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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Sleeping Around / Sexual Addicts

Quick Access:
Message Sleeping Around Sends


What does it say about a person who constantly sleeps around?

 

Sex is a natural and healthy behavior; not automatically one of nature’s “guilty pleasures’ as some religious and political authorities preach. But clearly, too much of a good thing can become problematic. With those two thoughts in mind, there are many reasons why someone might sleep around. It could simply mean that the person likes casual sex. It could also mean that they person has low self-esteem and is using sex to gain feelings of love and acceptance. It could also mean that the person is downright addicted to sex. There are many reasons why someone might seem or be promiscuous, but the topic of sexual addiction deserves further comment.

Sexual addiction is not merely sleeping around; it can involve a wide variety of practices. Sometimes sexual addicts have trouble with just one behavior, whereas other addicts are confronting many. Many sex addicts say their unhealthy use of sex has been a progressive process. It may have started with an addiction to masturbation, pornography (either printed or electronic), or a relationship, but over the years progressed to increasingly dangerous behaviors.

Based on a 10-year research study of 1500 sexual addicts, Dr. Patrick Carnes has estimated that about 8% of the total population of men in the US is sexually addicted and about 3% of women. That translates to over 15 million women and men who deal with this problem. The essence of all addiction is the addicts' experience of powerlessness over a compulsive behavior, resulting in their lives becoming unmanageable. The addict is out of control and experiences tremendous shame, pain and self-loathing. The addict may wish to stop --- yet repeatedly fails to do so. The unmanageability of addicts' lives can be seen in the consequences they suffer: losing relationships, difficulties with work, arrests, financial troubles, a loss of interest in things not sexual, low self-esteem and despair. “As one expert put it, “Contrary to enjoying sex as a self-affirming source of physical pleasure, the sex addict has learned to rely on sex for comfort from pain, for nurturing or relief from stress,” comparable to the alcoholic’s purposeful use of alcohol.

Authorities have identified three general signs of sexual addiction:

The sex is shameful.
The addict feels shame about what he or she is doing; in fact, the sex acts may well violate some of the person’s own standards of conduct.

The sex is secret.
The sex addict increasingly comes to live a double life – presenting one face to friends and family but engaging regularly in sexual acts that would be shocking to this social circle.

The sexual behavior is abusive.
It violates someone else’s choice or exceeds their understanding. The sex may also be abusive to the sex addict him or herself, such as masturbating to the point of physical injury or cutting or pinching oneself for sexual arousal.

If you’re curious to learn an objective and confidential opinion about your attitudes and behaviors concerning sex, then I urge to visit the following “screening tests” for sexual addiction:

http://www.sexaddictionhelp.com/test.html

http://www.sexaa.org/12ques.htm

These are not tests that provide a clinical diagnosis, but they can give you some self-awareness and food for thought. After all, sex is a natural part of intimate relationships and it’s wise to have a sense of your own sexuality before sharing this part of yourself with others.




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