What is Sex Addiction?

Dr. Patrick Carnes defines addiction as having a pathological relationship with a mood altering chemical or behavior. Simply stated, sexual addiction is the lack of control of some sexual behavior or relationship. Perhaps the most helpful definition is a practical one: sexual behavior that has a negative effect on one’s life. Like with alcohol or drugs, sex addiction fits the classic, four-component model of what comprises an addiction:

  1. Compulsivity- The loss of control over a behavior. An addict continues in the behavior or relationship despite repeated attempts to stop.
  2. Continuation despite negative consequences.
  3. Preoccupation or obsession.
  4. Tolerance- More of the same behavior or an escalation of progressive behaviors is required to get the same “high”.
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