top of page

What Is Sex Addiction?

The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) has defined sex addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” In other words, a sex addict will continue to engage in certain sexual behaviors despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships or even arrest. The addicted brain fools the body by producing intense biochemical rewards for this self-destructive behavior. The addicted person knows that the situation is unsustainable, but choosing differently is unimaginable.

People addicted to sex get a sense of euphoria from it that seems to go beyond that reported by non-addicts. This reality informs us as to why it is so compelling, and also why the activity needs to become more and more risky, or last longer and longer in order to be satisfying (in the same way a drug addict requires more and more of their drug to achieve the same “high”). The sexual experience is not about intimacy. Addicts use sexual activity to seek relief from unpleasant feelings caused by stress, anxiety, depression, or shame, the way others in similar circumstances might use drugs, shopping, eating or gambling. Intolerable feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and worthlessness magically disappear while sexually preoccupied, through acting out or spending untold hours on the Internet. In all these instances, however, any reward gained from the experience soon gives way to guilt, remorse, and more shame... and so, the pattern repeats.












The majority of sexually compulsive people live a dual life, in isolation from their friends and loved ones, in a cycle of constantly increasing risk and stress. What began long before as a (maladaptive) coping mechanism becomes an uncontrollable need. There is perpetual fear of exposure, requiring large expenditures of energy on secrecy, which drives the need for more self-soothing, which manifests in more acting out - internet porn, soliciting sex workers, affairs, online connecting, compulsive masturbation, voyeurism, exhibitionism. The list is long, and in the internet age, growing.


Frequently, it's a crisis that convinces an addict to seek treatment. They're caught in the act by a spouse, fired from their job, arrested, or maybe the kids found something online or on the addict’s phone. Despite it having been their biggest fear, the crisis often brings relief from the distress caused by their behavior and the constant fear of being discovered.



Do you have a problem with sex addition?

  1. Do you keep secrets about your sexual or romantic activities from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?

  2. Have your needs driven you to have sex in places or situations or with people you would not normally choose?

  3. Do you find yourself looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media?

  4. Do you find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are preventing you from facing problems?

  5. Do you frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?

  6. Do you feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid touching your body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual feelings, that you are asexual?

  7. Does each new relationship continue to have the same destructive patterns which prompted you to leave the last relationship?

  8. Is it taking more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief?

  9. Have you ever been arrested or are you in danger of being arrested because of your practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent phone calls, etc.?

  10. Does your pursuit of sex or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs or development?

  11. Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?

  12. Has your sexual or romantic behavior ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?   




Andra Adams, ASAT, RPC
Sex Addiction/Partner Betrayal Counsellor
Vancouver, BC

Call Us: (604) 754-7629

bottom of page