ADVICE: Can You Get Hooked On Hooking Up?

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C.and in his spare time he writes an advice column for the Washington Blade. Dr. Mike’s counsel was most recently sought by a man who feared he might be addicted to hooking up and particularly, his hookup app.

From the Washington Blade:

Dear Michael,

I seem to be spending more and more time on my phone lately, looking for hookups, but I’m having some doubts that this is all good. Pro: I’m meeting lots of hot guys and having a lot of hot sex. Con: I still am not in a relationship and want to have a boyfriend. Pro: All my friends are on the same apps and we have a lot of fun comparing notes. Con: We don’t seem to talk about much else. Pro: It gives me a rush and feels fun.  Con: I think it’s eating up all my time. Pro: It’s fun to be able to meet guys quickly, wherever I am. Con: I almost had an accident while looking for guys on my phone while driving through North Carolina.

What do you think?

Possibly Screwed by my App

Dear Screwed,

Hooking up with people and the hunt for hookups, can feel great. Our brains produce chemicals that give us intense feelings of pleasure not just when we have sex, but also as we move toward getting naked: during foreplay, while we’re flirting, and — if we’re using an app to look for potential partners — when we take the very first step of launching the app. So, as you start scanning all those alluring possibilities on your phone, you are triggering a neurochemical response in your brain that can create an awesome high.

The problem is, because simply getting on the app makes you feel good, you are likely to get on it more and more often. And because actually finding hookups makes you feel good, you can easily get obsessed with chasing this particular high.

If it sounds like I’m using the language of addiction: You’re right, I am.

Now, let’s look at your situation from a slightly different perspective. The road to hooking up can be a speedy route to feeling attractive and desired. The validation we get, from both hookups and potential hookups, can seem like a powerful self-esteem boost. Typically, this leads us to pursue more and more hookups. Gay men, who usually have a core experience of feeling different and defective, are highly susceptible to this sort of fix.

Some problems with this: The boost is fleeting, because external praise for our surface attributes doesn’t really change how we feel about ourselves and we are likely to spend more and more time chasing short-lived validation from people we hardly know.  If you don’t actually feel good about endlessly pursuing hookups, then hanging out with your app will ultimately lower your self-esteem. This is the opposite of what you’re looking for — and what you feel like you’re getting — when you launch the app.

The upshot is, you may be addicted to an experience that is keeping you hunting for hookups, even though you say you want a relationship. And because the particular high of intense excitement that you are chasing is a very different experience from the intimacy and commitment of a relationship, you are conditioning your brain to crave hookups, and their pursuit, rather than something more long-term.

If you want to make a change, you would benefit tremendously from strong support, because it isn’t easy to stop a behavior with such seductive and pleasurable payoffs, even if there are also negative consequences. You report that all your friends are similarly engaged, which makes it difficult to do something different. Consider looking for an additional social network (live rather than virtual) and perhaps a therapist knowledgeable about this issue to help you broaden your sources of pleasure, stimulation and connection.

Have you ever found yourself on the Grindr grind morning, noon and night? Do you get in a huff when you can’t get your Scruff?Are you smacked out on Jack’d?

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  • hotboy1423

    1 word, WOW… This is my life in a handfull of paragraphs. I was exactly the same as screwed. I then realized how much it is bad for me such as Micheal explained so well and then I met someone and currently setteling down and hoping for the best

  • thenameismatt

    This blog post reflects my experience with Grindr and the like. Deleting them and loading them up again countless times indicated to me just how powerfully addictive they are. I know not everyone experiences hook up apps this way, but for me, I had to leave that form of social interaction behind for my own sanity.

  • hotboy1423

    @thenameismatt: I totaly did the same, meeting soemone u get alng well with (niot encessarly a BF, maybe a stable fuck buddy) could be very helpful

  • GreenmanTN

    In the internet age “hooking up” isn’t that difficult. A friend of mine calls it “internet pizza” because it’s so easy and it comes right to your door. And it’s not just that way only for the 1%ers, the absolutely gorgeous. There are specialty sites just for people of certain body-types and inclinations. A friend of mine is in his 60s and he’s suddenly a “daddy” dreamboat, in demand. He’s getting more ass than I ever did in my 20s.

    And don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it. Dial-a-dick, Woo Hoo! Have condoms, will travel. Team Orgasm for the win!

    But what I’ve noticed is that it makes people more judgmental, less willing to accept differences in others, actually work on relationships. Why bother overcoming differences when there are so many fish (dicks) in the sea? Any and every personal failing or idiosyncrasy is grounds for moving on because finding another dick or ass is so easy. “He hates MUSHROOMS, can you believe it?!” “He actually LIKES watching Real Housewives and I just decided that life is too short to put up with that!” Throw it away because another penis or ass, with a person only incidentally attached to it, will come along.

    People pretend they’re looking for “a relationship” but many of them are lying. Relationships take effort so why bother when you always assume something better will come (and cum) along?

  • gregergjp2006

    @GreenmanTN: Couldn’t agree more with your last statement Greenman!

  • Cee

    Yes. You can get hooked on hooking up. I’d like to say you grow out of it, but a lot of people don’t. I feel like I did though. I know what it feels like to care about someone and them care about you. That feeling is better than sex to me. It helps me keep perspective. Not saying I’ll never hook up again, but I definitely have it under control. As long as I can remember that feeling I know that’s what I ultimately want again and it’s not a feeling you’re going to get from hooking up.

  • gppm1103

    @hotboy1423: When I was your age in San Francisco I spent most of my time when I wasn’t at work in Nob Hill Cinema or some other cruising place. It was the same as this without the app.

    Glad you found a boyfriend. That is the best way to go guy. The chase is always fun but after a while it really destroys you. Good Luck.

  • viveutvivas

    Where do you people find all these hot guys to hook up with on Grindr? It is certainly not my experience with that app? Do I need to move?

  • hotboy1423

    @viveutvivas: well i don’t wanna be offensive or anything but u have to be hot ursealf to get a reply from these hot guys, or els they re gonna ignore u :p

  • viveutvivas

    @hotboy, what makes you assume I am not hot? I am complaining about a lack of supply, not demand. My guess is that you don’t live in a small economically depressed city.

  • hotboy1423

    @viveutvivas: well sorry then, I porbably did offend u. I live in montreal, in not such a good economic area. I dont think economics have a correlation with the hotness of guys, actualy stats shows that gay men have more chances to live in poorer area, look it up. But yeah, if ur hot then maybe we should hook up! ( lol I’m so funny :P )

  • viveutvivas

    @hotboy, well, Montreal is quite the gay destination for us New Englanders, so in my experience things are definitely better there than over here, manwise. Also, where I live is not so much the economic depression as it is the smallness, I guess, although the lack of economic and relationship opportunities here is definitely driving many of the better educated gay guys away to bigger cities, depleting the local supply of gay men even more.

  • hotboy1423

    @viveutvivas: i agreed, but u never said if ur willing to hook up… Lol :p

  • the other Greg

    @hotboy1423: @viveutvivas:
    Wouldn’t it be funny if hotboy and viveutvivas already HAVE hooked up, in some Montreal bathhouse a few years ago, and it was hot and they both remember the incident vividly (& fondly) but they didn’t happen to have a conversation?

    I like hotboy’s observation in comment #3. “Stable” sex buddies are very underrated! Too many guys think in terms of “either/or”: either you’re seriously looking for a bf, or you’re a slut. There really IS an in-between.

    You can also make longtime friendships (non-sexual, after the one time) via casual sex, with the right attitude.

  • hotboy1423

    @the other Greg: lol im sure we did but not in a bathhouse, i usualy fuck guys at their place

  • the other Greg

    @hotboy1423: So maybe you remember a hotel room with some hot guy from New England? :-)

  • hotboy1423

    @the other Greg: Haha maybe, love american butts :p

  • the other Greg

    @hotboy1423: I suspect you met my boyfriend at some point. (We’re in N.E. too.) He’s out of town so I have to go beat off now, thanks for the unexpectedly hot conversation! – merci’.

  • hotboy1423

    @hotboy1423: lol np , im always good at makin ppl horny haha

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