Sexual Recovery Blog

Shedding Light on the Shadow: Sex addiction Screening Tools

Posted by Anthony Liu on

Introduced in the 1980’s, the concept of sexual addiction provides an explanation for otherwise irrational and self-destructive sexual behavior.  How can you then detect sexual addiction?  

 

Notable sex addiction expert Patrick Carnes once made an analogy that sheds light on the harmful, relational consequences of compulsive sexual behavior.  He compares the sex addict to the wearer of the ring in J. R. R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The wearer of the ring becomes invisible.  The only way to detect the wearer’s presence is that he would still cast a shadow when in daylight.  The analogy Carnes makes is that sex addiction by its nature is often invisible.  This is more so, especially with today’s sexually saturated media and advertising. 

 

Whereas alcoholism or drug addiction leaves the addict with obvious physically observable effects, the sex addict often initially experiences more subtle, relational consequences.  The sex addict can also easily choose to hide the physical consequences, such as porn-induced erectile dysfunction, from even those closest to him.   Only through careful observation do the harmful consequences of sexual addiction – the addiction’s shadow -- reveal themselves.  

 

Here are three screening tools to help shed light as to whether somebody is dealing with compulsive sexual behavior: 1) PATHOS 2) The 10 Criteria for sex addiction, and 3) the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST).

 

PATHOS

PATHOS is a brief and straightforward screening test.  It has been found clinically significant for effectively determining a patient’s appropriateness for entering treatment as potential sex addicts. 

PATHOS is an acronym for the six assessment questions:

Preoccupied – Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?

Ashamed – Do you hide some of your sexual behavior from others?

Treatment – Have you ever sought therapy for sexual behavior you did not like?

Hurt others – Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?

Out of control – Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire?

Sad – When you have sex, do you feel depressed afterwards?

A positive response to just one of the six questions would indicate a need for additional assessment with a certified sex addiction therapist. Two or more may indicate sexual addiction.

 

Top 10 Criteria for Sex Addiction

The ten criteria for sex addiction parallel the ten criteria for drug and alcohol addiction.  When sex addiction is present, the following ten criteria are easily identified. 

1)      Loss of Control: Recurrent failure to resist sexual impulses in order to engage in specific sexual behaviors

2)      Compulsive Behavior: Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended

3)      Efforts to Stop: Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control those behaviors

4)      Loss of Time: Inordinate amounts of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences

5)      Preoccupation: Preoccupation with sexual behavior or preparatory activities

6)      Inability to Fulfill Obligations: Frequent engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic, or social obligations

7)      Continuation Despite Consequences: Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior

8)      Escalation: The need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk level of behaviors in order to achieve the desired effect; or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number, or risk

9)      Losses: Giving up or limiting social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior

10)  Withdrawal: Distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior

The research indicates that meeting at least three of the above criteria can indicate compulsive sexual behavior.

 

SAST

Lastly, The Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) is another tool professionals use to detect sex addiction.  Visit https://www.recoveryzone.com/tests/sex-addiction/SAST/index.php to take the free online assessment version. 

 

If you or somebody you know are struggling with addiction issues, meeting with a professional may be beneficial.  Contact Community Presbyterian Counseling Center, located in San Ramon, California.

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