Young couple in bed, woman lying on back with man above

Source: Matt Dutile / Getty

You like getting it in, a lot. You tend to cheat on your significant other when you see something else that looks good. You want to masturbate, often. Cheating may make you an asshole, but none of these habits make you an addict—at least according to many in the mental health community.

A recent article in Psychology Today breaks down the history of the popularization of “sex addiction” and, more importantly, the differences between addiction and maladaptive behaviors. Here are the highlights.

Historically “addiction,” which was previously reserved for substances such as tobacco, alcohol, opioids, and heroin, has to meet these four basic criteria:

Tolerance—The more you use, the more you need.

Craving—An addict’s need for a particular substance is so extreme that it supersedes all other needs and duties, from basic safety to social responsibilities. Addicts let the desire for a substance dictate every other aspect of their lives.

Withdrawal—The decision to stop using a substance isn’t the only challenge for addicts— they also experience extreme, adverse side effects as they detox.

Severe Consequences—Addicts recognize that the more they use, the more they lose, including health, family, and safety. But this is not sufficient to deter behavior.

Some experts argue that “sex addiction” does not meet these standards. They contend that there are no physical withdrawal symptoms or severe consequences (this refers to legal sex and porn consumption). For this reason, some experts contend that “sex addiction” is fiction.

Does this mean that people can’t have issues surrounding sex, engage in extreme habits and have maladaptive behaviors? Of course not. It simply means that the body may not physically dictate one’s behavior. This creates greater opportunities for choice and change.

×