Portland Relationship Counselor: When Sex Becomes Sex Addiction

December 5, 2011 by

As a Portland relationship counselor, I’ve noticed that the recent high profile cases of sex addiction – David Duchovny, Jesse James, and Tiger Woods – have left people with more questions than answers about the disorder. Some falsely believe that simply having an affair means you are a sex addict, but that’s not the case.

Portland Relationship Counselor Helps Define Sex Addiction

Sexual addiction, which is also called compulsive sexual behavior, is actually pretty rare, affecting only 3 to 6% of adults in the U.S. according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition is not official recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Sexual addiction is “an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors that affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.” This can include excessive use of pornography, having multiple affairs, having sex with prostitutes, and frequent masturbation. Many sex addicts grow to even dislike the act of sex but still cannot stop. About 80% of sex addicts have sexual abuse or emotional trauma in their past. Some people believe that the internet has caused an increase in sex addiction in recent years due to internet porn and cybersex.

But of course, people who are perfectly healthy have affairs, watch pornography, and masturbate. So how do you know when it’s become an addiction? When the person does not seem to have control over the behavior, can’t stop thinking about sex, and the behaviors starts to affect other aspects of his or her life.

Of course, as a Portland relationship counselor, I know that even one affair can significantly affect your relationship, and that alone is not enough to diagnose sex addiction. Just like gambling or alcoholism, sexual addiction can cause financial troubles, public embarrassment, damage to relationships with family and friends, job loss, and even health problems. It can affect all aspects of the addict’s life, but he or she continues the behavior.

Treatment for sexual addiction is long-term and requires working with a professional who understands the disease. Marriage or relationship counseling is an important part of treatment because the ultimate goal is not abstinence, but to learn to have healthy sex in a consensual relationship. If sexual addiction is affecting your relationship, I encourage you to talk to a Portland relationship counselor.