Signs of Sex Addiction

Signs of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is an issue that is misunderstood and misdiagnosed by most people. This is understandable, of course, since it’s such a sensitive topic, but the taboo on the topic and a lack of eduction leads to all kinds of misconceptions.

Before we talk about the signs of sex addiction, we’ll address some of these misconceptions, just so that we can be on the same page about whether you’re really suffering from a sex addiction, or if your recovery efforts are best spent elsewhere.


What Sex Addiction Is Not

Since it’s so important to understand what you’re really struggling with in order to overcome it, we’re listed some of the personas of people who may think they struggle with a sex addiction, when in reality their recovery efforts would best be spent addressing issues like a pornography addiction, a masturbation habit, or a lack of sexual communication within their relationship.

If you feel like these categories sound more like your concerns, your stress is still valid! We hope you will be able to find relief and recovery using the resources we have linked below. You can also find help through a therapist or online support groups.

  • If you have a problem with pornography but have never had sex or been sexual with another person, you do not have a sex addiction. You may have a pornography habit—or even addiction—but that’s a different issue entirely, and not always one of the signs of sex addiction. You can find more information about breaking pornography habits here.
  • If you think and fantasize about sex a lot, but do not really have much sex, you probably do not have a sex addiction. You might just like sex, and that’s pretty normal.
  • If you masturbate much more than you want to, but aren’t struggling with any other aspects of your sexuality, you have a masturbation habit, probably not a sex addiction. You can read more about that here.
  • If your sex drive is different from your partner’s, but you’ve never cheated on them or gotten deep into pornography, you probably do not have a sex addiction. You might just like sex, or have a higher sex drive than your partner. That’s totally fine.
  • If you are in high school and have never had sex, or been sexual with another person, you cannot have a sex addiction.

These might seem ridiculous, but the truth of the matter is that most people who struggle with one or more facets of their sexuality (ie, pornography, masturbation, or having a higher sex drive than their partner) have been exposed to the idea of sex addiction without ever being taught what it is, and what it is not.

But why is this a big deal?

Why Making This Distinction Matters

It’s important to stay in touch with reality when trying to determine if you have an issue like sex addiction. The way we label ourselves has huge effects on our mental health and self-esteem, and “sex addict” is a heavy label to wear.

Now, does this mean that someone who truly has a sex addiction can never recover? Absolutely not. And, if someone truly is struggling with a sex addiction, understanding that they do have a sex addiction is vital to finding help, recovering, and living a more positive life free from addiction.

However, if someone who has never had sex before views themself as a sex addict, not only is it distressing, but it can also be damaging to the mental health of that person. It might sound silly, but it’s more common than it should be.

So, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are some resources for anyone who might be fearing that they suffer from a sex addiction without meeting the qualifications or displaying more than one of the signs of sex addiction.

  • If you struggle with pornography, you can find resources and learn how to quit here.
  • If you struggle with masturbation, you can find resources and learn how to quit here.
  • If you think about sex, fantasize, and have “lustful thoughts” more than you want to, you can find resources and learn how to quit here.
  • Try out our recovery app, Relay, designed to help you overcome these struggles here!

Some Information on Sex Addiction

Now, if you’ve read through the descriptions above, and still feel like your issue is more extreme than a pornography addiction or masturbation habit, let’s talk about sex addiction.

In a helpful article from Addiction Center, we read:

“A healthy sexual appetite can be controlled. If sex is unavailable, it is disappointing but not devastating,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist and author […] “With a sexual addiction, the addict feels desperate to have his or her sexual outlet, no matter the cost.”

While there’s nothing wrong with having a healthy desire for sex, a strong “libido,” or a good sexual relationship with one’s partner, the danger comes when the act of sex itself becomes the highest priority.

With sex addiction, the individual is focused on and prioritizing the sex acts themselves, instead of enjoying the feeling of connecting with someone they deeply love. Instead of pursuing a loving relationship, someone suffering from a sex addiction will tend to pursue different or more extreme sexual activities in order to feel satisfied.

Signs of Sex Addiction

If this sounds like how you currently see the world, please be mindful as you read through the following signs. Remember that being a sex addict is not a death sentence. In fact, we’ll talk about some things you can do to overcome this addiction and live a happier and healthier life later on in the article.

Read through the following signs of sex addiction, and be honest with yourself as you decide if these apply to your current state:

  • You’re obsessed with sex. You loose a lot of time fantasizing, and engaging in sexual behavior has become one of your highest priorities.
  • You find yourself masturbating frequently (once to several times a day).
  • If you can't have sex, you become very irritated, or experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • You’re indulging in a lot of pornography. While many people see porn as a normal thing, we know it to be negative. When used to fuel a sex addiction, porn can be incredibly expensive, and can get dangerous.
  • You may start using sexual services. This is a big red flag, as this is where someone with a sex addiction jumps from impacting just themselves and maybe their partner, to behaviors like phone sex, strip clubs, having multiple partners, paying for sexual services or having strings of one-night stands.
  • You’re spending a lot of time planning how you’ll get your next sexual high. Whether this is an online thing, or you’re seeking out multiple partners, chasing down your next ‘high’ is consuming a lot of your time.
  • You find yourself violating your own beliefs and standards in your sexual activity.
  • You start ignoring risks and being reckless. This might include engaging in unsafe sex, having sex or sex or masturbating in places where it's incredibly inappropriate.
  • You might even engage in paraphilia. Paraphilia are any sexual behaviors that excite you at the cost of another person. These can go from seemingly insignificant things that could be brushed off or explained away as “kink”, to dangerous practices like voyeurism, exhibitionism (flashing strangers and getting off on it), autoerotic asphyxiation (restricting your own flow of oxygen in an attempt to heighten arousal), and even pedophilia.
  • Your finances, relationships, mental and emotional health are suffering, but you still can’t seem to stop.
  • You have trouble making and keeping healthy relationships.

What Do I Do?

The signs of sex addiction listed above are pretty hefty. If you’re suffering from a sex addiction, you’re likely incredibly stressed out. Take a deep breath and remember that the human brain is capable of remarkable change! You can move on from this. With the right tools and resources, you can quit a sex addiction for good.

Step One: Get Some Help!

This may be the most important step in your recovery process. Sex addiction is serious! Because of the serious and personal nature of sex addiction, making sure that you are receiving qualified help from an educated source is vital!

While therapists of all kinds can be incredibly helpful, it might be in your best interest to look for a CSAT - a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. This is someone who is educated on the nuances of sex addiction, and equipped to help you overcome this struggle. They understand exactly what you’re going through, and will be able to help.

Another way to connect with people who understand exactly what you’re going through is through our recovery experience here at Relay. We’ve crafted an app where you’re paired with others who’re working on overcoming the same issues that you are, and you create your own support group. The app will help you set some specific recovery goals, and then your new group of supportive, like-minded friends will help you stay accountable to those goals.

Read the story of one of our Relay friends who was able to beat their addiction here!

Step Two: Set Realistic Expectations and Stay Accountable

As you start on the path towards recovering from a sex addiction, it’s important to remember that this is a long process, and permanent change doesn’t happen overnight. Set realistic goals for yourself. You probably won’t be able to stop cold turkey, and that’s alright. Make sure to focus on the small wins you have on the way, and share them with your therapist or Relay group.

It’s also important that you don’t try to go at this alone. Having a therapist and/or Relay group is essential, but it isn’t enough to rely on them alone. Select a handful of people in your life that you can trust and feel safe with, and share your recovery goals with them. Set a time for them to check back in with you on your goals, and ask you any questions they may have.

As you start off on a recovery journey, keep in mind that not only is this possible for you, it is doable! You deserve to live a life free from addiction, full of great friendships and supportive, intimate relationships. We believe in you! You can overcome a sex addiction.

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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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