Defining Addiction and How to Identify Process Addiction

Defining What is Sexual Addiction and What is Not

In many aspects of Western Culture, sex is both out in the open and taboo. We encounter sex as a topic of music and song, movies or even used as a marketing tactic. However, we often don’t discuss the act of sex, and view each individual’s sexual exploits as very personal. This can sometimes make it hard to spot sexual addiction  — what is the difference between typical sexual drive and sexual practices, and when does it verge onto sexual addiction?

Defining addiction 

In general, there are a few criteria for addiction as a whole, be it addiction to a substance or to sex. Someone with an addiction may:

  • Be preoccupied to the point of obsession with the substance or behavior
  • Lose control over the use of the substance or behavior
  • See direct negative consequence of use or behavior, such as declining health, issues with relationships, trouble at work or school, diminished self-esteem, financial woes or legal trouble.

One example
Many people in today’s culture understand the concept of addiction when put into the terms of substance abuse. While not everyone has experienced substance addiction firsthand, they probably know someone who has a clear addiction to substances such as cigarettes, alcohol or illicit drugs. If they don’t know someone, they’ve probably seen an accurate portrayal of substance addiction in television or movies.
However, one aspect of addiction we don’t often see is behavioral addiction, or “process addiction,” where someone is addicted to highly pleasurable behaviors. These may be harder to identify, as someone is not relying on a specific thing, such as alcohol, but process addiction still comes with problematic behaviors.

Common behavioral addictions

While sexual addiction or pornography addiction are two behavioral or process addictions, there are several more common behavioral addictions you might be familiar with:

  • Gambling
  • Social media
  • Spending/shopping
  • Video games

In future blogs, we’ll discuss what defines a sexual addiction and what is not a sign of sexual addiction.

If you feel you or your partner may have an addiction to sex, reach out to a professional therapist to schedule an appointment to begin working toward recovery.