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What Is Sex Addiction

Underlying many addictions are feelings related to depression, anxiety, trauma, narcissistic wounds from a deep sense of loss and low self worth.

Sex addiction is known as a "process addiction". What that means is that you are addicted to some type of process; in this case sex. Eating, gambling, spending and working are also examples of "process addictions".

This is an important distinction from "substance addiction". Sex addiction takes place in the brain beginning with fantasy or obsession, in this case about the sexual behavior. There is no way of detecting sex addiction outwardly. It cannot be easily observed by a partner or spouse. When someone suffers from substance abuse, you can smell alcohol on their breath, see that they have red eyes or hear slurring of their speech. The visible signs of someone who is addicted to sex would appear in a much more subtle way.

Some signs of sex addiction are as follows:

• Sexual behavior that is out of control; also referred to as "acting out"
• Experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior, despite trying to stop
• A willingness to continue the self-destructive behavior
• An ongoing effort or desire to limit sexual behavior which often serves to fuel the addiction
• Sexual obsession and fantasy as a coping strategy
• Escalating sexual experiences when the current level of activity is no longer sufficient
• Severe mood changes relating to sexual activity
• Excessive time devoted to obtaining sex, being sexual and recovering from sexual experiences
• Neglect of significant activities in relationships, career and social life because of sexual behavior

Dr. Patrick Carnes | At What Point Does Behavior Constitute Addiction?

Understanding Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction
Adapted from Sexual Dysfunction by Scott Brassart.

For males, porn-induced erectile dysfunction, sometimes referred to as PIED, is among the most common consequences of porn addiction. Research suggests that erectile dysfunction (ED) and other forms of male sexual dysfunction like delayed ejaculation (DE), and anorgasmia (the inability to reach orgasm) occur in anywhere from 17% to 58% of all male sex/porn addicts. The more porn one uses, the more likely it is to experience sexual dysfunction.
Simply stated, growing numbers of physically healthy men, including men in their sexual prime, are suffering from sexual dysfunction – typically with real-world partners rather than with porn – and their dysfunction is directly related to their abuse of online pornography. This issue is not entirely due to the frequency of masturbation and orgasms outside of a primary relationship (i.e., the need for a sexual refractory period in which males “reload,” so to speak). In reality, the problem is increasingly related to the fact that when a man spends most of his sexual life masturbating to online porn – endless images of sexy, exciting, constantly changing partners and experiences – he is, over time, likely to find a real-world partner less sexually stimulating than the endless variety of visuals he finds online. Basically, digital pornography creates an emotional and psychological disconnection that manifests physically as sexual dysfunction with real-world partners.

In their paper, Evaluation and Treatment of Sex Addiction, Kenneth Rosenberg, Patrick Carnes, and Suzanne O’Connor state the matter rather clearly, writing, “Sex addiction patients are generally not good at sex. They function poorly in the bedroom. Sex addicts feverishly pursue their dysfunctional sexual behaviors yet generally have sexual difficulties with intimate partners…. Premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction [and] anorgasmia … are common.” This is most apparent when sex addicts are hooked primarily on pornography.

Possible signs of porn-induced male sexual dysfunction include:

  • A man is able to achieve erections and orgasms with pornography, but he struggles with one or both when he’s with a real-world partner.
  • A man is able to have sex and achieve orgasm with real-world partners, but reaching orgasm takes a long time and his partners complain that he seems disengaged.
  • A man is able to maintain an erection with real-world partners, but he can only achieve orgasm by replaying porn clips in his mind.
  • A man increasingly prefers pornography to real-world sex, finding it more intense and more engaging.
  • Thanks to heavy porn use, growing numbers of men are suffering from sexual dysfunction, be it ED, DE, or anorgasmia. Even worse, male sexual dysfunction affects not just men but their romantic partners. The partner of a person suffering from compulsive sexual behavior may experience diminished sexual pleasure due to the Sex Addict's acting out. 
If you or a loved one are dealing with porn addiction, with or without sexual dysfunction, I can help your coupleship.

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Susan Zola, LCSW, CCPS, CSAT

T: 631-332-2213
E: suezola@me.com
Licensed in the State of New York, the State of Florida, the State of Connecticut, the State of Maine, the State of Texas, and the State of Massachusetts.
License Pending IN: New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Arizona.


Bachelor of Arts, Psychology – SUNY Binghamton, 1980
Master of Social Work – Adelphi University School of Social Work, 1982.
Private Practice – "Mind Over Matters," 2006.
LCSW License #078530-1
APSATS The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals
Certified Clinical Partner Specialist

Susan Zola Clinical Partner Certification
Susan Zola What Is Sex Addiction

Susan Zola, LCSW, CCPS, CSAT
Licensed in New York, Florida, Connecticut, Maine, Texas, and Massachusetts

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