Can You Become Addicted to Sexting?

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s name has been splashed across headlines again this week with news that his wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, is leaving him after details emerged of his latest sexting scandal.

In case you’ve forgotten, Weiner’s 2013 campaign for mayor of New York was derailed by a scandal in which he was caught sharing inappropriate photos and messages with women via Twitter. His most recent scandal involves the very same behavior.

The story has once again brought the debate over sex addiction and whether or not it’s a “real” addiction back into the public eye. (Although, to those of us at Gentle Path at The Meadows, there is no debate — sex addiction is real, and treatable.)

In order to determine for certain whether sex addiction does play a role in Weiner’s behavior, he’d need to be fully evaluated by a mental health professional. We are making no attempt to diagnose him here; but, it is worth noting that repeatedly and compulsively, engaging in any behavior without regard to the devastating consequences it is having on your career, your relationships, and your life is one of the major hallmarks of addiction.

As Gentle Path at The Meadows Senior Fellow Alexandra Katehakis said in a Facebook post related to the news of Weiner’s scandal, “This is ultimately a tragic, ongoing story of a man who truly seems powerless over a certain component of his sexual behavior, which is making his life more and more unmanageable.”

How Can Sexting Be Addictive?

Sex addiction is defined by an escalating pattern of sexual behavior that a person wants to stop, and has tried to stop, but can’t. Examples of these types of behaviors often include, but are not limited to…

  • Compulsive masturbation,
  • Compulsive use of pornography,
  • Multiple extramarital affairs,
  • Multiple “hook-ups,” anonymous sexual partners, or one-night stands,
  • Prostitution or use of prostitutes,
  • Exhibitionism, and
  • “Virtual” forms of sex, via online chat rooms, video conferencing, and/or sexting.

Ultimately, sex addiction is not defined by the type of sexual behavior you engage in, but by a loss of control over your sexual behavior. If a person frequently engages in sexual encounters that are physically or emotionally unsafe for them and others and are damaging to their work relationships, family relationships, and reputations, they may be struggling with an addiction.

Can’t Stop Sexting? Get Help

Sexting and other forms of “cybersex” can cause men to become disconnected from the world around them and from other people. In addition to serious intimacy issues and relationship troubles, their detachment can also be indicative of other mental health issues, like drug or alcohol addiction, severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Although there is no one known cause of sex addiction, people who have a history of sexual abuse or addiction in their families may have a higher risk of becoming sexually addicted. Unwanted sexual behaviors may also start out as a way for the person to manage stress or cope with the emotional pain from unresolved psychological trauma.

According to work by Gentle Path at The Meadows Senior Fellow Patrick Carnes and other researchers, more than 70 percent of sex addicts report having engaged in problematic “virtual” or “digital” sexual behavior like sexting. Two-thirds of those who struggle with these behaviors also report having had suicidal thoughts.

If you find that you are feeling a great deal of guilt or shame over your sexual behaviors, or that you’ve had to escalate your behaviors in order to reach the same levels of satisfaction you got from them at first, you should talk to someone. Call one of our specialists at Gentle Path at The Meadows. They understand what you are going through, and they understand the importance of keeping your call completely confidential. You can reach them at 855–333–6076 or by reaching out online.

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