While it’s true that a diagnosis of sexual compulsivity—another term for sex addiction—is generally diagnoses by a trained therapist, it can be important for loved ones to understand the signs. When you find yourself romantically involved with a sex addict, your life can begin to feel unmanageable. There is generally a blissful stage in every partner’s life where he or she remains unaware of their partner’s patterns. For a period of time, the two can exist in unawareness and denial, respectively. But soon enough, the suspicion sneaks up. Eventually, full recognition dawns, and the painful process of grieving must begin.
Learning about the behaviors that may indicate sex addiction can help you decide whether or not to stay in the relationship. Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder. If your partner is a sex addict, his or her job will be to uncover the foundation of this painful problem—issues that usually go back to childhood and are often rooted in trauma.
What Sex Addiction Can Look Like
Hiding Sexual Activities Out of a Feeling of Shame
Hiding sexual behaviors such as pornography use are signs that the individual feels wrong or ashamed. For example, if you discover that your partner is viewing pornography consistently, but they try to deny it, it may be because they feel ashamed. You may assume they think you’ll be angry (even if you have open views about pornography) and can’t understand their need to hide the truth. The lying likely will make you angry, but if your partner is addicted to pornography—a kind of sex addiction—remember that the denial is about shame, not about you.
Dramatically Increased or Decreased Desire for Sex
If you notice that your partner wants sex—especially intense or aggressive sex—frequently and suddenly and that their focus is heavily on sexual topics, they may be experiencing sex addiction. Likewise, if their desire for sex dramatically shifts and they do not desire to be sexual at all (called sexual anorexia), this too could be a sign of sexual addiction.
Uses Sex as a Means of Connecting
If you feel your partner resists talking about feelings and only shows their affection for you by having sex, it may be that you’re dealing with someone unable to connect through authentic emotional intimacy. This is not necessarily a measure of how your partner feels about you, but it can mean, in a sexually addicted partner, that their cues for emotional intimacy are broken or were never learned. This is the part of sex addiction referred to as disordered intimacy and is the root of the problem for sex addicts. Learning to connect in healthy emotional ways is an important part of recovery for sex addicts, though it can be frightening initially, particularly when the problem is rooted in past trauma or abandonment by early caregivers.
Repeated Pattern of Cheating
Not all cheating is a sign of sex addiction, but a compulsive pattern of infidelity appears in many relationships with a sex-addicted partner. This can be some of the most devastating news to a partner, and it can be quite difficult to regain trust after such a breach, especially when the cheating happens more than once.
Treatment for Sex Addiction
Sex addiction can be treated. Many sex addicts and their partners have benefited from recovery where not just the addict seeks support, but the partner as well. Some of the most effective approaches include:
- Talk therapy
- 12-step groups like COSA (codependents of sex addicts) or S-Anon (family and friends of sexaholics)
- Behavioral therapy
- Relationship therapy
Many recovered sex addicts find they have more honest, intimate, and genuinely connected relationships with the partners who chose to go through recovery alongside them and are deeply grateful for their partner’s openness. Not all relationships can survive such a painful addiction, of course, but of those that do, a willingness to remain aware and to heal—on both sides—continues to be a common factor.
Find Help at Promises
Ready to get help for sex addiction? Reach out to Promises today at 844.875.5609 us.