“The first step is admitting you have a problem.” You may have heard this phrase and wondered if this applies to you. After all, most people have a relationship with sex that is … well … complicated …. Right? It’s a good question. How do you know if you have a problem with sexual behavior/thoughts? In the same way that not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic, and not everyone who smoked marijuana is addicted, not everyone who has an affair or watches porn is addicted to sex. So, how do you tell?
Just like other addictions, there is a list of criteria that a therapist will look at to determine if an addiction is present. They will look at how often you have tried to quit and failed; they will look at if you continue your behavior despite harm it is causing; they will look at if you set limits for yourself only to exceed them. These are a few of the symptoms they will look for that will indicate an addiction is present. Sexual addiction experts have come up with a useful acronym that can help you determine if an addiction may be present. The acronym is “PATHOS” and it stands for:
- Preoccupied: Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?
- Ashamed: Do you hide some of your behaviors from others?
- Treatment: Have you ever sought help for sexual behaviors that you didn’t like?
- Hurt Others: Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?
- Out of Control: Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire?
- Sad: When you engage in sexual activity, do you feel depressed afterwards?
A positive response to one of these questions would indicate the possibility of an addiction and the need for additional assessment. Two or more positive responses indicate the probability of an addictive problem. If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, an appointment with a therapist who specializes in this area can help you determine whether or not an addiction is present and what you can do to have a healthier relationship with sex. Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) have access to assessment materials and can be helpful in determining if an addiction truly is present. All of those who are CSATs have attended 120 hours of intensive instruction, received at least 30 hours of supervision in working with sexual addicts and their families and receive at least 15 hours of continuing education focusing on sex addiction every 2 years. If you are in need of a CSAT, a list of these therapists can be found at https://www.sexhelp.com/therapists-search/.