More Than a High Libido: Sex Addiction Is No Laughing Matter

Couple sitting apart on bed at nightSexually compulsive behavior is easy to joke about. We’ve seen an endless array of politicians and celebrities claim they’re “sex addicts.” Some of them legitimately are addicted to sex, while others seem to be using this as an excuse for their behavior. It makes some question if these people (mostly men) simply are letting their high libidos take over. Is this a legitimate issue?

Yes.

As a sex therapist and sex addiction therapist, I find many people have little understanding about this serious issue. Sex addiction can decimate relationships that appear happy. It can create a level of disconnection that is difficult to recover from. And the betrayal and trauma associated with this can be extremely challenging to overcome.

When people ask what I do, I get a variety of responses. One of the most common replies I get is, “I wish I was a sex addict.” I have to maintain my composure when I hear this. I want to admonish this ignorant and sarcastic commentary with a heavy dose of reality. There’s nothing admirable or desirable about addictive sexual behavior. I typically refrain from responding with a harsh tone, remembering the idea of “being addicted to sex” can appear like nothing more than a high sex drive. However, sex addiction is more complicated than having a high libido.

Sex addiction isn’t about having a lot of sex. Although some people addicted to sex do have many sexual encounters, many have the opposite. They struggle with finding sex that is pleasurable or satisfying. Some avoid certain sexual behaviors, only to obsessively engage in another type of behavior. Others have a subconscious desire to connect, but fear the vulnerability of such connection.

Overall, relationships, trust, and intimacy become imbalanced. Sadly, this imbalance is often disguised under the typical chaos of work and family life, until it becomes undeniably traumatic.

What can make this even worse is that this behavior is often buried under a series of secrets and lies. Many partners of people addicted to sex are completely blindsided by a discovery of a series of behaviors. This is often a crushing blow to the partner, and a shaming experience for the one who is out of control. Families can be torn apart by this.

Many who are dealing with sex addiction also describe their lives as quite lonely. The sex isn’t necessarily fun or even enjoyable. They love their families and they hate that they’re lying to them. They just don’t know a way out.

Many who are dealing with sex addiction also describe their lives as quite lonely. The sex isn’t necessarily fun or even enjoyable. They love their families and hate that they’re lying to them. They just don’t know a way out.

Week after week, I hear the painful stories of people whose sexual behavior is out of control. Whether it’s a personal story or a story about their relationships, the pain caused by sex addiction is no laughing matter. This is why I puff up with frustration when people make light of or oversimplify what sexual addiction is. It’s not easy to treat or process through. And when it’s made out to be a silly punch line, it can increase the shame for those who are struggling with this issue.

Sex addiction is numbing behavior that takes on another level of compulsivity. All of us numb to some extent. Numbing is a minor level of dissociation. However, people addicted to sex take this numbing to a whole different level of disconnection. This can become so prevalent that work and relationships can be at risk.

For those dealing with this serious issue, support groups, such as 12-step groups, can help. However, they often need another layer of support. Therapy can help with building solid plans for recovery in a way that helps people stay in alignment with their values system. It can help people with sex addiction grow so they can reduce their levels of shame, reconnect with their families, and reach life goals.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Michael J. Salas, MA, LPC-S, LCDC, CSAT, CST, therapist in Dallas, Texas

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Deb

    Deb

    April 12th, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    When you first think about it you don’t think that this would be a problem, you like having sex and a willing partner who enjoys it with you. But it can be a problem when it starts to interfere with the relationship that you are in and you prefer porn or online pictures and stuff to being with a caring partner. When you start recognizing that this is what is happening then that is when you need to know that there is a problem.

  • bellamy

    bellamy

    April 12th, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    A therapist alone or a support group is not enough
    it would work best if there are also still family members who are willing to support you through this as well

  • Jan

    Jan

    April 12th, 2016 at 2:27 PM

    This isn’t just another way to try to shame someone for loving to have sex is it?

  • not giving name

    not giving name

    April 13th, 2016 at 11:34 AM

    but there are no support groups for this where I live. I don’t want to have to drive 2 hours each week to some out of the way place to ind help and I really don’t like to go online too much, I know I am on this site but only looking for answers, because then I always get drawn back into websites where I don’t need to be.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    April 13th, 2016 at 11:48 AM

    Dear not giving name,

    It may help to talk about this with a qualified mental health professional. To search for a therapist, feel free to return to our homepage, https://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    We wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • not giving name

    not giving name

    April 13th, 2016 at 4:51 PM

    thanks I will start looking

  • Phillip

    Phillip

    April 14th, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    Just like with most other addictions, this is a way that someone is looking to fill some sort of void in their lives. You might not know where or what caused that emptiness and loneliness but it is there and the sex addict is trying to find some way to fill it, usually I suspect without any success, just adding fuel to the fire.

  • Betsy

    Betsy

    April 15th, 2016 at 1:27 PM

    Why do so many people make fun of this if it is indeed something that is real?

  • Michelle

    Michelle

    April 18th, 2016 at 5:23 PM

    Once I discovered that my husband was deeply addicted to online porn the trust in the relationship was just not there for me anymore. I was always second guessing myself as well as him and his actions. I read things into situations that I know now were probably not there but he destroyed everything that we had built together with those actions. I am not sorry that we divorced because I could never forgive him for what he did to me and to our family, but I guess that I am sorry that his actions brought us to that place where I felt like divorce was my only choice anymore.

  • MJ

    MJ

    April 19th, 2016 at 3:39 PM

    Don’t you find it odd that someone who is always on the prowl for another person to have sex with is likely the one out of all of your friends who would be the most inclined to say that they are lonely?

  • Kevin

    Kevin

    October 2nd, 2016 at 4:32 AM

    This will ONLY really affect men. Female libido is a tiny fraction of a mans , most women are happy , if not happier being celibate. Every solo female I know has confirmed this to me. ” I feel sorry for you men , we can easily do without !! ” is one quote !!

  • Notime2cry

    Notime2cry

    October 24th, 2016 at 2:21 AM

    Hello all,
    My husband of 13 years shows more than just a couple of signs on this list. I clearly see that hes having affairs, money missing, time he cant account for, told me that google maps is a liar, computers chat by themselves, and that i made up everything for attention . However much proof I show him, from his 4 different networking accounts to the sext messages Ive read from his phone he still denys. Im hurting more from the lies than the actual act itself.
    I suppose im a tad bit odd, but I must say if he was honest I would stand by him, with understanding and would respect his decissions for treatment . I most definatly need counsiling, I see many signs of being dependent upon anothers approval, love and to feel needed. Need i say more? We are a less than the perfect match but im willing to fight for who I love.
    Crazy? What do you think?

  • Robin

    Robin

    August 31st, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    Masturbation is normal. My husband began masturbating in the bed nearly every night and it would wake me up. Several times I really thought he may be having a seizure. I have caught him in many other places in the house. It has gotten so bad, I have moved into another bedroom. I is very defensive about it and says I am making it up. No matter where we are, even at home, I am embarrassed because he rests his hand on his genitals and every few moments, he stimulates himself, and I see it. I have talked to him about this many times and he becomes very defensive stating he is so tired of me making things up. There are so many other things about this, I won’t go in to them. He has had several affairs. All of these behaviors have really affected our marriage. I tried to forgive him the first time, but was never fully able to trust him. I have a tremendous amount of anger now. I have no proof of his out of the home behaviors, but see all of the red flags again. As always, he denies it. Another thing I have such difficulty with is lying. Even if I set up a situation just so I can ask him about it, he lies. We have made an appointment with a marriage canceler, but I think we have waited to long to resolve this. Would you consider these behaviors to be that of a sex addict?

  • Kain

    Kain

    June 30th, 2018 at 4:03 PM

    I’m addicted to sex and porn

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