Some consider addictions simply as bad habits that can be conquered by willpower alone, but many people become so dependent on a behavior or a substance that they no longer see how to abstain from it. They lose perspective and a sense of other priorities in their lives. Addiction is a catch-all term for a complex behavioral disorder. The most obvious symptom is that addicts reach a point where they cannot control their own actions. Even when they can see the harm, they continue the compulsive behavior. The inability to stop, more than any other attribute, marks addiction.

For this reason, addiction was first described as a failure of will power. We now know this is incorrect. Addiction is a real disease with psychological, genetic, and psychosocial aspects. It is not a character flaw or a failure of morality. There are actual changes that occur in the brains of addicts and treatments for addiction must address the biology behind the behavior.

Types of Addictions

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs (both prescription and illegal)
  • Tobacco
  • Coffee and tea
  • Pornography
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Gambling
  • Codependency
  • Disorders associated with eating

List of AA Offices
Alcoholics Anonymous® Big Book Web Site
Alcoholics Anonymous® Big Book text

Here is the list of warning signs:

1. Increase of tolerance. This means you need to take more of the drug to get the effect you’re looking for or, in taking the same amount you are getting less effect.

2. Temporary loss of memory. These include blackouts, not being able to remember what you have said the night before, and general difficulty with recalling facts.

3. Preoccupation with drugs. This means you are thinking about the more it more. Even when you are not using, you’re wondering how soon you can be, how much, where you can get them, etc. often spoken of as obsession and compulsion.

4. Loss of control. This refers the inability to set and maintain boundaries around use. For instance saying you’re just going to have two lines of cocaine and you end up doing an entire eight ball. Another example is saying you only have two drinks insistently cannot stick to that limit.

5. People are commenting on your drug use. Friends and family start noticing your use and ask you to slow down or quit. It is often evident to the people around the user that there is a problem before it is evident to the user themselves.

6. Escape, or “geographical cure”. Problems start manifesting themselves in life. The user blames the job, the friends, the city they’re living in. They may move, start a new job, or stop associating with people who care.

7. Ethical deterioration’s. People using drugs slide very gradually behaviors and beliefs that they normally would not consider. Examples are lying, stealing, fighting, low self-esteem, guilt and shame.

8. Periodic abstinence. A drug user will often attempt to quit for a day, a week, etc. to “prove” that they do not have a problem. This may or may not be accomplished (see loss of control). But, the very fact that efforts to control use are going on is indication of a problem. People without a drug problem do not have to meet efforts to control their use.

9. Unmanageability, negative consequences. This simply means that when drug use occurs bad stuff happens. Examples of negative consequences can be arrests, DUIs, fights, divorces, loss of jobs, on and on. The difficulty here is the drug abuser cannot did the negative consequences occurring in his life his injuries a direct result is drug use not simply a matter of bad luck.

10. Psychological dependence. The easiest and simplest way to understand this to understand the concept that when drug use becomes a “need” instead of a desire, you have crossed a line.

Recognizing that pornography is affecting our families and friends... is the key to changing lives.

Who are the Victims Of Pornography?

Boys and girls that have lost their innocence by viewing pornography at an early age.

Wives of men preoccupied with pornography and the sex industry.

Women who are being treated with disrespect and sexually abused.

Young women trapped in an industry that exploits them and uses them as mere sex objects.

Children used for the sexual satisfaction of fathers, stepfathers, and men they trusted.

Young men exposed to a false image of sexuality.

Men who just can't stop using pornography or stimulating themselves while recalling those images.

A society that has become desensitized and dependent upon sex-charged images.

Neighbors that have increased crime and decreased property values because of the proliferation of pornography in their communities.

Sexual Addiction

The term "sexual addiction" is used to describe the behavior of a person who has an unusually intense sex drive or an obsession with sex. Sex and the thought of sex tend to dominate the sex addict's thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships.
Sex addicts engage in distorted thinking, often rationalizing and justifying their behavior and blaming others for problems. They generally deny they have a problem and make excuses for their actions.

Sexual addiction also is associated with risk-taking. A person with a sex addiction engages in various forms of sexual activity, despite the potential for negative and/or dangerous consequences. In addition to damaging the addict's relationships and interfering with his or her work and social life, a sexual addiction also puts the person at risk for emotional and physical injury.

For some people, the sex addiction progresses to involve illegal activities, such as exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public), making obscene phone calls, or molestation. However, it should be noted that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders.

Behaviors associated with sexual addiction include:

Compulsive masturbation (self-stimulation)
Multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs)
Multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands
Consistent use of pornography
Unsafe sex
Phone or computer sex (cybersex)
Prostitution or use of prostitutes
Obsessive dating through personal ads
Voyeurism (watching others) and/or stalking
Sexual harassment

Generally, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sexual activity and forms no emotional bond with his or her sex partners. In addition, the problem of sex addiction often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. A sex addict also feels a lack of control over the behavior, despite negative consequences (financial, health, social, and emotional).

How is sexual addiction treated?

Most sex addicts live in denial of their addiction, and treating an addiction is dependent on the person accepting and admitting that he or she has a problem. In many cases, it takes a significant event—such as the loss of a job, the break-up of a marriage, an arrest, or health crisis—to force the addict to admit to his or her problem.

Treatment of sexual addiction focuses on controlling the addictive behavior and helping the person develop a healthy sexuality. Treatment includes education about healthy sexuality, individual counseling, and marital and/or family therapy. Support groups and 12 step recovery programs for people with sexual addictions (like Sex Addicts Anonymous) also are available. In some cases, medications used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder may be used to curb the compulsive nature of the sex addiction. These medications include Prozac and Anafranil. 1

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
Reviewed by Daniel Perlman, MD, on September 24, 2007.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003
Last Editorial Review: 12/26/2007


Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Third Step Prayer

God, I offer myself to thee to build with me and to do with me as thou will. Relieve of the bondage of self so that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of thy Power, thy Love and thy way of life. May I do thy will always. Amen

Seventh Step Prayer

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do your bidding. Amen

Eleventh Step Prayer

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace--that where there is hatred, I may bring love--that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness--that where there is discord, I may bring harmony--that where there is error, I may bring truth--that where there is doubt, I may bring faith--that where there is despair, I may bring hope--that where there are shadows, I may bring light--that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted--to understand, than to be understood--to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. Amen