How to Tell If Someone You Know Is a Sex Addict

Posted on January 29th, 2015

How to Tell If Someone You Know Is a Sex AddictDespite the fact that it didn’t receive entry in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-V), sex addiction is a widely-recognized issue among experts in the field. The current lack of robust evidence on the condition does have an effect, though, and in combination with the general taboo existing in society around sexual behavior, it means that many people in need of help go unnoticed. If you’re concerned that somebody you know is a sex addict, a recent Huffington Post segment talks to experts to help you understand and identify the issue.

Sex Addiction and Stigma

The big problem with society’s attitude toward sex addiction is that it rarely takes into account the gravity of the problem. The professional uncertainty (epitomized by the DSM’s lack of full inclusion for the condition) about the diagnosis doesn’t help, but there is an overall feeling from some that sex addiction as a diagnosis is some type of “excuse” for “bad behavior.” Make no mistake. Sex addiction is every bit as real as addictions to drugs or alcohol. Sex releases the same brain chemicals associated with addiction to substances, and it drives people to financial ruin, broken relationships and lost jobs just like drug addiction does. Any way you cut it, compulsive sex seems to be much the same as compulsive drug use. The stigma associated with the condition is thoroughly ill-informed.

Signs of Sex Addiction

The biggest clue that somebody you know may have a problem with sex addiction is the pre-occupation they often have with it. If you happen to be aware that the individual is having one night stands, hiring prostitutes, watching online pornography or engaging in other sexual behavior very frequently, these are signs that there may be an issue. Such knowledge isn’t always possible, but this and other basic symptoms of sex addiction are extremely useful if you can identify them. The next most likely thing you may notice is if this behavior is affecting day-to-day responsibilities: is he or she missing work or school to engage in sexual behavior?

Most individuals struggling with addiction aren’t particularly forthcoming about it, however, so your best option is probably to stay on the lookout for signs of a pre-occupation with sex. The individual may regularly make sexual jokes, seem to spend a lot of time talking about sexual experiences, or otherwise give you clues that it remains at the forefront of his or her mind. In the same way that a drug abuser’s life will begin to revolve around the substance in question, a sex addict’s life will begin to revolve around sex.

As always, spotting a problem is difficult because you may misinterpret signals, so be wary in drawing conclusions. A succinct piece of advice: also look for signs that there isn’t a problem. Either is possible, but if you only look for signs that there is a problem you may fall into “confirmation bias.” If you really think you’ve identified a problem, talk to the individual in a non-judgmental, supportive fashion and see if he or she is willing to open up and confirm (or deny) your suspicions.

Getting Help for Sex Addiction

If you identify a problem with your loved one, you can stress that treatment will not involve “abstinence” from sex. Rather, the goal is to help the individual develop a healthy relationship with sex, getting to the bottom of whatever other issue is driving the individual to use sex as a coping mechanism. The process is similar to recovery from drug or alcohol addictions — you have to understand your behavior on a deeper level and learn coping techniques. It won’t be an easy journey, but your loved one will be able to get through it.

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