The emergence of sex addiction into mainstream consciousness might have some people worried about their spouse, partner, family member or close friend. With the admission to having a sex addiction by several well-known celebrities, most often after being caught cheating on their spouse, the line between an addict and a cheating spouse begins to blur. You may find yourself wondering if there are signs you should be watching for. It is important to understand that there is a difference between a person who is unfaithful and untrustworthy, and a person who is genuinely dealing with a sex addiction.
Perhaps it is not your partner you are concerned about, but rather a family member or friend or a friend’s spouse. Perhaps you’ve gotten the vague sense that something is not quite right and you don’t know enough to approach him/her with your concerns; again, are there signs that you should be watching for.
If any of the above scenarios explains the situation you find yourself in, read on. There are signs that you can watch for, tell-tale behaviors that can act as a red flag to indicate that a sex addiction is likely involved.
1. Preoccupation with Sex
A person with a sex addiction will have an unusual preoccupation with sex and their own, personal sexual fantasies. While it is healthy and normal to think about sex and maintain a healthy libido, a person who is struggling with addiction will be preoccupied with sex to the exclusion of anything else. Eventually, sexual thoughts and activities will be the most important part of their lives.
If the man or woman in your life is addicted to sex, how will you be able to notice this preoccupation? The individual may have pornographic magazines and movies lying around. You may notice during conversations that they continually seem to center conversation on sexual activity or other sexual topics. He or she may be drawn to or point out adult bookstores and cinemas, strip clubs and massage parlors. If this person is your partner, you may notice an extreme in sexual appetite – either continually asking to have sex or never wanting to have sex at all.
2. Changes in Mood
Individuals who are struggling with a sex addiction may suddenly begin to act distant and withdrawn as they become more preoccupied with their sexual activity. As the addiction progresses, the addict will be dealing with shame, guilt and the fear of being found out, leading to mental and physical withdrawal from those around them. Their work, social circles, families and normal activities will begin to suffer from lack of attention.
The addiction cycle generally begins with addicts acting withdrawn as they are preoccupied with their fantasies. This is followed by the excitement of the sexual ritual or chase, the high of acting out (acting on their fantasy), and finally the shame and guilt after the fact. To family and friends, this sex addiction cycle will look like depression and mood swings. Many times sex addicts will be tired, sick and cranky due to lack of sleep and the after effects of their time spent in their sexual behaviors.
3. Reactionary Responses
Individuals dealing with sex addiction go to great lengths to avoid being found out, and develop elaborate defenses. Should you ask a question about a story you’ve been told, or comes too close to the truth, an addict could become highly irritated and create an elaborate story, lie or just plain denial. A simple question or seemingly insignificant statement or event could bring an out-of-proportion reaction of anger from an addict.
People with a sex addiction are not open to constructive criticism, and may feel challenged or threatened by increased supervision.
4. Sexual Humor
Those with a sex addiction may use a form of sexual humor much of the time, often teasing or telling sexual jokes. People dealing with this addiction tend to sexualize most situations and find humor in them. If someone in your life is a sex addict, you may notice that he or she often points out any statements with a double entendre, a phrase that could have two meanings, one of which is sexual.
Sexual jokes can also be used to find new sexual partners. Individuals with sex addiction may watch the reaction of a person upon hearing their sexual joke and, if the reaction is favorable, they may take the level of sexual engagement up another step.
5. Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
Those with a sex addiction are not difficult to spot if you know what to look for. They are always telling sexual jokes, or touching people in a way that doesn’t feel right. They are overly affectionate and are always looking, especially at attractive people.
Sex addiction is progressive behavior that escalates the longer the disease goes on without help. As time goes by, those dealing with this addiction can be very direct, coming up to you to talk about sex or invite you home with them. As the disease progresses, the inappropriate behavior will get worse, as will the consequences of that behavior.
If your spouse is an addict, he or she will likely become increasingly frustrated with the sexual activity in your marriage/relationship. This could lead to an avoidance of sex in an attempt to tamper the frustration, or because sexual needs are being met outside of the marriage. A person with a sex addiction may make more and more demands for sex and for certain types of activity or might be suddenly not interested in sex at all.
6. Life Difficulty
As sex addiction progresses, addicts spend more and more time thinking about and trying to obtain sex. This leaves less time available for all other areas of life, including work, family, friends, sleep and other obligations. If you begin to notice that these activities are being ignored, you can be certain that the energy normally spent in these areas is being used somewhere else.
As time goes on, there may be the loss of jobs and income. Social relationships and once-important friendships may be jeopardized. If illegal behavior is involved in the individual’s sex addiction, there may be arrests and time spent in jail.
7. Direct Evidence
Eventually, as the disease progresses, you will likely be faced with some kind of direct evidence of the problem. This could come in the form of credit card bills with company names you don’t recognize, phone bills with 900 numbers, pornographic materials, evidence of infidelity, unexplained time away from home or work, late nights working, extended time on a computer with the door closed or locked and so on.
If, after reading the above, you believe that there is a person in your life who is struggling with sex addiction, there are things that can be done to help. Confronting the individual, offering help, and taking steps to not enable negative behaviors are all ways to handle sex addiction in a friend or loved one.
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