PATHOS – A Quick Screening Tool For Sex Addiction

There is a quick list of questions that you can use to see if sexual addiction is something that you might be dealing with. The six areas are summarized in the word PATHOS. Check out the questions below and see how you rate yourself.

Preoccupied – Do you often find yourself obsessing about sexual thoughts? While having sexual thoughts is healthy, spending excessive amounts of time planning or fantasizing about sex or the ideas around sex is not. You may have a certain someone or multiple someones who you create unrealistic worlds around. A mind preoccupied with sex is living in an addictive system. If you find that you often are using precious brain space on sexual matters in ways that deter you from your family, work, or commitments, this is likely an issue that needs attention.

Ashamed – Do you find yourself hiding some or all of your sexual behavior from others? Shame can be a toxic emotion. When shame is coupled with sexual behavior, the results can be catastrophic. Sexual behavior is intended to be fulfilling and build connections. Shame isolates and disconnects people. Shame also drives addictions.

If you are feeling shame when being sexual or thinking about engaging in sexual behavior, you are operating from a place of “less than.”

“I am ‘less than’ if I have that thought.”

“I am ‘less than’ if I engage in that behavior.”

“I am ‘less than’ if people knew what excites me.”

Believing that you are in any way “less than” is incredibly painful and can be debilitating when you are trying to be in a relationship. If shame and sex are somehow related to you, you may be dealing with an addictive sexual system.

Treatment – Have you ever looked into therapy for help about your sexual behavior? Maybe you’ve been in sex addiction therapy, but weren’t able to talk about your uncomfortable sexual issues? Perhaps you grew up in a family where sex wasn’t talked about or was considered bad or wrong? Sex can be a tough topic to discuss, especially if you’ve received the message that what you’re thinking or doing is wrong. If you’ve ever thought about seeking treatment for sex-related issues, there very well may be a need to do that and there may be addictive behavior lurking in your silence and discomfort.

Hurt others – Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior? This is a very tough category. We are often unaware or don’t want to know how our behavior is hurting others. You may be wondering why you would continue to engage in sexual activities that you know are hurting people you care about the most.

A lot of times we can’t explain why we hurt the people we love. It doesn’t make any sense, and yet we do it anyway. The people you love may be afraid to say anything to you, so you may be in the dark about how much they are hurting. If you feel you may be caught in this web of sex addiction, you and your loved ones are suffering. There is a strong chance that addictive sexual behavior is at the root of this pain.

Out of Control – Do you feel like your sexual behavior or sexual thoughts are out of control? Have you made attempts to stop but failed? Do you have negative feelings about yourself because you keep slipping into destructive sexual activities? Are your secrets getting unmanageable? Behavior that is out of control is exhausting and terrifying – and likely addictive.

We often think we can curb our behavior or thoughts through the force of willpower.

“This will be the last time.”

“Just ten more minutes and then I’ll stop.”

“I’ll tell her about my slip next time. This time doesn’t count because it wasn’t as bad.”

Denial is a powerful mental force that can significantly cloud our ability to be in control of our behavior. If you have tried to use willpower to stop or change your behavior and it hasn’t worked, then denial is in gear and addiction is likely the driver.

Sad – Do you feel depressed or sad after you have sex? Do you regret your behavior while it’s happening or perhaps when it’s over? Maybe you regret your behavior before it’s even started? While sex can be confusing at times and takes some practice, it should never be intended to leave you feeling downhearted. If sexual activity is coupled with regret, then you are engaging in behavior that is not aligned with your values. Not acting on your values can be very painful indeed.

The PATHOS categories were originated by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. If you answered yes even in just one of these categories, you are likely in need of additional assessments to determine if sexual addiction is something that you are dealing with. If two or more categories resonate with you, then you should consider the possibility of sex addiction.

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