What is sex addiction?
It is a set of behaviors or impulses that make the addict’s life unmanageable. It can include compulsive masturbation, pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, child molesting, incest, rape and violence. The addict can even abuse healthy forms of sexuality between himself and a committed partner using self-defeating behaviors. Diagnosis of Sexual Addiction requires an extensive assessment by a trained mental health professional. The following are examples of acting out patterns.
- Compulsive masturbation
- Indulging in pornography, hard copy or online
- Having chronic affairs
- Dangerous sexual practices
- Paying for Sex Anonymous sex
- Compulsive sexual episodes
Women Sex Addicts also may have experiences of Multiple one night stands, and/ or serial monogamous relationships.
Sex Addicts experience severe consequences due to their sexual behavior, and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences. In Patrick Carnes’ book, Don’t Call It Love, 1991, some of the losses reported by sex addicts include:
- Loss of partner or spouse (40%)
- Severe marital or relationship problems (70%)
- Loss of career opportunities (27%)
- Unwanted pregnancies (40%)
- Abortions (36%)
- Suicide obsession (72%)
- Suicide attempts (17%)
- Exposure to AIDS and venereal disease (68%)
- Legal risks from nuisance offenses to rape (58%)
Sex Addicts pursue self-destructive behavior. Even understanding that the consequences of their actions will be painful or have dire consequences does not stop addicts from acting out. They often seem to have willfulness about their actions, and an attitude that says, “I’ll deal with the consequences when they come.”
Sex Addicts have a strong desire to limit sexual behavior. Addicts often try to control their behavior by creating external barriers to it. For example, some move to a new neighborhood or city, hoping that a new environment removed from old affairs will help. Some think marriage will keep them from acting out. An exhibitionist may buy a car in which it’s difficult to act out while driving. Others seeking control over their behavior try to immerse themselves in religion, only to find out that, while religious compulsion may soothe their shame, it does not end their acting out. Many go through periods of sexual anorexia during which they allow themselves no sexual expression at all. Such efforts, however, only fuel the addiction.
Sex Addicts use sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy. Through acting out sexually can temporarily relieve addicts’ anxieties, they still find themselves spending inordinate amounts of time in obsession and fantasy. By fantasizing, the addict can maintain an almost constant level of arousal. Together with obsessing, the two behaviors can create a kind of analgesic “fix.” Just as our bodies generate endorphins, natural anti-depressants, during vigorous exercise, our bodies naturally release peptides when sexually aroused. The molecular construction of these peptides parallels that of opiates like heroin or morphine, but is many times more powerful.
Sex Addicts regularly increasing the amount of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficiently satisfying. Sexual addiction is often progressive. While addicts may be able to control their