Characteristics of Sexually Compulsive People

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There are many ways to identify/diagnose sexual compulsivity. The 12-step program SCA (Sexual Compulsives Anonymous) uses a list of characteristics that sexually compulsive people have in common. The short version of this list is:

  1. Sexually compulsive people use sexual fantasy and masturbation to avoid feelings.
  2. Compulsive sexual behavior becomes a drug, used to escape emotional and psychological discomfort.
  3. Sexually compulsive people can be frozen by romantic and sexual obsessions, neglecting other aspects of life.
  4. Sex becomes a distraction, a time-killer, a reward, and a punishment.
  5. Sex is used as a replacement for self-esteem, (temporarily) helping users feel validated and complete.
  6. Sex is used for intensity and excitement, and to cover ever-increasing feelings of emptiness.
  7. Sex is compartmentalized, rather than holistically integrated into life.
  8. Sexually compulsive people struggle to distinguish between sex, love, and affection.
  9. Other people are idealized and endowed with “magical” qualities, with the idealization and magic disappearing after sex.
  10. Sexual compulsives are often drawn to emotionally unavailable and/or abusive partners.
  11. In relationships, sexual compulsives feel smothered. Out of relationships, they feel empty and incomplete.
  12. Sexually compulsive people often find that the desperation of their need to connect makes true intimacy nearly impossible.
  13. When sexually compulsive people are in a relationship, it’s not enough for them, and they continue to chase other people and relationships.
  14. Sexually compulsive people, no matter how many relationships they’re in and how much sex they’re having, feel isolated and alone.

In SCA meetings, people new to the program sometimes gasp as this list is read aloud, as they find themselves identifying with the list. Some even say, “It’s like someone got inside my head and read my thoughts.” This doesn’t mean that every sexually compulsive person will connect with all fourteen items, but most will identify with at least half and usually ten or twelve.

For more information about identifying and diagnosing sex and porn addiction/compulsivity, check out this article discussing the common signs and symptoms, and our free and confidential sex and porn addiction screening quiz. To attend an online SCA meeting, visit our events page for links.