Addictions fall into two categories: substance addictions - such as food, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine - and process addictions - such as TV, compulsive exercise, anger, obsessive thinking, controlling behavior and sex. Sexual addiction, or using sex addictively, is like any other addiction: it is using something or someone to fill you up or take away your pain. Whether you are sexually addicted, or using sex addictively, depends upon the frequency with which you use sex to fill yourself up or take away your pain.
Are you sexually addicted, or using sex addictively? Identifying with just one of the symptoms listed below may indicate a sexual addiction or a tendency to use sex addictively.
- I (occasionally) (frequently) use sex to feel good about myself.
- I (occasionally) (frequently) use sex to fill up the emptiness within myself.
- I (occasionally) (frequently) use sex to take away my aloneness.
- I (occasionally) (frequently) use sex to take away my anxiety.
- My sexuality is my identity.
- I think about sex most of the time.
- I often have trouble concentrating on other things due to my preoccupation with sex.
- I have an intense need for sex with my partner. If my partner doesn't want to have sex with me, I get angry or withdrawn.
- I sacrifice important parts of my relationship for sex. My sexual needs are more important to me than the relationship needs.
- My sexual needs, and my reaction when I do not get what I want, are interfering with my relationship with my partner.
- I have a compulsive need for sex with many partners.
- The pursuit of sex makes me careless of my own welfare and the welfare of others.
- I am chronically preoccupied with sexual fantasies.
- I am promiscuous.
- I am a compulsive masturbator.
- I have a compulsive need to masturbate while viewing pornography.
- I am a voyeur.
- I am an exhibitionist.
- I feel controlled by my sexual desires.
- The only time I feel powerful is when I am imposing sex on someone.
- I am attracted to children.
- I act out with children.
- I force people to have sex with me.
- Hurting others turns me on sexually.
- Being hurt by others turns me on sexually.
Obviously, there are many different levels of sexual addiction. Sexual addiction, like all other addictions, comes from the empty wounded part of ourselves.
Throughout childhood and adolescence the ego part of ourselves - our wounded self - learns various ways to attempt to have control over getting love and avoiding pain. Many adolescent boys, as they start to masturbate, learn to use some form of sexuality to pacify their fears of rejection. Girls may learn to use their sexuality as a way to get love, as well as to avoid rejection. When a substance or behavior works to fill emptiness, take away loneliness, get attention or avoid pain, it often becomes an addition.
If you identified with any of the above, you might want to consider that you are using sex to avoid personal responsibility for your own feelings. While it may make you feel good for the moment, in the long run it lowers your sense of self-worth. Anything you do to pacify yourself, rather than take responsibility for thinking and behaving in ways that enhance your positive sense of self, is self-abusive and self-abandoning. It would be akin to telling a child to watch pornography or masturbate when the child is feeling badly, rather than attend to the child's real needs. When you use an addiction to pacify your painful feelings rather than attend to them, you are abandoning yourself - your inner child.
Next time you want to act out sexually, perhaps you would be willing to stop for a moment and move into Step One of Inner Bonding - tuning in to your feelings. Are you feeling sad, alone, empty, depressed, rejected, abandoned, anxious, scared, angry, lonely, helpless or heartbroken? Instead of pacifying yourself with sex, you might want to move through the steps of Inner Bonding, noticing what you are telling yourself and how you are treating yourself that may be causing you to feel badly and to want to act out. You might want to learn how to bring in a compassionate spiritual Source of love and comfort to fill the emptiness and aloneness, and nurture the painful life feelings of loneliness, heartbreak and helplessness over others. Learning and practicing the Inner Bonding process is a powerful way to heal your addictions.