Dr. Patrick Carnes, the founder of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, describes addiction as a pathological relationship with a mood altering chemical or behavior. As with drugs and alcohol, sex addiction fits the four criteria that are used to assess addiction:
The first is compulsivity, which is the loss of control over a certain behavior. In spite of attempts to stop the behavior, the addict continues in the behavior or relationship.
The second criteria is the continuation of the problematic behavior in spite of the negative consequences.
The third criteria in addiction is preoccupation/obsession.
The fourth criteria is tolerance as the addict requires more and more of the same behaviors in order to get the same "high".
In Dr. Carnes' book Out of the Shadows, he offers another way to evaluate the signs and symptoms of sex addiction. Dr. Carnes uses SAFE as an acronym for Secret, Abusive, Feelings, and Empty. In his book, he writes:
The question emerges for addicts as to how they determine when their sexual behavior is addictive. The following formula is suggested as a guideline. Signs of compulsive sexuality are when the behavior can be described as follows: 1. It is a secret. Anything that cannot pass public scrutiny will create the shame of a double life. 2. It is abusive to self or others. Anything that is exploitive or harmful to others or degrades oneself will activate the addictive system. 3. It is used to avoid or is a source of painful feelings. If sexuality is used to alter moods or results in painful mood shifts, it is clearly part of the addictive process. 4. It is empty of a caring, committed relationship. Fundamental to the whole concept of addiction and recovery is the healthy dimension of human relationships.
At The Center for Intimacy and Relationship Wholeness, our vision is to come alongside you and help you navigate the waters of sexual addiction so that you can be free to be all that you were created to be. We will explore many facets of your life, including past traumas, and how the messages that you received about yourself may be keeping you from being your best self. In doing this, you are then free to create a new narrative about yourself, and we can support you in living a life that is congruent with your vision of yourself.