These are the most common questions we receive concerning sex addiction. If you would like to submit a question for this category, please email it to email@example.com or click here to fill out our online question form.
What is sexual addiction?
How can I know if I'm a sex addict?
Is masturbation a sin?
Is there anything good about masturbation?
Is insecurity the main cause of porn addiction?
When it comes to current lust battles and/or past experiences, how do you determine what to discuss and when with a girlfriend, fiance, or wife?
How do you minister to someone who struggles with homosexuality?
How do you know when a healthy sexual desire has turned into a lustful unhealthy drive?
Is pornography really that bad?
What effect can sex addiction have on a person?
What effect can sexual addiction have on family members?
I have spent years struggling with the back-and-forth battle of sexual addiction. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? What will it take for full victory?
Sexual addiction is the compulsive attempt(s) to meet legitimate emotional needs through some means of sexual activity. A sex addict has repeatedly tried to stop the behavior(s), but is unable to do so.
Sexual addicts usually display some, or all, of the following characteristics:
1. Age-inappropriate behavior
2. Overly intense reactions to minimal stressors
3. Symptoms are frequent
4. High level of social disruption
5. Inner suffering and pain
6. Persistence of the behaviors
7. Physical damage to self or others
Definition of characteristics is modified from Breaking Free by Russell Willingham Sexual addiction can take on many forms behaviorally. It can manifest itself through pornography, incest, child porn, rape, bestiality, compulsive masturbation, and on and on. The reason sexual addiction cannot be boiled down into one particular behavior is because the addiction really isn't about sex in and of itself.
Those who struggle with sexual addiction are really fighting deeper inner battles. These battles simply express themselves through unhealthy compulsive sexual behaviors. This is why sexual addiction is so frustrating. Sex addicts want to stop the behavior but because they do not recognize that the addiction is not about behavior they continue to spiral deeper and deeper into it's grip.
The deeper issues of sexual addiction may be:
These are only a sampling of possible elements that shape a person's sexually addictive patterns. For more information about this, see some of our book resources. When we experience life situations that do not meet our legitimate emotional needs we are susceptible to seeking relief in pornography or other sexually soothing activities. Sex addicts simply want escape from their pain. There is much more to sexual addiction than what meets the eye. And it is a powerful addiction that can destroy our lives if we do not find a way to escape it. If you, or someone you love, are struggling with sexual addiction, please contact us for help.
Common Characteristics of Sexual Addiction
1. Sex addicts act out in isolation. Whether viewing pornography or soliciting prostitutes, sexually addictive behavior is conducted outside the realm of familiar relationships (i.e. spouse, children, friends, etc.).
2. Sexual addiction is devoid of emotional connection. The purpose of the behavior is most often a form of escaping emotional pain or discomfort rather than an attempt to foster such connection.
3. Sex addicts are deceptive with their behaviors. Lying, manipulating, and even threatening loved ones is common for sex addicts in order to perpetuate the addiction.
4. Sexual addiction is compulsive, meaning the addict has attempted to quit numerous times but is unable to sustain sobriety. In other words, the behaviors control the person rather than the person controlling the behaviors.
5. Sex addicts struggle with self-hatred, despair, and loneliness. The spiral of shame perpetuates the addictive behaviors and solidifies a core belief that the addict is unworthy of love, care, or recovery.
6. Sexual addiction is progressive in nature. Acting out behaviors cannot remain at the same "level." What might have produced a "high" yesterday will no longer do so today. Therefore, the addiction progresses (i.e. pornography leads to anonymous sex which leads to prostitution, etc.).
7. Sex addicts often struggle with significant underlying fear and anger issues. Because of the various emotional wounds the addict suffered as a child, tremendous fear and anger have been nurtured over years, even decades. Often, sex addicts are unaware of the reason for their fear and anger, but it drives them back to the familiar coping mechanism of their addiction. If you or someone you love demonstrates the above characteristics in his/her daily life, please contact us for help.
This is the million dollar question among evangelical Christians. And we will be upfront with you...there isn't a direct answer in the Bible. So, how can we answer this question? In the same way that Scripture does for many "gray area" questions: through biblical principles.
Let us define masturbation first. We don't want to complicate this any more than it already has been in various literature. Masturbation is simply the act of self-stimulation that leads to ejaculation or orgasm. Let's now break down some of the principles that can guide us to a better understanding of how to view masturbation in our own lives.
Masturbation, if seen purely as a physical function, is not sin. It is simply an orgasmic release. But is there more to masturbation than just its physical act? Of course, because we are more than just physical beings. We have emotions, thoughts, and soul & spirit. How do these play a part in our view of masturbation?
Jesus said, "Do not look at a woman with lust in your heart, for in so doing you have committed adultery with her in your heart." Was Jesus dealing with actions or attitudes in this verse? He was addressing our attitude. And that is precisely what we must weigh in our own hearts when it comes to the subject of masturbation.
Let me address those of us who struggle with sexual addiction. Masturbation must be off limits. You may be thinking, "You are contradicting yourself. You just told me masturbation was just a physical act and my attitude is what matters to God." That is true, but for most of us, we have so linked pornography to masturbation that the act of masturbating is nothing more than a conduit back to our old patterns of thinking and relating. Therefore, I always counsel recovering sex addicts to abstain from any form of masturbation (other than mutual with their spouse).
One other point about masturbation. It is an isolated activity, disconnected from relationship and intimacy. All of Scripture points us in the direction of connected, intimate relationships...first with God and then one another. So, if we are masturbating we are disconnecting from the true intimacy God wants to develop in us. Don't allow masturbation to rob you of the joy of connecting emotionally with your spouse.<p>
Real Question: I have overcome porn, but cannot break free from masturbation. Can compulsive masturbation be overcome?
Masturbation is one of the building block behaviors of sexual addiction (pornography and fantasy being the other primary ones). The trouble with masturbation, from a Christian perspective, is that we are not given clear, definitive instructions from God concerning this behavior. So, how then can one determine how to address the issue of masturbation?
Obviously, it has become quite a problem for you (the emailer who sent the question). You recognize it as a problem, in the same way you recognized porn as a problem. Both have the ability to consume our thoughts and appeal to our sexual feelings. The sexual feelings and urges you have are not wrong in themselves - God created you a sexual being. But God also created us emotional beings, spiritual beings, and physical beings. We would not consider a person "healthy" if they overused, misused, or abused food, even though God created them with a physical appetite for food. The same is true when it comes to our sexuality. God designed it to function within His parameters. The good news is that, unlike food, God does give us very specific boundaries when it comes to our sexuality. It was designed to be expressed within the covenant bond of marriage between one man and one woman. (But you probably already knew that...)
So, how do you break free from the habit of masturbation? The same way (almost) that you break free from any destructive habit: truth, action, time. The truth is that your compulsive masturbation is, at best, distracting you from better things and, at worst, crippling you emotionally and spiritually. God wants you to live an abundant, joyful, life of faith. Begin today to focus on the truth that your sexuality was given to you to manage, not to operate any way you see fit - it ultimately belongs to God, so whatever you do with it must pass His approval.
I have heard it said before that life is 20% what you know and 80% what you do. Action is required to break free from bad habits. You probably already know what not to do, and even some good things to do. The real battle is in DOING them! This is where we ALL struggle, but it still doesn't give us an excuse. This is why we must engage this battle in the context of community. You will NOT break this habit on your own. You may have had a powerful freedom experience from porn, but ultimately God wants you to move toward other believers in deep, connected, honest, authentic relationships. This means you've got to step up and share with a few brothers the truth about your struggle and then lock arms with them in the fight.
Finally, it takes time to overcome bad habits. Learn to be patient and persistent in the process. Transformation doesn't typically occur overnight - it's a process over a lifetime of becoming something new, something you never were before. This is the great work of God in our lives, changing us from sin-infested people to the righteous, who live by faith.
In my experience, I have not seen any long-term benefits to masturbation. Even if a person could engage in the activity without spinning a single lustful thought (virtually impossible to do), it is still a self-focused, isolated activity. This does not seem to be the original intent for our sexuality. Even removing the sexual aspect of it, God is clear about the focus of our lives being outward. In other words, we are to live in such a way to put others ahead of ourselves. Masturbation is fundamentally opposed to such a paradigm. Ultimately, each person must decide for themselves what their stance will be on the subject, but I personally have never seen a positive long-term effect from engaging in masturbation.
There can be many factors that lead to porn addiction. Insecurity can be one of these factors, but usually not an "originating" factor. Most porn addiction is born out of attempting to cope with various emotional or psychological wounds. Trauma, abuse, negative family environment or shaming events can lead a person to seek out relief through inappropriate use of one's sexuality.
Insecurity is often one characteristic that perpetuates porn addiction, because the addict feels inadequate to connect emotionally with others. This also can prevent an addict from breaking the silence on their addiction because of the fear that if anyone knew what they were really doing they would reject and condemn them. We have a workbook that helps people combat this sort of shame. It is entitled Understanding Shame: Breaking the Power of the Addictive Spiral. (learn more here)
I believe there are "levels" to discussing our weaknesses with others. A girlfriend (someone to whom you have not made a "real" commitment) probably needs to know that you are like every other man on the planet and have struggles with lustful thoughts. A fiance (someone to whom you have pledged to make a real commitment) needs to know about skeletons in your closet and to what degree you currently struggle with lust. She also needs to know what your practical strategy is for healing from old wounds and pursuing a lifestyle of purity. A wife (someone to whom you have made a lifelong commitment) needs total transparency - no secrets, nothing hidden. Oneness in marriage cannot be achieved when there are secrets.
Timing is important when discussing such a vulnerable issue. Sitting at a baseball game scarfing down cheap hot dogs is probably not the best time to bring up this topic. Also, if your girlfriend, fiance, or wife has just experienced an emotional difficulty (fight with a friend, bad day at work, etc.), it might be best to talk later about your lust struggles (but not use this as an excuse to never bring it up). A good thing to keep in mind when approaching your girlfriend, fiance, or wife about your struggles is that she needs to know that she can be safe with you, and that she is not the cause of your struggle. It may be helpful to seek professional counseling if you have particularly abusive or addictive patterns in your struggles.
First, homosexuality is not genetic and it is sinful behavior according to God's Word. A friend of mine in ministry, David Kyle Foster (a former homosexual), explains how many church leaders have added confusion and destruction by attempting to "accept" homosexuality as not being sinful behavior. Read the full article here. However, homosexuality is no lesser or greater a sin than any other.
God loves homosexuals! I also love homosexuals and, believe it or not, never demand they change their lifestyle (it is not my decision to make for them). This is also the same way I approach any individual involved in sexually addictive behaviors. I approach them as a person loved by God just as they are. And as the truth of God's Word is accepted and appropriated into their hearts and minds, it is then God who does His work from the inside out. My role in that person's life is simply to lead them to the truth and let them make their own decisions between them and God from that point forward, encouraging them to weigh their thoughts and actions against the unchanging truth of the Bible. With truth as the guide you can know that when they choose to follow truth they will not be led astray.
Good question. This is one of those "gray area" questions. There is no red flashing light that appears on a guy's forehead when he has crossed over from normal sexual thought to lustful thinking. Generally speaking, however, when a normal sexual reaction (increased heartbeat upon seeing an attractive peer, for example) leads to capturing an image or thought for self-centered pleasure, a line has been crossed.
Most guys have a hard time distinguishing between normal, healthy sexual feelings and lust. We must keep in mind that God is the creator of beauty. It was His idea to make us sexual beings. So, the sexual feelings themselves are not a mistake. We must become responsible, however, for directing those feelings in the channels that will lead to purity rather than lust. This may mean acknowledging beauty, but quickly underscoring the potential for lust if appropriate channeling does not occur. Some good ways to redirect sexual energy could be exercise, calling a friend, or listening to music - activities that will invest your mind in letting beauty remain beautiful and not something you allow your wandering mind to turn into ugliness.
This question may seem laughable at first glance, but it is a question that many in our culture are voicing right now. And the fact that we are even asking the question is evidence that our society has become desensitized to the danger and impact of pornography.
The pornography industry in the United States grosses between $11-13 BILLION annually. That is more than professional basketball, football, and baseball combined! Pornography IS mainstream. But does it really have any affect on us? Is there anything wrong with looking at pornography, or participating in pornography? The answer is a resounding YES.
First of all, pornography dehumanizes its participants. Pornographers are not out to create healthy connected relationships in their consumers. Their purpose is to objectify women and men for the momentary pleasure of a "porn high." Once the consumer has gotten their "fix" they discard the magazine, video, or person and move onto the next one. That leads us to another reason why pornography is dangerous.
Pornography is progressive in nature. Consumption of porn will always produce a "need" for more...more graphic, more perverse, more violent, etc. It feeds on our appetite to satisfy our flesh at all costs. Ninety percent of inmates on death row confess to heavy consumption of pornography as having played a part in their deviant behaviors. Porn inevitably, if let loose, will lead to illegal and violent behaviors.
Finally, pornography is only focused on ME, and how I can get what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. Pornography pulls us away from deep, connected relationships into isolation. And in isolation I am left to "satisfy" my every desire through porn. But the problem is...porn never satisfies. If it did, sales of pornographic materials would not increase year after year. But because pornography only creates a thirst and never satisfies that thirst, we are left pursuing to the point of addiction and compulsion.
If you find yourself living in the damaging effects of pornography, please contact us for help.
Here is a situational premise that has endless possibilities of consequence. The effects that sexual addiction can have on an individual are as varied as there are people on the planet. The following is a list of what we have experienced and seen as the most common effects of sexual addiction on individuals who contact our ministry.
(this list is only a sample of effects sexual addiction can have on an individual and not intended to be considered comprehensive)
If you are experiencing any of these characteristics consistently in your life, contact us for help.
Unfortunately, sexual addiction NEVER affects just the addict. Many family members are always affected and devastated from a person's sexual acting out. The following are the common damages we have seen in our ministry:
(this list is only a sample of effects sexual addiction can have on family members and not intended to be considered comprehensive)
If you have been hurt in the past by a sex addict and could use some support and encouragement, please contact us.
I think there are a number of things that will need to be addressed if you are going to experience real freedom and the abundant life Jesus came to give us. I will point them out and then seek to provide some practical resources to help. (these are not listed in any particular order of importance)
Transformation in your thinking
"You are what you think you are, more than you think you are."
We all have a set of "tapes" that play in our minds, telling us various things that are false; about ourselves, about God, about life, about relationships, etc. These tapes usually got recorded in the early years of our lives (usually in the 5-10 year-old timeframe). The more these tapes have played (and been reinforced by sinfulness), the more we believe them to be true.
You said you think God is angry with you about half the time. That's false thinking, and it needs to be confronted and changed through the power of the Spirit. How? By the washing of the Word of God. I know that sounds so oversimplified, but it is true regardless. A great place to start would be the book of Ephesians. Spend the next week reading and re-reading the first 3 chapters. Notice there are NO COMMANDS in those chapters, only facts about what is ALREADY true for those who are God's children. Let those words transform your mind as you see all that God has blessed you with and the unbreakable bond of His holy affection for you. God is NOT angry at you!
Another helpful resource would be Dr. Chris Thurman's book, The Lies We Believe.
No one can overcome the dark trauma of sexual abuse alone. First, it is a journey I would never encourage someone to embark on alone, for the enemy of our souls is crafty and deceptive, and he masquerades as an angel of light. So, often a person who seeks to navigate the maze out of the dungeon of a sexually abusive past alone finds themselves even more lost and lonely because they are seeking to find their way without a guide. This is where good quality, biblical counseling can be beneficial. I emphasize biblical.
For help in finding a good counselor, visit http://counselors.bebroken.com.
Men of Steel
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Prov. 27:17
We deceive ourselves when we think that "God + me" is all I need to overcome the lusts of my flesh. Wrong! This doesn't mean that my lusts are more powerful than God, it simply means that in the means through which God has set up for us to "walk in the Light" He requires brotherhood. It's so tempting to want to just keep our secrets hidden, thinking that if we just prayed more about them and cried to God over them, that our hearts would find healing and peace. But God is more interested in our place and purpose in His body (the church) than our individual comfort. He cares for us too much to give us what we want apart from fellowship and confession to one another in the church. We are members of His body, not to be detached and isolated from one another.
To experience long-term freedom from the power of lust, we must be engaged in growing deep accountability friendships (notice I said "friendships;" these are men we are living life with, not merely "reporting" to...). Don't neglect this invaluable pursuit in the process of living life as God designed.
For help finding a group, visit http://groups.bebroken.com.
I hope this helps give you a start. We are all on the journey, none of us having "arrived." But the good news about the gospel of Jesus is not merely eternal life, but also the richness of abundant life as we grow in our absolute surrender to His will and Holy Spirit. The life of Christ CAN be lived through us, if we are but willing to take God at His Word and not resist the Potter's hand when carving out the painful areas that have grown calloused and hard.