Whenever there is a concern for the potential of sexual addiction or compulsivity in a person you are involved with, it’s helpful to look at five separate areas:
- Is there a specific object of erotic desire that the person uses consistently for sexual arousal and or fantasy? Do they always seem to view pornography, or express fantasies of only one type?
- Does the person experience a loss of control around viewing pornographic images or videos focusing on that object? That is, when they say they are going to look at porn online, they say they will do it for a short period of time such as 15 minutes, but then they find themselves viewing it much longer (often for hours).
- Is the person using pornography as a substitute for sexual contact with their primary partner? Frequently people with a sexual addiction will objectify sexual arousal and be much more comfortable with masturbation than with sexuality with their primary partner. This can be puzzling to their partner, who knows they have a strong sex drive and active fantasy life, but find their own sexual relations quite infrequent. The need to objectify sexuality in all cases, especially with your own partner, typically indicates a serious emotional issue that doesn’t allow sexual arousal with someone they have an emotional attachment with.
- Does the person act out behaviorally their fantasies with the object as stated in number one above? Does the person need to act out their fantasies with their primary partner, or with others in their past or present lives? This could mean a more serious issue when the loss of control involves other people, and can at times create legal consequences for the individual.
- Is the person hiding their use of pornography from their primary partner? When someone is hiding their use of pornography from their primary partner, it usually indicates a degree of shame or guilt around the object of their fantasies. Sometimes the use is hidden because of a knowledge that their partner doesn’t approve of pornography in any form. In either case, hiding and minimizing use are strong indicators of a more serious issue.
If you suspect that you or your partner may be dealing with issues of sexual addiction and/or compulsivity, you should contact a licensed psychotherapist to learn how to deal with these issues in a constructive manner.