How to tell if you’re addicted to porn or struggle with compulsive sexual behaviours?

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How do you know if you’re struggling with sex and/or porn addiction?  What are the signs? Are the symptoms of porn addiction different from those for sex addiction? And what about Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder – is that a thing?

These are questions that we are often asked and questions that many struggle to find the answer to.  In this article we will explore some of the most common symptoms of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder and porn addiction and what to do if you recognise them in yourself.


Man sitting with his hands on his chin as if contemplating.

Professionals still can’t agree what name to call problematic porn use or problematic sexual behaviours and some use the term addiction whereas other prefer compulsive sexual behaviour disorder, or CSBD for short. But whatever you call it, you know it’s a problem if it’s a repeating pattern of behaviour that is causing problems in your life, but in spite of those problems, you can’t stop.

The type of behaviour is not what defines it as addiction, but the dependency on it. So whether it’s porn or cruising or sex workers or sexting, if you’ve tried to stop and failed, then you may have developed a dependency on it.  If we were talking about alcohol addiction, we wouldn’t list all the beverages that are addictive, it is getting drunk that can be addictive, not gin or whiskey. Similarly, sexual arousal can be addictive, whether that’s through watching pornography, having physical sexual encounters, or fantasising about them.  It’s not the behaviour itself that is the problem but the relationship to the behaviour.

The symptoms are not measured by the amount of the behaviour, but by the consequences of it. For example, some signs of addictive or compulsive behaviour include:

  • Spending more time than you want to on sexual activities
  • Engaging in activities that are against your personal value system
  • Increasing feelings of anxiety or depression about your behaviours
  • An increased sense of isolation from others
  • Neglecting other important areas of your life, such as work, relationships, study or hobbies
  • Lying to others about what you’re doing, or how often you’re doing it
  • Putting yourself, or others, in risky situations
  • Breaking the law
  • Feeling bad about yourself because of what you’re doing, or because you can’t control the time you spend on it.

If you recognise some of the signs above in your life, then perhaps sex addiction, or porn addiction, or compulsive sexual behaviour disorder does accurately describe what you’re struggling with.  The following questions can also help:-

  1. Does your sexual behaviour or porn use have a ‘significant’ negative impact on other areas of your life such as maintaining or forming relationships, spending time with family and friends, concentrating on work or studies, getting into debt, risking your mental or physical health, maintaining personal and legal boundaries?
  2. Do you find yourself struggling to concentrate on other areas of your life because you are preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about your porn use or sexual behaviour?
  3. Have you noticed that you need more and more stimuli or risk, or that you are watching what you would describe as more extreme porn, in order to achieve the same level of arousal and excitement?
  4. Have you tried to limit your porn use or sexual behaviours, or stop all together, but repeatedly failed?

If the answer is ‘Yes’, to all of these questions, then I would strongly recommend you take action today to get back in control again. Please don’t leave it until you’ve hit rock bottom and your life has become even more unmanageable. Identifying the symptoms of dependency is a first step, the second is resolving them so you can stop, and stay stopped.

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