Sex addiction is much more than having a high libido or having frequent sex.
Patrick Carnes in his famous book "Don't Call it Love" refers to the following 10 signs of Sexual Addiction.
- A pattern of out of control behaviour
- Severe consequences due to sexual behaviour
- Inability to stop despite increasingly adverse consequences
- Persistent pursuit of self destructive or high- risk behaviour
- Ongoing desire to limit sexual behaviour
- Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy
- Increasing amounts of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficient
- Severe mood changes around sexual activity
- Inordinate amounts of time are spent watching pornography, obtaining sex, being sexual or recovering from sexual experience.
- Neglect of important social, occupational or recreational activities because of sexual behaviour
Sex addiction usually happens in one compartment of a life. ***Marcus's compartment is a compartment kept secret from family, partner, work, friends. The compartment depends for its survival on secrecy and deception. Without the compartment Marcus fears exposure, shame, lack of sexual opportunities.
As his sexual behaviour becomes more out of control, this carefully constructed compartment became a 24/7 living hell, obsessional, frantic, lonely and exhausting. Outside this hidden compartment people are noticing things are not right...
Boss has noticed that Marcus's is no longer great at his job. He's lost focus, he's looking exhausted and has been passed over for a promotion.
Friends, have noticed that when Marcus is with them he is not really present and looks restless. He always keeps his options open and often will cancel invitations with a lame excuse.
Flatmate has noticed that Marcus is keeping really strange hours and stays in his room online for hours and avoids socialising.
Girlfriend has noticed that Marcus will frequently go to another room to take phone calls and she has seen some "dodgy texts" on his phone and will often cancel a date.
Bank manager has noticed that Marcus is asking for an overdraft and his savings account is empty.
GP has noticed that Marcus is looking anxious and has been asking for viagra and something to help him sleep.
Parents have noticed that Marcus is visiting less, is always "busy" and looks distracted and anxious and has lost interest in sport and cant concentrate on reading or watching a movie.
Marcus has recently taken to drinking more than a bottle of wine per night "to unwind" and has been seeking meth as he has heard of that, when combined with viagra he would be able to perform lie a porn star. He is surprised that he would contemplate doing something so far out of his values system as use meth.
Marcus's life got really complicated when porn was found on his work computer.
Eventually life within the compartment becomes un-manageable or the compartment breaks right open, for all to see. This is often when people begin to feel motivated to make some serious changes.
The way out of Sex Addiction includes .....
Enhancing motivation .. Look at my webpage https://www.martinfraser.co.nz/getting-motivated-for-change/
Break the isolation, talk to a counsellor experienced in working with sex addiction or attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting in your city. Unstructured time and isolation is the greatest and best friend of your internal "addict". Accept invitations to be with friends, family. Plan activities, keep time commitments.
List Bottom line behaviours Change does not happen without a decision, a plan and action ...Marcus identified the following and agreed to commit to ...
-To delete all sex / dating sites.
-Partner be free to look at all emails, messaging (to be reviewed in a month)
-A month without porn and masturbation in absence of partner (to be reviewed in a month).
-Transparency with finances / bank statements
-To attend weekly counselling or SLAA
Accountability ... Marcus's compartmentalised life had no accountability to anyone. If you are accountable to your counsellor, to a sponsor at S.L.A.A. (see below)or to your partner you will be less likely to slip up on your Bottom line behaviours.
The following document from Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is another really useful resource.
Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction © 1990 The Augustine Fellowship, S.L.A.A., Fellowship-Wide Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved
1. Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.
2. Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships, concealing our dependency needs from ourselves and others, growing more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones, ourselves, and God.
3. Fearing emotional and/or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves in one relationship after another, sometimes having more than one sexual or emotional liaison at a time.
4. We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity and/or the need to rescue or be rescued.
5. We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone. Even though we fear intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships and sexual contacts.
6. We sexualise stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing care, and support.
7. We use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others.
8. We become immobilised or seriously distracted by romantic or sexual obsessions or fantasies.
9. We avoid responsibility for ourselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable.
10. We stay enslaved to emotional dependency, romantic intrigue, or compulsive sexual activities.
11. To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement, mistaking sexual and emotional anorexia for recovery.
12. We assign magical qualities to others. We idealise and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.
One individual pathway to change .... Marcus, in counselling, came to understand that, for him, he was not so much "horny" but lonely. His addiction had made him even lonelier and feeling even less worthy of letting anyone closer to know him better as his self esteem plummeted. He could see that he was living outside his own Values System. https://www.martinfraser.co.nz/values/
Marcus's pathway out of addiction started by understanding and evaluating the escalating cost of doing nothing, the cost of making no changes.
Marcus's internal "addict" convinced him that his most important need in life was sex and to keep his calendar free and available for all possible sexual possibilities 24/7. Marcus now knows that this was a lie.
Marcus's "wise self" now is increasingly in control and his life is manageable and fulfilled with healthy connections and activities. His self esteem and confidence are increasing, he trusts himself ... and because of this, others trust him.
As his self esteem and confidence rise he feels like a happy, independent guy and this has made him attractive to others seeking sane and fulfilling relationships.
If you thing you or your partner has sex addiction issues a really good courageous first step (if you are ready) is to get in touch with a counsellor who has experience in this area.
A common misconception around sex addiction is "why should I stop if I enjoy it and it's not doing anyone any harm. This article is not about sexual expression that is fun, exuberant, frequent and affirming. Article is for those who think that their sexuality has become compulsive and obsessive.
***Marcus is not a real person but his story includes many familiar themes to those living with sexual compulsion.