10 Steps to Quit a Sex Addiction

10 Steps to Quit a Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is one intimidating term. “Addiction” sounds like something big and scary, something we are powerless against. And while that may feel true, it’s important to remember that it is possible to quit a sex addiction.

This article will help you to get in touch with the part of you that’s ready to quit this addiction, and we'll discuss how to quit a sex addiction, as well as some resources to help you get started on that journey.

Where Do I Stand?

In today's world of rapidly changing social norms, talking about sex and sex addiction has become more common. Yet, there's often confusion between two important ideas: sex addiction and negative sexual habits.

While both are intimidating to conceptualize—especially if you’re starting to see signs of habits or addiction in yourself—it’s important to understand which camp you fall into.

We want to help you to understand what negative sexual habits look like, as well as what real sex addiction looks like. Once you’ve decided which one sounds the most like you, we’ll delve into some resources that are available as you learn how to quit, as well as 10 steps to start your recovery journey off on the right foot—whether you’re suffering from a bad habit or a toxic addiction.


A Word About the Label “Addiction”

If you’ve been struggling with sexual behavior or compulsions, it’s important to understand what is addictive behavior, and what is not.

Why this it so important?

Some individuals find freedom in accepting that they are addicted to the high of sexual behavior, and that their actions are not entirely within their control. Once they have accepted this, they can start their journey towards recovery and regaining control.

But others find it limiting to label themselves as addicts, feeling that this renders them powerless against their own urges and compulsions. To some, the label “sex addict” feels like an obstacle they can never overcome.

It’s important not to label yourself as something you’re not, or in a way that will discourage you in your journey towards quitting.

Take a second to determine which of these you most identify with before we delve into the qualifications of addiction. It’s okay to struggle with masturbation, pornography—even sex addiction. You’re already aware that these are negative, damaging things, but they don’t make you a bad person.

Even if you read the next few paragraphs and start to feel that you do have a sex addiction, remember that there IS a way out. You CAN quit a sex addiction!

What is Sex Addiction?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, sex addiction appears to affect somewhere between 3 and 10 percent of the American population, and has a high chance of occurring in tandem with other mental health disorders. It’s hard to measure because people tend to understand very little about sex addiction, and hesitate to talk about it.

So if you’re already looking online for how to quit a sex addiction, you’re ahead of the game! In the past, it’s taken people with sex addiction an average of 19 years to get help and find freedom from this addiction. You should feel good that you’re already working towards quitting.

Sex addiction refers to out-of-control sexual thoughts, behaviors, and urges that damage your self-image, relationships, finances, and more. It doesn’t matter that these behaviors or urges probably don’t align with your beliefs or values—you’re chasing a high that you feel like you have to have.

Habits Versus Addictions

Now, it’s much more common to have a negative sexual habit than it is to have a sex addiction. For example, a teenager who sneaks away every now and then to watch pornography and masturbate likely doesn’t have a sex addiction. A young person who wants sex much more than their spouse does, and finds themself masturbating to meet their sexual ‘needs’ likely doesn’t have a sex addiction. Instead, they have developed negative sexual habits.

While these habits are destructive and toxic, they are easier to quit than a sex addiction. But maybe you feel that your habit has turned into something that has spiraled out of your control—in either case, it’s important to understand where you stand, so that you can take the necessary steps towards quitting.


Some Key Red Flags of Addiction

The fact of the matter is this: sex addiction is fairly uncommon, even in our hypersexual society. Below is a list of warning signs that can indicate that your habit has gotten out of control, and turned into an addiction. If you can answer yes to these questions, it is time to get help and start working on learning how to quit a sex addiction.

  • Do you feel a strong need for pornography or sexual stimulation, regardless of the consequences? Do you find yourself ignoring these consequences, no matter how extreme they may be?
  • Do you find yourself altering your behavior, your activities, or even your relationships to get more sex?
  • Are you taking bigger and bigger risks to support your habit? (For example, cheating on a spouse or partner, watching pornography in a public place, masturbating at very inappropriate times, engaging in unsafe sex, having multiple strings of one night stands, or adding substance abuse into your sex for a more extreme high.)
  • Do you feel stress or anxiety if you know you have to be in a place where you won’t be able to act out on your sexual urges? Does it make you feel anxious to know you will have to go without sex or pornography?
  • Have you tried to limit or stop yourself before, only to lose all control when presented with an opportunity to engage in sex?

What Do I Do?

If you found yourself answering yes to the above questions, then it is likely that your habits have become a sex addiction.

It’s time to quit.

Changing your behavior won’t be easy, but the freedom that comes from quitting a sex addiction will improve your quality of life more than anything else. The journey to recovery cannot be done alone—you’ll need involve the people in your life who care about you, and seek out professional help or a support group.

In order to help you create a game plan for yourself as you work on quitting your sex addiction or bad habit, we’ve created a list of questions and steps for you.

Starting Recovery on the Right Foot

In his famous TED talk, Johann Hari teaches us that “the opposite of addiction is connection.”

In order to quit a sex addiction, you will need to open yourself up to connecting with people in more real and vulnerable ways than using them for sex, and open yourself up to the idea of getting help. This can feel intimidating, but it will be vital in your recovery.

10 Steps to Quitting a Sex Addiction

1. Re-Center Yourself on Your Values

Take a moment to ponder on what is most important to you. Is it family? Is it your marriage? Is it a relationship with God? Is it kindness, independence, freedom?

Think about how a life free from sex addiction will help you to best live up to those values. Ask yourself what kind of person you will be once you have quit this sex addiction. Quitting for the sake of quitting alone is rarely a powerful enough motivation for when the road gets rocky. Make sure you know what your individual WHY is for quitting this addiction.

2. Find a Therapist, Support Group, or Recovery Program

No one can quit a sex addiction alone.

Thankfully, there are a multitude of resources that have been created to help people in your exact situation! Psychology Today has created a helpful online tool to help people find therapists in their area. A therapist can be a powerful tool in quitting a sex addiction.

But therapy might not be your individual style. If not, consider joining an online support group or finding a recovery program that will suit your needs. Here at Relay, we’ve created a group-based recovery app where you can connect with people who understand exactly what you’re going through, and work towards quitting as a team.

3. Talk with Those You Care About

This may feel like the most intimidating step, but it can be the most powerful one. Is there anyone in your life, other than you, who is affected by your sex addiction? A spouse, partner, or trustworthy parent who has your best interests at heart can be your biggest ally in quitting.

Find a time to have a serious conversation with this person. Admit that you have a problem, but are committed to change. Make sure that they know they won’t be your only outlet in your recovery (see step 2!), but that you would like them to check in on your progress occasionally, and to help you stick to your goals.

Keep in mind that this may be a hard conversation, and intimidating for this person. Do your best to be understanding and patient.

4. Make a Plan of Action

With your therapist or in your support group, make a plan for what you will do when you feel particularly vulnerable to your addiction. Identify the times of day when you think the most about sex, masturbation, or pornography, and come up with a list of alternative activities you can do when you start to feel tempted.

Instead of trying to eliminate a bad behavior, simply aim to replace it with a better one!

5. Connect With Your Peers

Addiction thrives in isolation.

As you start your recovery journey, it will be more important than ever for you to spend time connecting with those who care about you. Take time to reach out to your friends, and plan a time to see them!

You don’t even have to talk about your sex addiction. You simply need to be in the presence of those who like you. It will help.

Loneliness and sex addiction are strongly linked. If you feel that you don’t have any friends, now is a great time to reach out to old acquaintances, or get more involved in your church or community! Talking to others on a genuine level will help you to quit your sex addiction faster, and more permanently.

6. Build a Support System for Yourself

A good support system is simply a group of people who care about you, and with whom you can talk openly. Select a few of your friends, members of your recovery group, a spouse or significant other if you have one. Talk with each of them, and ask if they would be available to help you in your journey towards quitting this addiction.

If they’re comfortable with it, set them in your phone as people to call when you’re struggling. Maybe they can check in on your progress every month, or whatever you’re comfortable.

Your relationship with these people does not need to become all about quitting your addiction. You simply need to know you can depend on them.

7. Share Your Plan of Action with Your Support System

Remember the plan of action you made earlier, detailing what you would do instead of giving into your inappropriate sexual urges? It can be helpful to review this with members of your support system, so that if you need to call them in a time of crisis, they can know what to recommend to help you.

Share this plan with your therapist or members of your recovery group, and see if they have any advice or tips for you to add.

8. Set Specific Boundaries

No one wants to talk about their addictions or habits all the time. Make sure that your spouse, significant other, parents or friends know that they can ask you about your progress towards quitting your addiction—but make sure that you don’t feel like that’s all your relationship with them is now about.

A simple way to do this is to schedule time for yourself to talk to your supporters about your progress, or for them to ask you questions, and limit conversations to those days. (Your recovery group or therapist can be especially helpful in helping you to understand how often will be best for you.)

On all the other days, spend time doing fun and normal things with them! This connection alone will strengthen you against your addiction.

9. Understand that the Process Will Not Be Linear

You may be feeling pretty good now that you’ve committed to quitting your sex addiction. And you should!

But it’s important to understand that it may not be a straight shot from here to complete freedom from your addiction. You may stumble and mess up along the way, but that’s no reason to give up on yourself.

With the proper tools, advice, and support, you CAN quit a sex addiction.

10. Commit to Change

Overcoming a sex addiction, or even just a bad habit, will change your life. It might be intimidating, but you will feel infinitely better once you’re living a life that aligns with your values. A life free from sex addiction is the best gift you can give yourself. Freedom from this addiction is what you deserve.

We, here at Relay, believe in you. It may not be easy to change, but we promise it will be worth it. After all, we’ve lived it! We created the Relay community because we—or those we love—have suffered from sex addiction, pornography addiction, and masturbation habits in real life. We have watched our loved ones recover, and are recovering ourselves. We know that freedom from this addiction is achievable, and it’s what you deserve.

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There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on pornography, masturbation, or sex. These urges and compulsive behaviors can control your life, but you can take back control. Relay's addiction recovery program provides a comprehensive, outpatient approach to behavioral change - at home, at your own pace. To each new program member, we provide a personalized recovery plan, a peer support group, progress tracking, journaling, and intelligent insights about your behavior patterns, all within a simple and secure mobile app Our proven approach helps program members achieve the best chance at long-term recovery without the time or expense of rehab or therapy. Try the Relay program for free here; if you need help as you get set up, contact us now at

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