What Is Sex Addiction? (Trigger Warning)

Updated: Jun 15, 2021


Often people think that if you are a sex addict, it simply means that you have a high sex drive. Or that you have had an affair while in a committed relationship. Neither of those are true, yet it doesn’t mean that that person isn’t a sex addict.

Doug Weiss defines sex addiction as follows:

“...is the active use of a sexual behavior, whether it is masturbation, an internet porn addiction, fetishes and/or behavior with self or others in a compulsive, life-destroying pattern.”

Let’s break that down a little further.

Active means, well just that. It’s characterized by action rather than by contemplation or speculation, producing or involving action or movement.

Compulsive...caused by a desire that is too strong to resist; impossible to stop or control. Synonyms are driven, impulsive, obsessive. (Webster’s Dictionary)

Here he is referring to someone, usually a man but can also be a woman, who is using a type of sexual activity on an ongoing basis, in an almost obsessive way. What I mean by that is, typically a person will realize that this behavior is not something that helps to build relationships and is usually clothed in shame because it’s not something they can share with just anyone....even their intimate partner. This means keeping secrets and lies are a way of life. They try to stop but then end up going right back to the behavior, or possibly, a new one.


Let’s go further.

Life destroying. Something that would destroy life as you know it.

What we often don’t realize is that when you are involved in an activity listed above that seems relatively harmless, it isn’t. We already know that when you are watching porn, there are other people involved....meaning someone made the video and we have no idea if those people participated willingly. But you’re watching others engage in sexual acts. Most times, you will respond by masturbating.

Okay. So what if you masturbate without porn. Harmless, right??

Here’s my question. When you masturbate, who are you thinking about or fantasizing about?

There’s always a who. And that ‘who’ has become an object by which you will satisfy yourself. They are there to meet your needs. It is not mutual or intimate in any way.

“But I’m fantasizing about my wife/husband!”

You are still reducing that person, who is made in God’s image, down to an object by which you will use for sexual gratification. This becomes life-destroying not only for you personally, but also the person with whom you are in an intimate relationship with. They may never voice it, but they will never feel as though they are enough for you sexually. Is that how you want your intimate partner to feel as a result of your actions?

Lastly, he uses the term, ‘pattern’. I think that’s really important.


Webster’s defines pattern as “something that happens in a regular and repeated way.” This means that this activity happens consistently, almost obsessively, to the point that it will affect your relationship with your partner, whether or not it is voiced. There will be a pattern to this behavior.

As I already shared in my Boundaries post about addiction... “Most people know that an addiction is something that developed due to an emptiness...a pain, traumatic event, an unhealed hurt....that is needing to be filled. When you realize it’s there, you use ‘something’ to fill that empty feeling to make the pain go away. Most common ‘pain fillers’ are drugs, alcohol, or often times, food- something that will give relief, albeit temporary. In the case of a sex addict, they will use sex in whatever form, as a way to fill the hole or emptiness. This can be porn, masturbation, prostitutes, massage parlors, etc. Anything that will help numb the pain.”

There’s always a ‘why’ to any addiction.

  • The first step to overcoming it is to admit it. Seek out REAL recovery with someone who is experienced in working with sex addiction, like a CSAT or Certified Sex Addiction Therapist.

  • Recovery is hard and it’s life long, but it CAN be done! Get in a group where you can receive support and encouragement as well as accountability. You can not do this alone.

  • Be honest with yourself and others. It’s easy to think that once you have stopped the activity, you are no longer a sex addict. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like an alcoholic who is ‘white knuckling’ it....holding on by a thread while keeping themselves from drinking. You haven’t overcome it just because you stopped the activity. Any real recovery program will help you address the ‘why’. That means you have to face the pain. It sucks and it hurts. But it will be healing for you and those around you.

Denial can be a way of life for a while, but it’s truly no way to live. Moving beyond this addiction will bring peace to you, your intimate partner, your family, and most of all, your relationship with God.


What steps do you need to take toward healing as the partner of a sex addict? How can I help you in this journey?

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