How To Recognize Arousal Addiction Symptoms


    6 Min Read


    We live in a world where nearly anything you want to find can be found online. Pink cat? Yep. Aztec artifacts? Yep, those too. Erotic images and porn? Absolutely! And with less effort than the pink cat. This level of accessibility has led to many things, some good and some bad. One of the bad, however, is a rise in symptoms of arousal addiction.

    Arousal addiction symptoms aren’t new, they’ve been seen in various forms for decades. But problems with arousal addiction and similar afflictions have become increasingly problematic over recent years.


    One of the biggest issues is the lack of familiarity with problems like arousal addiction and its associated symptoms. Many just find the behaviors too embarrassing to talk about or are even unaware of what they’re really dealing with. As a result, arousal addiction symptoms go untreated and can grow, disrupting life and relationships.

    What Is Arousal Addiction?

    Many of us have heard of sex addiction or porn addiction, but arousal addiction is less discussed leaving many unaware that it even exists.

    Simply put, arousal addiction is one form of compulsive sexual behavior that makes a person crave sexually stimulating experiences.

    These can be,

    • Indulging in imagined sexual fantasies

    • Looking at sexually stimulating pictures

    • Reading sexually provocative material

    • Viewing porn

    • Certain types of online games

    Or anything else that stimulates sexual interest or arousal.


    The activity of choice often leads to sexual gratification through masturbation or sexual experiences with a partner, but it doesn’t have to. However, the more exposure a person has to these stimuli the harder it can become to feel satisfied with any sexual experience.

    Over time, arousal addiction can make having normal sexual relationships nearly impossible and cause disruption to many other areas of life as well.

    Is Arousal Addiction The Same Thing As Porn Addiction?

    Although porn addiction and arousal addiction are both damaging compulsive sexual behaviors, they aren’t exactly the same thing.

    Porn addiction is characterized by the obsessive watching of and increasing need for pornographic material in order to become sexually aroused. For men it can lead to the inability to get or maintain an erection without porn, and a need for more and more porn to produce the same reaction.

    Porn addiction, however, is generally limited to the use of porn itself. Arousal addiction can go a bit further.

    Arousal addiction symptoms can include watching porn and lead to porn addiction, but they also incorporate behaviors that can go beyond just watching porn. People with arousal addiction may feel compelled to engage in the following:

    When these arousal addiction symptoms and behaviors go unchecked they can lead to unsafe and irresponsible sexual experiences like,

    • Meaningless sex with strangers or acquaintances

    • Visiting prostitutes

    • Multiple partners

    What both porn addiction and arousal addiction have in common is that they can each be disruptive and cause enormous damage to a person's life and relationships.

    How Do I Know If I Have An Arousal Addiction?

    Many people - men in particular - find pleasure in sexual stimulation. But there’s a difference between having a physical response to certain things and suffering from a full-blown addiction.


    So, how do you know if your symptoms rise to the level of arousal addiction? Ask yourself the following questions:

    • Do you find yourself preoccupied by sexual fantasies and unable to keep focus due to intrusive sexual thoughts?

    • Does sexual stimulation feel like a reasonable solution to boredom or loneliness?

    • Do you make choices to spend time alone with your thoughts or sexually stimulating material rather than with family, friends, or other social endeavors?

    • Have you missed work or failed to complete certain tasks because of your interest in sexually arousing activities?

    • Is your decision making compromised by your desire to be sexually aroused?

    • Is your behavior becoming more and more risky or dangerous because of your need to chase sexual arousal?

    • Have you begun to feel out of control or unable to control your urges?

    Answering yes to any of these can mean that you have, or are in danger of having, an arousal addiction. If you’ve answered yes to more than one question then it’s very likely you’ve developed an addiction or at minimum have a problem that you need to address.

    Damage Arousal Addiction Can Cause

    Okay, but arousal addiction symptoms are harmless, right? Wrong.

    • “I’m not hurting anyone.”

    • “It’s private and no one’s business.”

    • “It’s normal – everyone likes sex.”

    • “It’s not illegal, so it’s fine.”

    • “It’s not as bad as drugs or alcohol.”

    These are statements and excuses used by people dealing with arousal addiction. They’re also common sentiments for people with a porn addiction as well.

    What else do those responses have in common? They’re all false.


    Any addiction is damaging. Just having an addiction implies a person’s behavior is out of balance and the addicted individual is no longer able to control their urges.

    Dr. Kurt works with people dealing with addiction on a weekly basis. In his experience,

    There's more to what makes an arousal addiction a problem than you may realize. Yes, it can make your life out of balance and lead to other problems, such as conflict with a partner. But the deeper issue is why you're doing the associated behaviors. What's the reason or motivation other than 'it just feels good'? I ask people to think about how they're 'using' it. It serves a purpose. There are reasons why they don't feel good and need the high of sexual arousal. Discovering the answers is what's necessary to truly get control over this as well as any other addiction.

    Many people mistakenly believe that compulsive sexual behavior that isn’t deviant or illegal is a no harm no foul situation. They may also believe that behind closed doors everyone else is doing the same thing, so their behavior is normal.

    Unfortunately, neither of these things are true and the damage these behaviors cause is very real.

    Arousal addiction can prevent a person from having normal, healthy relationships. It can also give a person a false sense of what “normal and healthy” looks like.

    An arousal addict might also,

    • Lie about their activities

    • Become secretive

    • Disengage from loving behavior

    • Engage in risky behavior

    None of which is conducive to maintaining stable relationships.

    If in a relationship, the addict’s partner will suffer as well. Arousal addiction may mean that the individual needs additional outside stimulation in order to perform sexually, leaving their partner to feel inadequate, lonely, and unloved. Eventual consequences if this situation isn’t addressed could be depression associated with the behavior and/or divorce as a result of it.

    Arousal addiction can also cause problems at work.


    Because the urge for sexual stimulation can be so strong it can mean failing to complete tasks or even missing work in lieu of satisfying their desires. There’s also a possibility of inappropriate behavior toward co-workers if urges become evident in comments or conversations.

    For the addict themselves, depression, isolation, shame, and loneliness are all very real concerns. And, very sadly, because most sexually compulsive behaviors go undiscussed, these problems can become so severe that they may put a person at risk of suicidal behavior.

    Still think arousal addiction symptoms are no big deal?

    Is There Anything I Can Do About Symptoms Of Arousal Addiction?

    If you are beginning to come to terms with the possibility there’s a problem, you’re probably also wondering if there’s anything you can do about it.

    The good news with any addiction is that once you’ve recognized it as an issue, you’re now in a position to start to make changes. No addiction needs to be the permanent state of things.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that breaking your addiction will be easy or happens overnight. In fact, it can be really difficult – especially for sexually oriented addictions.


    Any addiction that involves sexual behavior can feel too embarrassing to discuss. But often the only way to real resolution and a change in behavior requires discussing what’s being experienced.

    If you’re not quite ready for that, however, there are some things you can do to start making changes on your own.

    • Know that you’re not alone – other people have experienced the same thing. Understanding this can help reduce feelings of shame and isolation. Try leaving a comment below - it can be anonymous – and you’ll likely get a response from someone.

    • Avoid things that inspire or trigger your urges. This means becoming deliberately aware of what your triggers are.

    • Look for a suitable substitute for your urge. Exercise, writing, even chewing gum can distract you from your desire to engage in sexually stimulating situations.

    • Make an effort at creating personal connections or bonds with people that have nothing to do with sexual stimuli.

    • Take a sexual break. If you’re in a relationship where sex is a component, this may require a conversation with your partner in order to be understood.

    Be aware though, that if your arousal addiction symptoms are overwhelming, these efforts may not be enough without the support of a counselor. You may take comfort in the knowledge that counselors who specialize in these areas not only can help but are also adept at taking the shame and embarrassment out of the situation too.


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