Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

Signs of Sex Addiction

By: Bill W.

One of the first signs of addiction is preoccupation with sex. That’s fairly normal for fifteen year olds, but not for adults–at least, not in most cultures. When we find our minds constantly going back to any issue, it’s a sign that we’re not processing things efficiently. When we begin doing so to the point of interfering with everyday matters, we’ve got a problem, regardless of what we want to call it.

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For the purpose of this discussion we’ll call unusual sexual activity or thoughts acting out. These can range from fantasies about an “ideal” relationship to sexual acts, to watching porn for hours or sneaking photos of women on the street, among many others. Whether or not they are abnormal often lies in the frequency with which we indulge. Like other kinds of acting out (drinking, taking drugs, overeating, etc.), when we indulge so often that it’s affecting our ability to function in other ways, things aren’t going well.

Lying and secrecy should set off our alarms big time. People don’t ordinarily find it necessary to carry out normal activities in secrecy, or to lie about it afterward. If we can’t be up front about what’s happening in our lives while talking to a trusted person like a spouse or sponsor, something’s up!

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Acting out addictively leads to escalation. As with any addiction, we reach a point where we need to pursue bigger thrills, greater highs. Along with escalation, we may find that we are doing things that are dangerous physically and/or legally, like consorting with prostitutes, having unprotected sex, or engaging in sexual practices that can be harmful. Dangerous or illegal acts, behavior that would jeopardize our relationships, and things that create financial problems would threaten our jobs are serious danger signs.

Along with escalation comes efforts to control. We may find that an evening with family becomes more difficult, and that we feel compelled to take an hour on the computer or “go out for a drive,” instead of the things that we know we ought to be doing. We may continue acting out even when it makes us feel guilty, try to act out only at certain times, or avoid certain activities, and find that we aren’t successful at sticking to those limits.

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And, when we don’t act out for a time, do we get restless and irritable? (Yes, Virginia, there is withdrawal from sex addiction.)

Finally, we get to emotional issues. Do we act out to relieve stress, stifle anger, when we’ve had a hard day or a fight with our partner? Do we use our sexuality as a means of escape from problems and uncomfortable feelings? Are we covering up the shame of things that were done to us by others, perhaps in our childhood?

If any of these ideas make us nervous, we need to take a good long look at our sexual behavior, perhaps with the help of a therapist or a program of recovery. We may not like the answers we find, but if we don’t deal with these issues we’ll like the results of that even less!

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)
Bill Webb has been a lifeguard, pilot, police officer, gunsmith, and security guard. He’s also a recovering alcoholic, sex addict, and codependent. He has been sober since 1989. He writes about recovery issues and PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome). Now semi-retired, he enjoys his grandkids, spending time with his wife (also a recovering alcoholic), going to meetings, watching a few birds, writing about recovery for various sites, and stumbling down the Middle Path, one day at a time.

Filed under: AddictionRelationshipsSelf-EsteemSex Addiction