How Do I Determine if I’m a Sex Addict?

Sex addictive behavior works as a mood enhancer and mood altering behavior.  It closely resembles the patterns of alcoholism and chemical dependency.  The similarities include: loss of control; a continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences such as arrests, broken marriages or financial problems; and an obsession or preoccupation with obtaining, using, or recovering from the behavior.

We are inundated in the media of individuals coming forth as sex addicts.  There are skeptics who don’t believe this behavior exists.  I believe in it’s existence as a true compulsive behavior that effects one’s employment, relationships and well being.  How is it any different that food, gambling or spending addictions?  In fact, there are health professionals who are advocating to get the diagnosis of sexual compulsivity in the new Mental Health Diagnostic Manual, DSM-V.

I have clients who enter my office who have spent 4-5 hours watching and masturbating to porn daily, to the point of injury.  Individuals who have lost their job, because they had mountains of porn on their work computer, after being warned numerous times to stop.  Clients who can’t stop cheating or having unsafe sex, knowing they are risking their relationships and families.  The list goes on and on.

It’s important to not label everyone who cheats or who practices unsafe sex as an addict. There must be symptoms of withdrawal, an increase in tolerance to higher riskier behavior and many failed attempts to stop.  These are key signs that someone has a serious problem and it could be an addiction.  It would be important to get assessed by a specialist before labeling yourself a sex addict.  You want to see a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT).  You can visit Patrick Carnes’ website to find someone in your local area.  In the meantime you can conduct some self-assessments and attend 12-step meetings that focus on sex addiction to see if you relate to the stories of others.

There are several self-assessments for hypersexuality that I find to be useful.  The Hypersexual Behavior Inventory by Reid, Garos and Carpenter.  You can access this test by visiting: You can also access other self-assessment tests that focus on other specific populations or behavior related to sex addiction.  Patrick Carnes’ website offers a self-assessment, visit to access it.  There are several 12-step programs that focus on sex addiction and they have their own self-assessment tests listed on their websites too.

Listening to the stories of others can be helpful. There are many 12-step meetings focused on sex addiction.  It can be very confusing what meeting to go to.  You might worry about entering a room with individuals you can’t relate to or you might feel embarrassed, causing you to delay getting help.  I list meeting below that explain the culture of each meeting in Los Angeles.  Keep in mind these meetings will look different in other states and cities.

Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)

Serves mostly heterosexual men; However, there are mixed meetings and they open their doors to all genders and sexual orientations.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)

Offers meetings to both love and sex addicts.  They have a sexual anorexia program too.  Women and men attend these meetings.  There are more women in this program and they offer stag meetings for both genders.

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)

Men mostly attend.  This program has strict guidelines related to sexually addictive behaviors.  This program is ideal for individuals who have strong religious beliefs or who participate in sexually offending behaviors.

Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA)

Meetings are attended mostly by the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Queer populations.  These meetings are open to all.

Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA)

Attended by both men and women.  These meetings are new in Los Angeles and aren’t heavily attended.  There are only a few meetings available.

Elana Clark-Faler
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