Common Characteristics of Sexual Addiction
Use of sexual thoughts and behaviors as primary coping methods.
Use of sexual arousal as our drug of choice.
A pattern of compulsive, out-of-control sexual behaviors: behaviors that are either illegal, illicit or believed to be “bad”.
Experience harmful consequences to themselves and others due to their sexual behaviors.
Lack of emotional intimacy.
Preoccupation with sex and sexual fantasies.
Progress to more out-of-control behaviors in frequency, intensity and/or risk as our tolerance increases.
May experience periods of control or strict abstinence.
May control behaviors while continuing sexual obsessions.
Experience mood shifts around our sexual acting out, e.g., anger, fear, guilt, remorse.
Often experience depression and suicidal ideation.
Have a hierarchy of acting out behaviors (usually at least three), e.g. affairs, masturbation, seduction/cruising.
Have a family history of sexual shame and/or addiction.
Are often victims of childhood sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse.
Ritualize sexual behaviors.
Feel extreme shame about sex.
Lack a healthy sexual identity.
Associate excitement and risk with sex.
Have sexualized needs for affection.
Common Characteristics from Sexual Compulsives Anonymous:
1. As adolescents, we used fantasy and compulsive masturbation to escape from feelings, and continued this tendency in our adult lives with
2. We tended to become immobilized by romantic obsessions.
3. We searched for some “magical” quality in others to make us feel complete. Other people were idealized and endowed with a powerful
symbolism, which often disappeared after we had sex with them.
4. Compulsive sex became a drug, which we used to escape from feelings such as anxiety, loneliness, anger, rejection or self-hatred as well as joy. We sought oblivion in fantasy, masturbation and compulsive sex. Sex became a reward, punishment, distraction, and time-killer.
5. Because of low self-esteem, we used sex to feel validated and complete.
6. We tended to lose ourselves in sex and romantic obsession, and became addicted to the search for sex. As a result we neglected our lives.
7. We tried to bring intensity and excitement into our lives through sex, but instead felt ourselves growing steadily emptier.
8. While constantly seeking intimacy with another person, the desperate quality of our need made true intimacy with anyone impossible. In
trying to conceal our dependency demands from ourselves and others, we grew more isolated and alienated from ourselves, from God, and from the very people we wanted to be close to.
9. We feared relationships, but continually searched for them. In a relationship, we feared abandonment and rejection, but out of one, we
felt empty and incomplete.
10. We were drawn to people who were not available to us, or who would reject us or abuse us.
11. We often developed unhealthy dependency relationships that eventually became unbearable.
12. Even when we got the love of another person, it was never seemed enough, and we were unable to stop lusting after others.
13. We became addicted to people and were unable to distinguish among sex, love and affection.
14. Sex became compartmentalized, and not integrated into our lives as a healthy element.
12 characteristics from SLAA
1. Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them…
2. Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships, concealing our dependency needs
from ourselves and others, growing more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones, ourselves and God…
3. Fearing emotional and/or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves in one relationship after another, sometimes
having more than one sexual or emotional liaison at a time…
4. We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity and/or the need to rescue or be rescued…
5. We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone. Even though we fear intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships and sexual contacts…
6. We sexualize stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for
nurturing, care, and support…
7. We use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others…
8. We become immobilized or seriously distracted by romantic or sexual obsessions or fantasies…
9. We avoid responsibility for ourselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable…
10. We stay enslaved to emotional dependency, romantic intrigue, or compulsive sexual activities…
11. To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement, mistaking sexual and emotional anorexia for recovery…
12. We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and
Below are listed some of the core beliefs of the sex addict
( from Out_of_The_Shadows by Patrick Carnes):
1 Self-Image: “I am basically a bad, unworthy person.”
2 Relationships: “No one would ever love me as I am.”
3 Needs: “My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on
4 Sexuality: “Sex is my most important need.”
These core beliefs provide the structure for many particular errors in thinking. Cognitive errors distort the experience of the sexual addict to conform to the shameful core beliefs. The particular errors also screen out any new, potentially corrective information. For example, the sexual addict who fundamentally believes that “no one will love me the way I really am” will set up relationships so that there is ample evidence of rejection of the true self and support for the false, public self.