Are You a Sex Addict?

I was feeling stressed out; I found myself once again swiping through Tinder profiles absentmindedly. I began messaging a guy, then realized that I was not interested in the least what he had to say. It was difficult to pay attention or keep the conversation going when I knew that it would not go anywhere; I knew I did not have time or energy for a new relationship at the moment. Feeling lonely and anxious, I chatted up another guy. We arranged to meet for a casual hookup, but I felt even worse after we met up.

A quick google search brought me to a screening test for sex and love addiction -- I scored several points above the healthy range, suggesting that I might fit the definition of an addict. Although sex and love addiction is not officially recognized by the American Psychological Association, therapists often treat it, and there are several Alcoholics Anonymous spin-offs such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous that lead people on a 12-step program out of addiction. One neurological study from 2014 has even shown that the process of ‘falling in love’ induces a feel-good state in the brain indistinguishable from that of a cocaine user. Similarly, those going through breakups can show signs of withdrawal.

The healing process for sex addiction is unique from other types of addiction in that it is not defined by long term abstinence from sex. Rather recovering addicts learn to be sexual in ways that are non-compulsive and life affirming. Therapy and sexual rehab help addicts learn to experience healthy intimacy and sex.

If you are wondering if you might be a love and sex addict, here are a list of some of the most typical triggers and symptoms:

  • Fantasizing about a particular person while ignoring signs that he/she might not be right for you.

  • Experiences of abandonment, rejection or abuse from one’s childhood.

  • Becoming caught up in toxic, cyclical relationships, marked by the addict pursuing and being rejected by the love object over and over.

  • Becoming jealous of one's significant other without a good reason.

  • Engaging in sex to “numb out” or to feel a high in order to escape dealing with problems.

  • One has had a succession of intense but short-term relationships.

  • The desire to ‘merge’ with the other person in the relationship and an intense fear of being alone.

This addiction, although it seems more benign than drugs, is often very debilitating for its victims. Varieties of this addiction include “typical,” “avoidant,” “anorexic,” and “abusive,” for different behavioral patterns. If you think you or a friend may be struggling with this addiction, you can find the screening tool that I used here. You can find out more about the roots of this addiction here