Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction is becoming more recognized by society as a disorder and extremely serious condition. Sexual addiction has been around for centuries. Long before today, many children have been molested, many women raped, and many “Peeping Tom’s” caught. Along with these acts, comes the devastation that a sexual addiction can have on a marriage. 


Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., is the pioneer on research of sexual addiction, and the leading authority on the subject. According to Dr. Carnes, he estimates that about 8% of men in the US are sexually addicted, along with 3% of women. This equals approximately 15 million women and men suffering from this disease. In his book, Out of The Shadows; Understanding Sexual Addiction, Dr. Carnes goes over core beliefs of an addict, levels of addiction, and the addiction cycle. An addict contains faulty and inaccurate beliefs about themself that lead to the continuation of the addiction. This addict does not believe they are a worthwhile person, nor do they believe others would meet their needs if everything was known about them, or care for them. Often the sex addict lives in denial, which allows them to justify their behaviors, thus giving the addiction a life of its own. 


How does sexual addiction start? Many believe it begins in early childhood and adolescence. Many factors can play a part, such as growing up in a chaotic, neglectful or hostile family system. At the same time, a child can grow up in a less chaotic and more stable house, but feel emotionally starved for love and affection if it was not expressed often enough. When this happens, the child may turn to masturbation to fill up the love and affection hole. As the child gets older, it takes more and more masturbation or other sexual acts to fill them up emotionally, thus creating a dependence and progression of the sexual addiction. Some children are introduced to sex at an early and inappropriate age, outside of normal sexual experimentation. This child may be introduced to sex by an adult, who takes advantage of the child for the adult’s sexual needs. 


There are various forms of sexual addiction, and all of these different forms fall into one of three levels. Level 1 sexual behaviors include: Masturbation, Compulsive relationships (where a relationship is contingent upon sexual performance), Pornography and topless bars, Compulsive sex with prostitutes or anonymous sex, or Multiple affairs. Note that at some times, people who are not sexual addicts may engage in the previously mentioned behaviors. It becomes an addiction when habits are developed and there is an irrestible need to repeat the behaviors. 


Level 2 sexual behaviors are different from that of Level 1 behaviors in that they are more intrusive and can result in legal problems. Level 2 sexual behaviors include: Exhibitionism (exposing one’s private parts to strangers), Voyeurism (also called a “Peeping Tom”, where someone is secretly looking into someone else’s privacy), the Voyeur-Exhibitionist (where masturbating is involved while watching) and Inappropriate sexual touching (“accidently” brushing into someone in a sexual manner). The last of the levels, involves a complete violation of another’s boundaries. 


Level 3 behaviors include child molesting, incest and episodes of rape. 


With our great world of technology, the internet is now a big part of sexual addiction. What becomes addictive for the addict is the accessability and secrecy of being able to use the computer. Hours and hours can be wasted on the internet looking at porn sites, or even just looking at online lingerie catalogues. This is one of the fastest growing forms of sexual acting out for many sex addicts. 


Sexual addiction is just as serious an addiction as alcohol, heroin, gambling, crack, and other various drugs. Each addiction, no matter what the drug of choice is, has an addiction cycle. According to Dr. Carnes, the cycle for sexual addiction is as follows: Preoccupation- where the addict is completely obsessed with sexual thoughts, and searches for sexual stimulation. Ritualization- specific rituals the addict engages in leading up to the sexual stimulation. Compulsive sexual behavior- the actual sexual act, which the addict is unable to control or stop. Despair- the realization of the addict of how powerless they are over the acting out, and hopelessness feelings that surround the behavior. 


Do you see yourself within this article? Or, maybe it seems as though you’re reading about your husband or wife? Whatever the case, there is help. There are several organizations and resources available to tackle this disease. We at Imagine Hope Counseling Group can help you as well. Give us a call at (317) 569-0046. We invite you to take this Sexual Addiction Questionnaire to see if there is a need for help. 


Other Resources

Addicted to Love; Understanding Dependencies of the Heart, Romance, Relationships and Sex, by Stephen Arterburn

Don’t Call it Love; Recovery from Sexual Addiction, by Patrick Carnes

Out of the Shadows; Understanding Sexual Addiction, by Patrick Carnes

Women, Sex and Addiction; A Search for Love and Power, by Charlotte Davis Kasl