Sexual compulsion, sex addiction, internet addiction, addiction to apps – these are all controversial terms. Some people argue they don’t exist. After all, you can’t get physically addicted to sex, internet porn or apps like you can with some drugs – can you? But all can be habit-forming and we can become psychologically dependent on them.
How much is too much?
There’s no agreed ‘normal’ amount of sex, or time spent online, on porn, on apps, on wanking. It can’t be defined by what kind of sex you have (such as the “wrong” kind) or how much (“too much”) – it’s defined by you. You decide if there’s a problem, based on how your sex life makes you feel. You can have as much sex or time online as you want and if you don’t feel that it’s a problem, then who’s to say it is? But if you recognise yourself in any of the following statements and this bothers you, it may mean there’s a problem with how you feel about what you do:
- My sex life, internet use or app use is out of control.
I can’t stop, or when I try, I can’t stop for long.
- I’m putting myself at risk (because of the law, health, money, lack of sleep, beinglate for work, relationships with others etc).
I use it to cope with feelings low self-esteem, being down, stressed, anxious, lonely, or ashamed.
It leads me to have sex at times, in places or with people I wouldn’t normally choose or don’t think are right for me.
My contact with people is more online than in the flesh.
I see men I have sex with as objects, not people to connect with.
What I’m doing involves more sex or kinkier sex just to get enough excitement or relief.
- Sex and thoughts of sex, apps or internet porn stop me concentrating on other parts of my life, such as things I used to enjoy doing, friends, family and housework.
I hide what I do from people close to me.
If I can’t get sex or go online I get moody or irritable, or afterwards I feel regret, guilt or shame.
When we’re turned on our bodies release powerful feel good chemicals that affect our brain. This ‘high’ helps power our sex drive. Some people crave this high but afterwards comes a sort of ‘low’ in the shape of anxiety, shame or guilt feelings. The cycle of chasing the high but feeling low after a sexual hit can be hard to break without help.
If you think you’re using the web or apps too much, try cutting down. Set a limit, for example 30 minutes or an hour each day. You’ll soon rediscover how life was before the internet and how much else you get done. If you’ve got several profiles on different sites or apps, deleting some means you might spend less time online. Often the longer a session online lasts, the fewer messages you get. If you’re sitting in front of the screen or staring at your smartphone just waiting for a message, maybe that’s a sign it’s time to log off.
Telephone helplines are a confidential way of talking things over with someone. THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 is a good place to start. Check out web listings for other help available. Search for “sexual compulsion” or “internet addiction”. Talk to a friend to see if they feel the same way. Talk about things you can do together instead of looking for sex.
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