So you think your significant other is a sex addict? This list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) and their answers may help shed light on the topic for you.
What is sex addiction?
Sex addiction is an obsessive relationship to sexual thoughts, fantasies or activities that an individual continues to engage in despite adverse consequences. These thoughts, fantasies or activities occupy a disproportionate amount of “psychic space,” resulting in an imbalance in the person’s overall functioning in important areas of life, such as work and marriage. Distress, shame and guilt about the behaviors erode the addict’s already weak self-esteem.
Sexual addiction can be conceptualized as an intimacy disorder manifested as a compulsive cycle of preoccupation, ritualization, sexual behavior, and despair. Central to the disorder is the inability of the individual to adequately bond and attach in intimate relationships. The syndrome is rooted in early attachment failure with primary caregivers. It is a maladaptive way to compensate for this early attachment failure. Addiction is a symbolic enactment of deeply entrenched unconscious dysfunctional relationships with self and others.
While the definition of sex addiction is the same as that of other addictions, sexual compulsion is set apart from other addictions in that sex involves our innermost unconscious wishes, needs, fantasies, fears and conflicts.
Like other addictions, it is relapse prone.
While there currently is no diagnosis of sex addiction in the DSM-IV, clinicians in the sex addiction field have developed general criteria for diagnosing sex addiction. If an individual meets three or more of these criteria, he or she could be considered a sex addict:
Recurrent failure to resist sexual impulses in order to engage in compulsive sexual behaviors.
Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent, or over a longer period of time than intended.
Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop or control those behaviors.
Preoccupation with sexual behavior or preparatory activities. (rituals)
Frequent engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic or social obligations.
Continuation of the behavior despite recurrent social, financial, psychological, or marital problems caused by the behavior.
Giving up or limiting social, occupational or recreational activities due to the behavior.
Distress, anxiety, restlessness or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior.