signs + characteristics of sex + love addiction

- Lack of nurturing and attention when young;

- Feeling isolated, detached from parents and family;

- Compartmentalization of relationships from other areas of life;

- Outer facade of "having it all together" to hide internal disintegration;

- Mistake intensity for intimacy (drama driven relationships);

- Hidden pain;

- Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost;

- Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship;

- Inner rage over lack of nurturing, early abandonment;

- Depressed;

- Highly manipulative and controlling of others;

- Perceive attraction, attachment, and sex as basic human needs, on a par with food and water;

- Sense of worthlessness without a relationship/sex or partner;

- Feelings that a relationship/sex makes one whole, or more of a man or woman;

- Escalating tolerance for high-risk behavior;

- Intense need to control self, others, circumstances;

- Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems;

- Insatiable appetite in area of difficulty (sex, love or attachment / need);

- Using others, sex and relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain;

- Continual questioning of values and lifestyle;

- Driven, desperate, frantic personality;

- Confusion of sexual attraction with love ("love" at first sight);

- Tendency to trade sexual activity for "love" or attachment;

- Existence of a secret "double life";

- Refusal to acknowledge existence of problem;

- Defining out-of-control behavior as normal;

- Defining "wants" as "needs";

- Tendency to leave one relationship for another;

- Inability to be without a relationship; and

- Attempts to replace lost relationships with a new one immediately.

Many of these symptoms are also elements of codependency and intimacy dsyfunctions resulting from childhood abandonment, emotional and / or sexual abuse. [Please see the sections on Abuse and Addiction on the top left hand menu.]

For this reason treatment and therapy for Love Addiction often includes trauma recovery work. If the things in the list above sound familiar to you I highly recommend Pia Melody's book Facing Love Addiction.

Sex/love addiction responds to treatment and / or therapy with a practitioner knowledgeable in its effects and origins. Several treatment centers now offer Love Addiction treatment.

A 12 step program called SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous - please see below) can also be helpful.

Copyright © 2002


sex addiction definitions

So how might you tell if your compulsive sexual behavior is really a problem? The basic definition is as follows:

You may be a sex addict if you are engaging in one or more repetitive sexual behaviors which interfere with healthy living and result in significant stress to both you and your partner or other family members. Or see if you can answer yes to more than one of the following questions:

- As a recovering addict, have you been unable to remain sober from drugs and alcohol related to your sexual behaviors or romantic entanglements?

- Do you spend long hours on the computer downloading pornographic images or interacting in chat rooms while neglecting your job and family?

- Do you experience extreme anxiety or panic responses related to sexual behavior?

- Have you ever risked your right to practice as a professional due to your sexual behavior?

- Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?

- Do you have shameful sexual secrets you tell no one about?

- Have you made repeated attempts in therapy or support groups to control your sexual behavior, only to find yourself stuck in self-destructive patterns?

- Do you feel extremely depressed or hopeless because of efforts to break away from a pattern of compulsive romantic relationships?

- Have you ever exposed yourself in public, or engaged in a pattern of secretly looking in peopleís windows?

- Have you ever been so obsessed with a person that you found yourself committing stalking behaviors?

-OK, you say, so maybe I have a problem. I might even be willing to go to a sex addict 12-Step meeting. But why are there are so many different meetings, and how do I find out?

which 12 step group is best for me (or my partner)?

Approximately 20 years ago a number of people in different areas of the country had the same idea at roughly the same time, namely: "My sexual behaviors are out of control, and I wish there were some 12-Step meetings like AA where I could go for sexual recovery. I know, Iíll just start one!"

This explains why we now have 5 separate 12-Step group programs for sex addicts (SA, SAA, SLAA, SCA, SRA). There are 3 organizations for partners of sex addicts (S-Anon, COSA, Co-SLAA), two for couples (RCA, SA-Couples), and one for sex workers, all with different meeting lists. The following is a guide for making your way through the thicket of possible resources.

SA: Sexaholics Anonymous This 12-Step program is the strictest in its definition of sexual sobriety. Masturbation is discouraged, as is homosexual sex. Sobriety is defined as "No sexual behavior outside of a committed marital relationship between a man and a woman." Members are primarily heterosexual men, along with some heterosexual women. Sexual offenders often discover that the strict boundaries of SA are helpful for their recovery. Lists of meetings and other information may be obtained by emailing

The partner program to SA is S-Anon (as Al-Anon is to AA) S-Anon helps wives and other family members to learn how to set appropriate boundaries, and to focus on their own issues while supporting one another. For information about existing meetings or how to start a new meeting, contact: S-Anon International Central Office by emailing

SAA: Sex Addicts Anonymous This program is open to both heterosexual and homosexual men and women who want to learn to abstain from self-defined "bottom-line behaviors" such as compulsive Internet sex, use of prostitutes, massage parlors, and the like. Masturbation is optional, as SAA members are encouraged to develop their own abstinence plan with feedback from sponsors and group members. Contact the SAA International Service Organization on US 713-869-4902 or at: PO Box 70949, Houston, TX 77270, USA.

SLAA: Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous This program is similar to SAA in that both heterosexual and homosexual men and women are welcome to attend. More women tend to attend SLAA because of the emphasis on "love addiction," defined as a pattern of painful or obsessive romantic relationships. Members are encouraged to set appropriate behavioral boundaries with the help of sponsors and group members. This program is helpful for both sex addicts and those who consistently involve themselves in abusive, non-nurturing relationships. Contact their site:

PA: Prostitutes Anonymous A 12-Step organization whose members help one another to abstain from various sex worker enterprises. Who would have guessed that the national headquarters are located in . . . Nebraska. PA National Info: 1-800-537-7681 PO Box 131 Kennard, NE 68034, USA.

Many blessings to you and your family members as you investigate these resources. For therapist resources, a good way to start looking is through the membership list published at the web site of The National Council on Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity (NCSAC):

Copyright 2002 Sharon O'Hara


the 12 steps of sex + love addicts anonymous

1. We admitted we were powerless over sex and love addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as we understood it.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5 We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. We were entirely ready to have our Higher Power remove all these defects of character.

7. We humbly asked our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with a Power greater than ourselves, praying only for knowledge of our Higher Power's will for us and the strength to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sex and love addicts, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.

Contact Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous now!


My lustfulness was not indicative of any lack of magic in me, rather the only way in which I properly expressed myself. It was my idiom. Although I was no longer the angelic wreckage William had seduced in that ostentatious Chelsea apartment, I still retained the flavour of virginity - a smatch of cool theory, some twang of inutility. Certain men were besotted by these very things and wanted only to corrupt or own - as one would own a goldfish or a grove of orange trees - my oddball purity.

Others were violently attracted to my shadows; emotional disorders were their daily fare. They demanded psychoses, a gorgon, sabre-toothed fucking, bloodshed and curses, oestrogen poisoning, the lascivious snap of the vagina dentata. In the era which produced the formal moral visual code, the Hollywood director Ernst Lubitsch conveyed sexual arousal in his silent films by focusing on appropriately suggestive objects (the roaring train, a sad banana, dessert silver heaped with ravaged figs, a drain). I was not dissimilar in my methodology. All hubris, detritus.

To have been able to extend a fourth dimensional hand through any of my lovers' breasts and found the labour of a heart synchronous with my own: a foolish wish, perhaps, but also mine and true to me.

- From The Pure Weight of the Heart, by Antonella Gambotto


10 affirmations - living day by day

  1. It is a victory, not a failure, to admit that I cannot control my problems, for then I can turn to my Higher Power and begin to find serenity;
  2. It is constructive to take an honest look at myself, face the true feelings and communicate honestly;
  3. It is an act of courage, not shame, to admit any wrong I've done and ask forgiveness of my Higher Power, myself and others;
  4. It is healthy to accept and love myself, and to let others love me, because like everyone else, I am worthy and deserving of love and a good life;
  5. It is O.K. to trust myself and others, I can be responsible for myself, as others can be for themselves;
  6. It is possible for me to be happy, since happiness depends on myself and my attitude, not on things or other people;
  7. It is possible for me to recover, If I believe I can and I'm willing to take the necessary action for change;
  8. It is better to set realistic goals for change; I can accomplish them one step at a time and one day at a time. I can't do it all, or do it perfectly, but I can do something. If I fail, it's okay - there's no failure except in not trying;
  9. It is all right to set limits to keep myself sane and serene. It's okay to let things go that cannot be changed or do not matter; and
  10. It is good to take the time to stay in touch with myself and my Higher Power through prayer and meditation.

Children of alcoholics
Trauma + recovery
Learned helplessness