What’s the difference between having a high sex drive and being a helpless sex addict? As a sex advice columnist I get that question a lot. After all, the two have a lot in common. Men who have a lot of sex and sex addicts share the same “drug” (penis) but they have completely different experiences with it.
One of the reasons it’s so hard to distinguish sex addiction in gay men is that so many of them cloak their compulsive need for anonymous sex with high-minded talk of sexual freedom. When you confuse the issue of sexual freedom with the slavery of addiction you can come up with plutonium-grade rationalizations to keep the behavior going.
But let’s talk about you. You know you’re having an excess of sex success because your friends have started calling you Trampolina. It’s at this point you might own your own trampiness and ask yourself, “Well what’s the difference between a tramp and an addict?”
It’s The Consequences, Not The Tonnage.
Addicts suffer negative consequences from their behavior. Tramps don’t. Well, except for the occasional penicillin shot. For example, tramps stop when sex creates problems in other areas of their lives. Addicts don’t. Tramps can stop if they choose. Addicts can’t. Tramps don’t get into financial trouble chasing after the stick. Sex addicts do.
Most people think if they have “x” number of sex partners or masturbate “x” number of times they cross the threshold from having a high sex drive to being a helpless sex addict.
Sex addiction Guru Patrick Carnes (great book—Out of the Shadows) addressed the idea of equating sex addiction to an arbitrary number in a lecture I once attended. He said, “That’s like asking how many drinks make an alcoholic.”
In other words, the difference isn’t in the number but in the consequences. Tramps can have a trick every other night without endangering their jobs, relationships, or financial stability. Sex addicts can have half the tricks and double the trouble. Again, the difference isn’t the amount of sex you’re having but the amount of trouble it’s causing.
You don’t even need to be having sex with another person to be considered a sex addict. In the last few years we’ve seen a major jump in porn addiction. People who abuse Internet porn show the same characteristics as people who abuse drugs—they become more isolated, their eating and sleeping patterns change and they start causing problems in their relationships.
So How Do You Tell If You’re An Addict?
Personally, I think the word “addiction” is used way too often to describe bad habits. A problem isn’t necessarily an addiction. One way to tell between the two is to use our “Are You A Sex Addict Or Garden Variety Tramp Quiz.” If you score more than a “28” you might want to contact some of the resources we provide.
Sexual addiction is a recognized disorder and it follows very closely the pattern of any addiction—a binge that creates the high, followed by guilt, regret, and a promise to stop. Which is followed by an extraordinary hunger for the INSERT ACTIVITY HERE, the creation of breathtakingly self-serving justifications for the destructive behavior, and then the binge. Repeat, oh, five or six hundred times and you’ve got a full-fledged addiction.
The essence of all addiction is the experience of powerlessness over a compulsive behavior. Sex addicts get to a point where they want to stop, try and repeatedly fail. They suffer. They lose relationships, have difficulties with work, get arrested, have financial troubles, lose interest in non-sexual activities and end up with a rock-bottom self-esteem and an endless sense of despair. That’s a completely different experience than having a lot of sex and occasionally regretting it. If you’re feeling powerless over a compulsion you might be an addict so get help. If you simply have a higher sex drive, well, that’s an itch you shouldn’t be afraid to scratch.