Am I a Sex Addict?
Doing a Google search for the phrase ‘Am I a Sex Addict?’ returns an incredible number of search results inundated with quizzes to help you identify whether you are a sex addict or not. Many of these online sexual addiction quizzes are filled with a commercial and exploitative intent. The idea being that once you label yourself a sex addict then you will need to (pay) for help to kick your addiction. In my opinion, it is important to be mindful of these quizzes as only you know the ultimate truth of what is going on with you. The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) which is the body that accredits Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT) have created a very basic screening test called the SAST. This is an imperfect instrument but may be helpful place to start your exploration.
The SAST is designed to assist in the assessment of sexually compulsive behavior which may indicate the presence of sex addiction. IMPORTANT: This is just a screening which simply means that you may be dealing with a sexual addiction.
Does Sexual Addiction Actually Exist?
David J Ley Ph.D. has been the strongest voice in North America desperately trying to dissuade the mental health community from using the label of sex addiction. He wrote what some consider a controversial book appropriately called, “The Myth of Sexual Addiction.” I think his voice and opinion are very important to include in the discussion of sexual addiction. Here in my opinion is the essence of his position which can be found in the introduction of his book.
“This diagnosis (sex addiction) poses a real risk of stigma and shame to innocent people, simply because their sexual behaviours do not fit what is defined as the social norm (though we truly have little real data about what the norm actually is).” David J Ley, The Myth of Sexual Addiction
I agree with David. There is a danger in labelling people sex addicts particularly when we have absolutely no norm for sexuality as a whole.
Sexual Addiction Definition
Below is a definition of sexual addiction found on the website of Bellwood Health Services which offers a 3 ½ week sexual addiction residential treatment program in Toronto.
“Sexual Addiction is a pattern of out of control sexual behaviour or fantasy which is repeated without regard to consequences to self or others. These behaviours, while normal in moderation, become problematic when used repeatedly and begin to interfere in other areas of life. The primary goal of the behaviour or fantasy is to avoid unpleasant emotional states.” Bellwood Health Services
I agree also with Bellwood Health Services whereby many individuals are struggling with out of control sexual behaviours which are leading to negative consequences.
So, Does Sexual Addiction Truly Exist?
In my opinion our language is imperfect and as a result we have adopted the term sexual addiction or sex addict simply because it is easy for everyone to understand. My personal interest is in supporting men in creating a healthy sexuality that works for them. Every individual will have a different personal definition of what healthy sexuality looks like for themselves and I work with men who are working to achieve that. As a result when men are experiencing a sexuality that is out of integrity with what personally works for them I am comfortable using the term sex addict or sexual addiction to help define that experience.
Sexually Addictive Behaviours for Men
- Paying for sex (escorts, strip clubs, massage parlours, etc.)
- Watch porn excessively
- Maturbating excessively
- Out of proportion reaction: you get overexcited (almost trance like) by the idea of getting sex (it becomes your primary focus)
- Using dating sites or apps exclusively to secure sex
- Easier for you to have sex with anonymous individuals or where there is no relationship/intimacy
- Seeking sex from individuals you perceive are more vulnerable (i.e. people you can exploit)
- Rarely have sex with partners you would consider equal (actually you are scared of those partners)
- Always trying to seduce women (or men) regardless of situation
- Visiting sex clubs or swinger clubs
- Tried to stopped your sexual behaviour but can’t seem to do it
- Rarely in a committed relationship or compulsively unfaithful when in one
- Feel a sense of shame and remorse after your sexual behaviours
- Experienced negative consequences as a result of your sexual behaviours
IMPORTANT: Engaging in one or more of these behaviours does not make you a sex addict. It is only when these behaviours are creating negative consequences in your life and are incongruent with who you truly want to be that you may be struggling with a sex addiction.
How do I know if I am Sex Addict?
I do not believe that identifying oneself as a sex addict is done by checking off boxes on a quiz although it may be helpful for some. I believe that sexually compulsive behaviours that lead to negative consequences are coping tools individuals use to deal with much deeper pain. Only you subjectively know if your sexual behaviour is causing you pain or not. Only you know whether how you live your life sexually is inline with who you want to be as a person. Nobody can answer this for you; not a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, doctor. The answer can only come from your own heart. Remember that too identify yourself as a sex addict is not a free pass to behave irresponsibly. Calling oneself a sex addict just implies that there is a lot of work ahead.
Eric Pierni, Registered Psychotherapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) | Founder of Men Therapy Toronto | Counselling Services for Men specializing in therapy and psychotherapy for men in Toronto, Ontario (GTA). Offices are located in the midtown (Yonge & Eglinton) area of Toronto.