What is problematic sexual behavior?

As humans, we are sexual beings by nature. And for many people, this is an enjoyable thing. But for some, this is a bigger issue that they struggle with daily. While some people can have healthy sexual relationships, others struggle due to problematic behaviors such as addiction, intimacy issues, primary sexual attraction, or other issues. Something that many people find so much love and joy in, can be painful and crippling for others.

What makes a sexual behavior ‘problematic?’

A sexual behavior becomes problematic when it starts to negatively impact your life. This is often repetitive sexual behaviors that have resulted in some form of consequence. These consequences can be environmental stressors such as loss of relationships, job loss, decrease in productivity, financial impact, damaged relationships, loss of trust, and increased arguments with a partner or spouse due to the behavior. Additionally, these behaviors also lead to internalized stressors which include lack of self-esteem, self-loathing, and an increasing amount of shame for the behaviors. These stressors begin to function as a continuous cycle and feed off one another. Someone who engages in problem behaviors may do so in order to feel relief, which is then followed by feelings of shame, self-loathing, and depression. To pull themselves out of the shame and self-loathing, they engage in the behavior again to make themselves feel better.

The biggest indicator of problematic sexual behavior is when the behavior continues despite the consequences of their actions. Infidelity can be one of the most painful experiences a couple can encounter. Some couples are able to work through more isolated incidents, and rebuild their relationship. However, the spouse that continuously engages in sexual relationships with other people despite being faced with divorce, loss of children, STDs, blackmail, etc. certainly falls under the umbrella of problematic behavior. These consequences are often life altering, but the individual still struggles to stop or control their behaviors.

What types of behaviors are problematic?

One of the most common forms of problematic sexual behavior includes the use of pornography. While pornography itself is not problematic, it can quickly spiral out of control for some. Those who struggle with pornography addiction have often described it as a compulsion. As mentioned, this behavior becomes problematic when it interferes with daily life. Pornography is so easily accessible that it can be viewed almost anywhere, which increases the likelihood of consequences for those who struggle with addiction. This can include use of pornography at inappropriate places such as work, school, sporting events, family outings, etc. The behavior becomes so consuming that it has now interrupted daily activities that used to be enjoyable. Often, it becomes the focus of the entire day. Similar behaviors include the repetitive use of sex chat rooms, 800 numbers, prostitutes, and high-risk sexual behaviors.

What do I do about it?

Problematic sexual behaviors can take over your life without being addressed. These behaviors often stem from a disruption in the way a person views sex. Through treatment, we start by exploring early memories of sexual behaviors, sexual education, and any experiences that may have shaped a person’s view of sex. From there, we start to explore healthy alternatives of getting needs met, rebuilding relationships, and changing the thought patterns that lead to these behaviors. Through treatment, these behaviors can be managed, and you can work to take back control of your life.

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