Help—I'm a Sex Addict!
"Oh my God, you hooked up twice today?" my friend Dave says with astonished eyes and, I suspect, a little bit of envy. "You hooked up last night, too—and they were all different guys! You're totally a sex addict!"
In my mind, I just like sex. A lot of sex. Not all the time, and not so much that I can't function at work or have normal conversations about things other than enjoying the linguini of love. And sure, I'll admit to the the above scene. I had sex on a Friday night, woke up and met a dude while walking my dog the next the morning, and then had an internet lunch date that went well. Very well (obviously). I played safe and am not committed to anyone, so to me this is all fine.
Yet every day it seems like some public figure is getting caught having sex in a public restroom, or a celebrity is discovered cheating on his spouse with countless partners, and either a judge or publicist sends him to "sexual addiction" therapy. Am I in need of the same thing?
"There is no easy answer," says Dr. Weston Edwards from the Sexual Health Institute; he's a psychologist who has experience dealing with sexuality, spirituality, chemical dependency and mental-health issues, and is on staff at the Pride Institute, providing sexuality and chemical dependency treatment for the LGBT community. He explains, "People want a Yes/No response. The only right answer is [that] it depends."
Edwards generally looks for three themes, the first being if you're consistent with your values. "I push my clients to define their values that shape their life," he says. "I ask them if any behavior, including sexual behavior, is consistent with these values."
Breaking it down, can you look in the mirror and honestly know if your behaviors and values are consistent. If the answer is "no," that doesn't mean you're sexually compulsive—which is usually what people mean when they call someone a "sex addict"—but it is important to start assessing your behavior and figure out why you said no. "The issues might be shame, history of anxiety, abuse, coming out or whatever," Edwards says. From there you need to see if the behavior is actually compulsive. "In other words, are you directing your behavior or is your behavior directing you? Individuals who struggle with sexual compulsivity often report they feel out of control, that the sexual behavior is driving them."
The next question is to see if your behavior is consistent with your family, friends and partner. "It’s a warning sign if you can’t share or talk about what you’re doing with them," Edwards says, adding that it's okay to have discretion, but someone in your primary support network should know what’s going on. In my case that's clear: my mother and brothers don't know how many baloney ponies I may bowl through on any given night, but my friends certainly do. In fact, the only time I actually feel guilty about my behavior is when friends like Dave give me flack for it.
So with that in my head I feel ready to hit Gay.com for some Polska Kielbasas of pleasure, when Edwards offers his last scenario.
"[Are] your behaviors resulting in any of the following consequences?
•You are breaking your commitments to others (the rules of your relationship, or missing/avoiding time with friends).
•You are violating social rules (watching porn at work).
•Putting your health at risk (repeated unsafe sex, mixing sex and drugs or putting yourself at risk of physical harm).
•Risking legal consequences (paying for sex, public sex).
•Preoccupied with sex (scanning everyone to see if they are a possible sex partner, spending lots of time [sex] surfing the computer or waiting for tricks).
•You’re experiencing financial consequences (legal fees, paying for sex, loosing jobs, spending excessive money on porn).
•Doing things you don’t want to do (only wanting oral sex but doing whatever the other person wants)."
If so, then Edwards urges you to seek consultation with a professional to see if you're actually a sexually compulsive person. One great resource can be found at the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH.NET); likewise, Edwards has written books dealing with various forms of sexual compulsion, which you can find at LivingALifeILove.com.
Finally, Edwards adds, "A lot of people misinterpret sexual freedom as only meaning I can do anything I want. Yes, sexual freedom is the ability to choose but it also entails sexual responsibility."
So maybe I'm not an addict, or sexually compulsive. But those last words? Yep, they're good ones for everyone to keep in mind.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.