Healthy Boundaries with Sex Addiction

Contributor: Angela Skurtu, M.Ed., LMFT, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist

How can I tell if I am a sex addict? For starters, sex addiction is not actually a diagnosis recognized by the professional mental health community. It is a pop psychology term. A better phrase to describe this behavior is Hypersexual/Impulsive Behavior (1).

People with this problem have very high sex drives and struggle to set and keep clear boundaries around their sex life. They engage in problematic sexual behaviors that have real consequences for themselves and the people around them.

Sexual desire (2) is actually quite complicated because people vary in terms of their desire levels. A person could desire sex as often as twice daily and as rarely as once a month. It is difficult to use desire alone as an indicator for sex addiction.

Where this can be a real challenge is when one person states their partner is a sex addict simply because they desire sex much more often than they personally do.

Problematic, Impulsive Sexual Behaviors

In addition to high sexual desire, you need to look for problematic, impulsive sexual behaviors. Behaviors that are problematic can include choices that either put the individual at risk for harm or their partner at risk for harm. These behaviors could include: (3)

  1. Having frequent unprotected sex with one or multiple partners
  2. Preoccupation with sex to the point that it affects employment, finances, school functioning, or a relationship
  3. Spending a lot of time, money, or resources in pursuit of sexual interests
  4. Irritability when sexual desires are not fulfilled
  5. Frequent attempts to set boundaries around sexual behaviors that are not kept
  6. Dishonesty with oneself and others about the severity of the sexual problem

What Should I Do If I Think I Am a Sex Addict?

If you believe yourself to be a sex addict, the first step is to seek help from a professional such as a Sex Therapist (4), a Licensed Mental Health Professional, or a Sex Addiction Treatment Facility (2).

When picking your professional, you want to make sure the person has experience working with sexual addiction so they will know the most effective treatment strategies.

Accountability Partners and Groups

uniform-238483_640In addition to working with a professional, you will need to find an accountability partner or group. This is important because you need people who are going to help you stick to the boundaries you set.

Acceptable accountability partners can include a Sex Addiction group such as Sex Addicts Anonymous-SAA (, a church group devoted to helping men/women with these issues, a pastor or close friend, or even a spouse (if you are getting along and you feel you can be completely honest with them).

Setting Clear Boundaries

After getting connected to helpers, you need to set some clear boundaries around certain aspects of your life you would consider slippery slopes. A “slippery slope” is an activity, a place, or a person that often becomes a catalyst to acting out sexually in inappropriate ways.

For example, some men state porn is their slippery slope. First they look at porn, they then start looking at other sites such as Craigslist, or adult friend finders, and then from there they move on to more damaging activities. In this case, porn is a catalyst to further problematic behaviors.

Slippery Slopes

Other examples of slippery slopes include using the computer when alone or at night, being in public parks known for discreet sexual activity, red light districts, massage parlors, co-ed sex addiction groups, bars, etc.

Every addict has different catalysts that lead into their inappropriate behavior. First, be honest with yourself about your own weak points and set clear boundaries around those behaviors. Secondly, share the boundaries you set with your therapist and accountability partner(s) so they can encourage to make positive decisions.

What Role Should My Partner Play in Treatment?

Initially, most sex addicts prefer to seek individual treatment because often their behaviors are negatively impacting their partners. After experiencing some success in treatment, including your partner in couple’s therapy will be a helpful step to improving your relationship.

The two objectives you will want to focus on include setting clear, healthy boundaries and rebuilding trust. Examples of methods couples use to begin setting boundaries include:

  1. Keeping the computer or phone in a public space
  2. Giving your partner open access to all electronic passwords
  3. Going to bed at the same time
  4. Avoiding places or people who have been slippery slopes in the past
  5. Having protected sex with your partner to reduce chances of passing STDs

Your professional helpers will guide you in setting and keeping clear boundaries in the relationship. Over time, keeping set boundaries will help you rebuild trust with your partner over time.

A Long But Worthwhile Process

Treatment can be a long process for sex addicts. While ideally, it would be great if all relationships could be salvaged, the truth is that many sex addicts will lose people they care very deeply for in the process of recognizing they have a sexual problem.

One thing to remember is that you are in treatment to improve your own life regardless or whether you keep your current relationship. The hope is that at some point, you will be able to enjoy a healthy loving relationship either with your current partner or with a future partner after you have done the work to improve yourself. Good luck!

About the Author:

Angela Skurtu, M.Ed., LMFT, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. Angela Skurtu owns a private practice called St. Louis Marriage Therapy, LLC that focuses in couples and sex therapy. She also writes and runs a community event called Sex, Wine and Chocolate that educates men and women about keeping a healthy sex life.



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The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 5th, 2014
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