Much like other chemical and behavior addictions, the function of the sexual behaviors (secondary benefit of escapism and emotional regulation) is the primary driver of the behavior. The increased reliance on sexual stimuli to manage emotions sets people up to develop compulsive and even addictive relationships with sex and fantasy; this can result in escalating personal, academic, professional, physical, legal, and relational consequences.
The access to explicit sexual stimuli makes it so easy for children to acquire pornographic materials that the average age of first exposure to internet pornography is 11 years old. This powerful combination of under-developed brain meets pornography creates a super-stimuli “hit” that can set youth up for developing problematic relationships with internet pornography. Although it is healthy for adolescents and teenagers to exhibit curiosity in sexuality, the exhilarating feelings that arise as a result of viewing these materials can lead some youth to develop a dependence on cybersex as an emotional regulation tool for escaping boredom, loneliness, rejection, stress, anxiety, depression etc. If these behaviors become entrenched in youth, it plants the seeds for sexual and relational difficulties later in life.
I’m 100% responsible for who I am in this relationship. My task is to free myself sufficiently so that I can respond in the present moment – not from past programming. That’s what freedom is. – Dr. Gabor Mate
Sexual addiction is a personal struggle with a huge relational impact. Similar to other addictions, it can have financial, career, relational, psychological and physical consequences. However, unlike other addictions, sexual straying strikes at the heartstrings of the relationship. Whereas partners of alcoholics or gambling addictions experience many relational impacts, the acting out does not feel as personal. Furthermore, physical infidelity can result in significant physical threats to the partner in the form of STI’s. The ease at which sexual information and connections are made online, combined with the overabundance of free acting out options (online pornography, anonymous chat rooms, dating/hook up aps etc), reduces the likelihood of getting caught. This enables people to get sucked further into escalating, compulsive sexual behaviors thereby planting the seeds of relational turmoil upon discovery of the deception.
The PATHOS questionnaire is a quick tool that can indicate whether your sex life has become unmanageable. If you answer yes to 3 or more of the following questions, you may be struggling with sexual addiction. If so, you may want to take a more in-depth assessment you can go to and take the free Sex Addiction Screening Test (SAST-R) or reach out to our competent therapists for futher evaluation and support.
PATHOS Questionnaire Items
- [Preoccupied] Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?
- [Ashamed] Do you hide some of your sexual behavior from others?
- [Treatment] Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like?
- [Hurt others] Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?
- [Out of control] Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire?
- [Sad] When you have sex, do you feel depressed afterwards?
Resources for the Addict:
- Out of the Doghouse: A step-by step relationship-saving guide for men caught cheating- Robert Weiss
- Out of the Doghouse for Christian Men: A redemptive guide for Christian men caught cheating- Robert Weiss and Marnie Ferree
- Help her Heal: An Empathy Workbook for Sex Addicts to Help their Partners Heal- Carol Juergensen Sheets
- Courageous Love-
- Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction- Patrick Carnes, PhD
- Sex Addiction 101- Robert Weiss
- Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men- Robert Weiss and Patrick Carnes
- Bridging the Sex Addiction Divide: Mindful Considerations for Vulnerable Clients- Dr. Michael J. Salas
- Answers in the heart: Daily meditations for men and women recovering from sex addiction
Female Sex Addiction:
- Staci Sprout
- Marnie Feree