction, do not jump to conclusions.
Seek out a counselor, explore, and then decide if there is an addiction or just an enjoyable sex life. Marylyn Monroe summed up sex better than I ever could.
Therefore, I will leave you with this quote, “We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.”