In-Depth Exploration Am I a Sex Addict?
Contrary to Love: Am I an Addict?
The following is a taken from an audio presentation by internally known therapist and best selling author Dr. Patrick Carnes.
For the complete video from Dr. Carnes, please visit our SageTimes bookstore.
There are over 131 million addicts.
There are over 28 million Adult Children of Alcoholics.
Addicts cannot stop their addictions easily.
Oftentimes, the question is asked, “How does someone know when they are a sex addict?” or “How many affairs does it take to make a sex addict?” This is much like asking how many drinks does it take to make an alcoholic? There are many facets of sexual addiction, which we will explore.
The addict will often recognize an out-of-control pattern in their life, know they don’t want to continue to engage in this pattern or have made promises not to do, but still do engage in their addictive behaviors.
For the sex addict, the question is how do they use sexuality to regulate their emotional life? Is sexuality being used as a pain reliever or a way to relieve anxiety? For the sex addict it is important to look at the impact on their life. Is their day organized around addictive behaviors? Is their sexuality an organizing principle? Is their family or work suffering?
Addicts live double lives. They don’t tell people about their addictions due to the tremendous amount of shame they carry.
The sex addict will often do things that are dangerous, exploitive and will cause the sex addict to feel bad about their actions afterwards. They will feel lonely and non-intimate. Sex should be revitalizing and energizing.
There are three levels of sexual behaviors.
Level 1 - is approved of in our society. Level One includes masturbation, heterosexuality pornography, prostitution, and homosexuality. While we may not think of some of these behaviors as having societal approval, they are so widespread that on some level they are accepted.
Level one-Masturbation. In this society, there are a tremendous amount of messages about masturbation. Masturbation is important because it teaches about a person about his or her own sexuality. It teaches them about what feels good and prepares for them for intimacy with a partner.
Masturbation becomes dysfunctional when the day is organized around masturbating. Some masturbate in face of serious physical consequences. Many doubt this, but in a national survey, 45 percent of men and 33 percent of women masturbate to the point of injury.
Level one - Heterosexual behavior-This level one behavior comes in 2 categories. The first are list keepers. These are the sex addicts who keep extensive records. The purpose is usually to assure them that they have had enough. List keepers usually keep extensive details of all partners. The second category is affairs or compulsivity within context of marriage.
The sex addict is no longer interested in just sex. They have moved on to compulsive behavior, perhaps needing sex numerous times in a single day.
Level one -Pornography- For the sex addict, this can be a very expensive habit. A wife reported not having enough money for her children. This was due to her husband’s ¾ of a million dollar pornography collection he kept in a rented garage. Pornography is a 7-20 billion dollar a year business.
More is spent each year on pornography than on Coca-Cola. Many sex addicts are powerless over pornography and a few manage to change that because they know how to stop. There was a seminarian who was in debt for pornography, took out a consolidation loan, and 9 weeks later had returned to his previous level of debt.
Level One -Prostitution - This is also a very expensive behavior for the sex addict. One man spent $23,000 in home equity on prostitution, a priest-spent $1,000 a week on his prostitution habit.
In this society, prostitution has been turned into a business. You can charge for a prostitute at hotels. Prostitution has become very available. It is not isolated.
Level One -Homosexual - There is an Aids epidemic, which will transform our culture. We in the heterosexual community believe it won’t happen to us. The Center for Disease Control finds the 2nd wave of AIDS is happening to the heterosexual population. Of the 143,000 people who have aids, 93,000 are in America. 73% of the gay community in San Francisco is Sero-positive.
Level Two - regarded as nuisance behaviors-exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone call, indecent liberties, frotterism.
Level Two -Exhibitionist- flashes an average of 180 times before being reported. The exhibitionist tries to go out for a task and can’t control their life. They tell their family they are just running to the store and may be gone 3 hours despite negative consequences.
Level Two -Voyeur- The voyeur may spend 3-4 hours waiting for 90 seconds of nudity. The voyeur may even have a self-dialog telling them not to engage in these behaviors, but they are powerless to stop.
Level Two -Obscene phone calls - The sex addict may make obscene calls or try other avenues to avoid detection. The level two-sex addict can be charged for explicit conversation on a sex line or engage a local crisis worker in discussion of their fantasies for free.
Level Two -Indecent Liberties - Frotterism is the sex addict touching others inappropriately. They may “cop a feel” on a crowded bus or elevator. This is a mini-rape and an intrusion. It can be covert or very aggressive-fondling or inappropriate touching.
Level 3 -includes incest, molestation, and rape.
The reaction to Level 3 behaviors is anger. Our society doesn’t want to understand. We imprison sex offenders because they are very damaged people. It is possible to be a sex offender and not a sex addict. Sex offenders are people who have hatred for themselves
Corollaries of Sexual Addiction
1. The addiction of each sex addict is painful-all experience pain
2. Deviant behavior does not necessarily indicate the presence of addiction
3. All 3 levels of addiction transcend personality, gender, and socio-economic status
4. Sexual behaviors within and between levels reinforce one another
5. Sexual behavior in each level is connected with behaviors due to other kinds of addiction-A person could be a sex addict and a gambling addict
The Addictive System
The interior world of sex addict and the addictive system is always in motion. When looking at the addictive system, we look at the belief system, impaired thinking, (which leads to the addictive cycle), and unmanageability.
Belief system - all those things the addict has heard about men, women, and sex. It is the way in which they view the world. They incorporate messages from society. Their core beliefs are those things that are at the center of their self-belief.
These 4 core beliefs make up a sex addict
1. Self-image - I am a flawed and unworthy person
2. Relationships - If people knew me, they wouldn’t love me
3. Needs - They will never be met if I have to count on others
4. Sexuality - Sex is my most important need
Impaired thinking - For the addict, their impaired thinking ignores reality, distorts reality, and maybe even causes them to have no reality. Their interpretation is so different from others and they use rationalizations for their addictive behaviors.
Addictive Cycle - Occurs in 4 stages
1. Preoccupation - cultivate level of preoccupation as an ongoing daily or hourly process, try to extend preoccupation. The sex addict may keep going around the block to see co-eds.
2. Ritualization - continue with addictive patterns, induce trance through ritual. All addicts use ritual to alter their mood and keep their addictive behavior going.
3. Sexual Compulsivity - actual acting out
4. Despair - don’t want to be engaged in these actions, hopelessness at not being able to stop
For the sex addict, their pain and despair leads back to preoccupation, ritualization, and sexual compulsivity. This cycle staves off their despair.
Sex addiction is about pain and not about having rewarding sex.
Unmanageability - After the belief system, impaired thinking, and addictive cycle. Unmanageability confirms beliefs about self and the system repeats itself. The addict feels remorse at having engaged in their addiction (again) and begins the cycle anew.
maybe it’s time for life ..not cybersex
Today is self injury awareness day. Wear orange and spread awareness for this often misunderstood behavior.
People think that self harming is an attention seeking, easily stopped behavior. We at 100 Reasons to Recover would like to emphasize that self harming is usually a private behavior, and most people who self harm will try to keep their scars hidden. It is also very much an addiction, so stopping isn’t super easy. Stopping is possible though. Self harming does increase a person’s risk for attempting suicide, but self harm in and of itself is not typically a suicidal behavior. If you find out someone is self harming, chances are they’ve been self harming for a while. So freaking out and warning them that they could die from this is not very helpful, since they’ve been doing it for a while and are still alive. Remember that, most of the time, self harm is a way to cope. People use it to survive. If you don’t self harm, it’s probably hard to understand how hurting yourself could make you feel better, but for some people, it does. That doesn’t mean we should just ignore the behavior, though. If you know someone who is self harming, do try to get them help. If you are self harming, do reach out for help. There are better ways to cope with what you are feeling. And there are people who can help you learn how to cope in a positive way.
Recovery from self harm is definitely possible. Just like anything else, it’s going to take time and dedication, and slip ups will happen, but it is definitely possible.
Click here to view all of our posts that are related to self harm, including recovery stories and recovery tips.