So, are you a sex addict?

Posted at 02/25/10 6:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Dr. Patrick Carnes, an internationally known speaker and author on addiction and recovery issues, listed a number of behavior patterns that may indicate the presence of sexual addiction.

Carnes, who has won awards and has written several books on the subject, is the executive director of the Gentle Path Program at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Mississipi, where Tiger Woods is reportedly receiving treatment for his sex addiction.

He defined sex addiction as "any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment."

"Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addicts' lives. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior," Carnes said in SexHelp.com, a website he created.

While an actual diagnosis for sexual addiction should be carried out by a mental health professional, Carnes said the following behavior patterns may be indicative of sexual addiction.

He urged individuals who see any of these patterns in their own life or in others to seek professional help immediately.

1. Out-of-control sexual behavior such as:

  • compulsive masturbation
  • indulging in pornography
  • having chronic affairs
  • exhibitionism
  • dangerous sexual practices
  • prostitution
  • anonymous sex
  • compulsive sexual episodes
  • voyeurism

2. Inability to stop sexual behavior despite knowing its severe consequences such as:

  • loss of partner or spouse
  • severe marital or relationship problems
  • loss of career opportunities
  • unwanted pregnancies
  • abortions
  • suicide obsession
  • suicide attempts
  • exposure to AIDS and venereal diseases
  • legal risks from nuisance offenses to rape

3. Persistent pursuit of self-destructive behavior and an attitude that says, "I'll deal with the consequences when they come"

4. Ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior (such as moving to a new neighborhood or city, getting married, or buying a car to get distracted)

5. Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy

6. Regularly increasing the amount of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficiently satisfying

7. Severe mood changes related to sexual activity

8. Inordinate amounts of time spent obtaining sex, being sexual, and recovering from sexual experiences

9. Neglect of important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of sexual behavior

Aside from these patterns, Carnes' website also offers a number of tests which he claims can help determine a person's sexual behavior.


Carnes said some treatment programs for sexual addiction include patient, outpatient, after-care support, and self-help groups.

Family counseling programs, support groups, and educational workshops for addicts and their families are also offered, he added.

"Unlike recovering alcholics who must abstain from drinking for life, sexual addicts are led back into a normal, healthy sex life much in the way those suffering from eating disorders must relearn healthy eating patterns," he said in SexHelp.com.

One of the most popular treatments for sex addicts is the 12-step program as this teaches addicts to take their recovery one day at a time, Carnes said.

Sex Addicts Anonymous, a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences to overcome sex addiction, enumerates the following guiding principles:

1. Admitted we were powerless over addictive sexual behavior -- that our lives had become unmanageable

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

5. Admitted to God, ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these effects of character

7. Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings

8. Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admitted it

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sex addicts and to practice these principles in our lives.

But like other types of addicts, Carnes said some sex addicts may never be "cured," since maintaining their recovery can be a lifelong process.