Am I A Sex Addict?
Antonio, during our coffee talks, is sharing that he has attempted to stop his compulsive sexual behavior a number of times but without success. He obsessively thinks about sex and spends inordinate amounts of time masturbating, looking at internet pornography, paying prostitutes, and planning his next sexual encounters with multiple partners and strangers. He is so frustrated because even though he has intention to stop, he still continues to seek out sexual encounters in spite of negative or harmful consequences to his marriage and family.
Therapist and author Dr. Patrick Carnes, in a conference on sex addictions in 2010, says this: "Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually related compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Sexual addiction has been called sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity. By any name it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives."
An essential part of sanity is being grounded in reality. In the sense that a sex addict distorts reality (e.g. woman as "object, not a person," sex for its own sake, "mere sex" devoid of relationship), sex addiction then can be viewed as one form of insanity or mental illness. It is a type of high risk behavior and the risk taking is part of the sex addict's high. A sex addict is essentially ashamed of his behavior and therefore becomes a skilled liar. This then leads to further self-obsession which leaves no room for giving to others.
Treatment for sex addiction generally includes focusing on two main issues. The first is logistical arrangements for abstinence. This involves separating the sex addict from harmful sexual behavior and environmental reinforcements in the same way drug addicts need to be separated from drugs. The second and hardest issue is healing the psychological and emotional shame, depression, and compulsivity associated with the illness. This requires sufficient recovery work and time with a competent therapist to work through the internal roots of the addiction.