ADHD and (Sexual) Addiction

NOTE:  This information was created for our ADHD and Marriage blog by coaches at  It includes an overview of sex and porn addiction and ADHD, information about Recovery Nation as one possible resource (it's web-based and free), as well as seven good links to resources where people interested in the topic can get further good information.  I thank them for their addition to this site.

ADHD and (Sexual) Addiction

Addiction doesn't begin as addiction.  Addiction begins when a behaviour or substance (stimulant) is used as a means to block out, avoid or manage uncomfortable emotions.  Because the individual either lacks a healthy life management strategy or their system is for some reason faulty or immature, in a misguided attempt to deal with whatever is at cause of their emotional imbalance, they seek solace in an unhealthy surrogate.  Once the habit of using the stimulant to self-medicate becomes established, addiction ensues unless (or until) the individual is able to recognize the unhealthy patterns they have developed and thereby chooses to correct their path by seeking a healthy alternative.

What does this have to do with ADHD?

Individuals with ADHD often feel inadequate and socially isolated.  In order to compensate for those negative feelings, these individuals with ADHD tend to develop coping mechanisms as well, any of which could lead to addiction.  Also, it would seem that there is an inherent impulsivity in persons with ADHD which lends itself to the compulsive behaviours of addiction.  Now, wether of not an individual with ADHD pursues a healthy life management strategy or an unhealthy one is dependent on any number of factors and is not necessarily directly related to ADHD.  These factors are the same or similar to those which could lead any individual on a path toward addiction.  Some of these factors include:  the coping/life management strategies available to the individual; strategies that were introduced or behaviours that were role modelled; the age at which the behaviour or strategy is introduced; what supports or resources were/are available; family of origin issues; accessibility to the stimulant and the level of stimulation derived from the addictive stimulant.
Additionally, managing ADHD routinely involves some combination of medications, behaviour modifications, lifestyle changes and counselling.  The treatment and management traditionally used for addiction is similar.  

What is sex addiction?

According to Canada Alcohol and Drug Rehab Programs, sexual addiction is a pattern of sexual behaviours that are out of control and continue despite negative consequences.  As in other addictions, changes in brain chemistry are at the core of the addiction.  In sex addiction, the changes are caused by sexual behaviour and fantasizing about sex or romantic activities.  Sex addiction is a process addiction because no chemicals are taken into the body.  Chemical changes occur in the body because of the addicts behaviours.  Any sexual activity that causes changes in body chemistry can become an addiction.  Even on-line romances become addictive when they are a substitute for reality or a way to escape reality.
Some sexually addictive behaviours are:
1 Compulsive masturbation
2 Cybersex or Internet  sex
3 Pornography
4 Anonymous sex
5 Massage parlours
6 Compulsive sex with partner
7 On-line romantic or sexual affairs
8 Sexual fantasy about fellow workers
9 Swinging
10 Exhibitionism
11 Voyeurism
12 Constant sexual references in conversation

How do I know if I have sex addiction?

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Am I engaging in unwanted sexually stimulating behaviour (unwanted in that it has a negative or potentially destructive impact on some area of your life)?  
  • Does engaging in this behaviour make me feel bad about myself? 
  • Do the possible negative consequences of engaging in this behaviour outweigh the positive feelings I associate with engaging in the behaviour?  
  • Do I continue engaging in the behaviour even though I have tried to stop? 
  • Has the amount of time I spend preparing for or engaging in the behaviour increased since I first began the behaviour?
  • Have I sought ways to increase the stimulation I derive from the behaviour (i.e., added new elements to behaviour)?
  • Do I think about the behaviour when I am not engaging in it?
  • Does the behaviour appear to be part of a pattern?
  • Does the behaviour contradict values I hold or is it out of character for who I project myself to be?  
  • Do I lie or act in secrecy in order to hide my behaviour?

What should I do if I suspect I have an addiction?

If you completed the above assessment with honesty and feel that you may have a problem with addiction, there are many avenues you can take.  There are countless self-help books, numerous 12 Step and SLAA groups to join, both online and in your community.   If you belong to a church or religious organization, your spiritual leadership will be able to counsel you or direct you toward support specifically designed for your particular beliefs. For those with sufficient financial resources, you may find a qualified therapist or counsellor but be aware that  there are professionals both learned and unlearned in sexual addiction and it must be said that if you go this route, be sure to confirm the qualifications of the health care provider you choose~you want one who is specifically trained and experienced in dealing with sexual addiction.  And of course, there is Recovery Nation.  Smile.   A list of additional resources will be included at the bottom of this article.  For a more expansive list of resources for addicts and partners of addicts visit the Recovery Nation home page.    

Recovery Nation and Health Based Recovery

Recovery Nation is an online resource for addiction recovery.   Our approach is health based and values driven.  Health Based Recovery (HBR) is an evolutionary treatment model that looks beyond addiction management, towards rebuilding a healthy life.  It involves a proactive transition process from active addiction to active recovery to health.  It allows for the person in recovery to apply their own values to the process and involves developing: a functional awareness of addiction; practical and ongoing personal awareness; the ability to isolate the addiction from one's core identity; the life skills necessary to manage a healthy life and tools to facilitate permanently ending the pattern of addiction.

Is Recovery Nation for me? 

The workshop at Recovery Nation, as authored by the site's founder, Jonathan Marsh, is for those who wish to permanently end their sexual compulsions and/or addictions.  Since its inception, the website has expanded to include a healing workshop for partners of sexual addicts as well as a workshop for couples.  These workshops are transferrable to other addictions and can be applied to facilitate healing and recovery for all persons impacted by addiction.  Wether or not you have an addiction, Recovery Nation offers an excellent program which can be applied in any context where a healthy life management strategy needs to be developed and implemented and could be effectively included as part of an ADHD treatment program.  The self-directed workshops at Recovery Nation are about learning to take pride in who you are and where you are going, rather than focusing on the guilt and shame derived from the mismanagement of your life to date.  They teach you how to make healthy changes in your life, permanent changes.  You will be empowered to take control of the rest of your life, regardless of where you are right now.  You learn how to develop proactive strategies for healthy life management, thus eliminating the "need" for unhealthy, compulsive behaviours.  All that is needed to be successful with the programs at Recovery Nation is a willingness to look at  your life in a way that you likely never have before and a commitment to actively make changes to your life where necessary.  
In addition to the workshops, Recovery Nation has a supportive community of members who guide each other and share in one another's experiences.  We also offer affordable packages for private coaching with one of our qualified and certified coaches.  Our home page includes a list of frequently asked questions and houses a prolific list of additional resources and the website itself is a mine of education and insight.  If you wish to learn more about Recovery Nation and Health Based Recovery, please visit us at

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