How Do You Know When Sex Has Become an Addiction?

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“Hey, I am just like everyone else! There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex often!”

“Is sexual addiction real? We were made for sex, how can that be an addiction?”

“OK, if I am going to be addicted to something, it might as well be sex!”

Is it possible to be addicted to sex? Is it really about wanting too much sex? Before we dive into this, let’s look at the definition of sex addiction as noted by Patrick Carnes, the author of the pioneering 1983 book Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction and creator of the website Sex addiction is defined as “any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.” The interesting point is the term “sexually related” behavior. This is not just about liking sex; it’s about being compulsive not only about sex, but also behaviors related to sex such as masturbation, pornography, online relationships, adult clubs, etc. Some will argue that there is nothing wrong with any of these, but we need to remember the rest of the definition: compulsive behavior that interferes with normal living.

It is important to look at a few areas that distinguish between what many may feel is “normal” behavior and what is actually addiction. Sex, just like food, alcohol, and even gambling, is not a wrong behavior in and of itself, but when it becomes controlling and compulsive, that is when it becomes addictive. Take a look at these three areas and see if just maybe there is more to it than just liking sex:

Sexual behaviors, choices, and actions compromise who you are and can put you in dangerous situations. When pornography viewing at home becomes not enough and it escalates to viewing it at work or on someone else’s computer, and so on, you are putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations that could impact your job, your family, and your finances, but despite the risk you continue to do it. Having risky sex without protection, paying for sex and taking the chance of getting arrested, and doing this despite the impact to you and your family can point to addictive behaviors rather than just liking sex.

Do you find yourself turning to sex or sex-related behaviors when you are feeling wounded or hurt? We all have pain in our lives, and it is felt at different times; however, when this happens, if you find yourself racing to sex-related activities or compulsive choices, it might be time to evaluate the hold this has on your life. When challenging times come in life, there is the choice to handle it in a healthy way that will create growth and not more harm or to turn to “self-medicating” behaviors such as sex or sexual behavior that will not bring healing but rather may open the door for even deeper harm and hurt. If this is the consistent choice that is being made in your life, be aware that this is much more than just liking sex.

Finally, is the sexual behavior to the point that it is compulsive, and no matter how hard you try, it is too hard to stop? Is it constantly on your mind, trying to figure out ways to engage in the sexual behavior, trying not to get caught, and trying to stop but to no avail? Is the sexual behavior hidden from others and if it were found out would it be embarrassing or shameful? If the answer is yes to these scenarios, is it really just about liking sex or has it turned into an addictive behavior?

An argument can be made as to whether sexual addiction is real or not, but as we can see from each of the points made here, it is about much more than just liking sex. The danger is in making excuses that it is all just “normal” behaviors and choices rather than facing the fact that the addictive choices can bring harm to yourself and your family and can put you in a compromising situation and create compulsion to the point that it feels out of control and can’t be stopped. If you are questioning whether you have an addiction, you can take the test at this website: and do some self-evaluation before dismissing it as “just liking sex.” Keep in mind, there are many therapists and groups that specialize in sexual addiction, dealing with the real core hurts, creating healthy choices, and helping you learn to enjoy healthy sex rather than using it in an addictive manner that will lead to more frustration and potentially devastating harm.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Janie Lacy, LMHC, NCC, CSAT, therapist in Maitland, Florida

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

  • Leave a Comment
  • mo


    September 5th, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    how do you know it’s an addiction?
    go ask Tiger Woods
    I am sure he has a lot of insight into what makes an addiction!

  • simon


    September 5th, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    I have to admit I think I’m addicted to pornography.Im not perv but online pornography is kind of irresistible.I want to get rid of this but how do I talk to somebody about this?That doesn’t sound too comfortable.

  • Leslie


    September 5th, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    I understand how there can be those people who want to joke about this, but they are obviously those same people who have never had to live with this addiction in a loved one and have no clue as to just how mauch damage that it can cause. Because my husnad had an addiction to sex, it ruined our marriage, ruined our family. I could never get past the fact that he had wanted sex just for the sake of having sex, as a release, an escape. Why couldn’t he have that with me? Why wasn’t I enough? No matter how much counseling we went to together there was just no way that I could ever heal with him after that.

  • H.Y


    September 6th, 2012 at 1:11 AM

    Can be tough to identify an addiction in things that r generally considered normal but an excess of which can often be brutal and bring about unhealthy results…I think d suggestions made here to identify addiction from normal indulgence is pretty accurate and anybody unsure of themselves should keep a tight check…

  • Daniel


    September 6th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    I was once in a job situation that felt so hopeless that I would spend hours at a time looking at online porn not because I really wanted to but just to pass the time. That’s how it started anyway. After a while I found myself not being able to NOT look at these sites day after day, even when I would promise myself that I wouldn’t do it. As a result I lost my job after some was found downloaded to my work computer and lost my dignity along with it as I had to tell everyone why I had lost this promisiong position. I am in therapy for this now, but I still have a hard time not looking at these websites and becoming engrossed. Sometimes that’s the only way I feel that I can make it through my day.

  • rupert


    September 6th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I think anyone who has healthy relationships and habits will never fall into this kind of an addiction.As you have mentioned, social life and other life priorities will go straight out of the window if a person is addicted so having those in the first place would serve as a protective shield against all these, you know!

  • armand


    September 7th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    If this becomes so strong that you would rather be with the fantasy women that you see online or in magzines and movies over your supposed significant other, then I think that this is the clear cut signal that Houston, we have a problem!

  • Pat


    September 7th, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    thanks for the website link for a test
    i will be taking a look at that shortly

  • Derek


    December 5th, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    I spent a lot of time while traveling out of town for work on a social network . Having a few conversations with women I and sometimes the conversations led to sex . We would exchange pics and dirty talk , and this became very stimulating and exciting . I ended one relationship that had been many years gone bad and this was our 3rd attemt at reconciliation . The relationship Wes’s great and the woman amazing , but I kept on messaging other women and I knew it was not the right thing . It became less and less but it still happened . My ex was a constant nemesis and even though she was blocked and couldn’t contact me , she would email and I foolishly responded and it caused many problems . The woman I’m with now has then became curious and asked for honesty , I couldn’t bear the shame , she did it multiple times . Now I face the conciquences , I’m soul searching to understand why I didn’t stop when everything I ever wanted was right there . Only after she discovered the messages to slot of different women . Am I sick , am I an addict ? Why couldn’t I stop ? Help me in this evaluation ?

  • Percy


    December 17th, 2015 at 4:46 PM

    I am so sexually frustrated that I altered my face on a fitness models body and sent it to woman making them believe its is me….

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