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The Signs Of Sexual Addiction

Mavis Humes Baird is an addictions treatment specialist in New York City.

Some people drink, gamble, binge on food, run around and act out sexually, or engage in deviant sexual practices. While it may or may not be the most morally respectable behavior, it does not cause them the kind of chaos in their lives as an addiction does. These people may "abuse" addictive substances and behaviors, but overall they seem able "to handle it." Their patterns of use never get to the point where it is harming them or others. If it does become so, after a bad episode they are able to set and maintain safer limits from then on. Those who are addicted may attempt to set the same limits, but are not able to lastingly stick to them; the loss of control eventually comes back with increasingly negative episodes.

Just because a person likes something or prefers it, does not mean they are addicted to it.

By and large, addictions specialists and recovering people recognize the difference between moral obsessions and addictive obsessions. Immorality is not the same thing as addiction. As I say on my website www., "Addiction can lead to moral decay but addiction is not a moral issue." Addictionologists look for a cluster of complementary symptoms:


  • Loss of control - Of the outcome of using episodes.
  • Tolerance - Need for more and more to achieve effect.
  • Withdrawal - Thinks they have to have it and gets sick, or thinks they will get sick, without it.


  • Obsession - Takes over their values, interests and beliefs.
  • Denial - Wall of defenses prevents them from seeing the problem clearly.
  • Illusion of Control - Thinks they can fix it themselves without having to get help in spite of repeated failures and continued progression.
  • Addictive Belief System - Taken individually many of the addict's beliefs may seem reasonable or "healthy" but put them all together and they support the continued progression of the disease at the addict's expense.

    Some of the people whose usage patterns look recreational may actually be in the "early stages" of an addiction. If we check in with them later on we may see the debilitation of "later-stage" addiction at that time.

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