Addictions are invisible enemies that can destroy everything in their way. Marriages, families, jobs and the legacy of an entire life in a matter of months. And even though many times we associate the term “addict” with addiction to substances such as alcohol, drugs or gambling, sexual addiction is one of the most dangerous ones.
I have lost count of the homes that have been wrecked due to sexual addiction, a terrible evil that puts the couple in spiritual and physical risk. Not only are the principles of a sacred union such as marriage in danger, but it also exposes the other partner to several sexual illnesses.
In an over-sexualized world, it is getting more and more difficult to find the boundaries between what is adequate and what is not. The line that has been drawn by our God to practice sex as an encounter of deep love and trust, is being blurred over the years.
As a sample of this, a 3 to 6 percent of Americans have sexual addiction, according to Dr. Patrick Carnes in his book Don’t Call It Love: Recovery From Sexual Addiction. Then, how can a sexual addict be detected before it is too late? I want to talk to you about this next.
What is sexual addiction?
As I mentioned before, addictions come in many forms. But why or what are they specifically? The easiest way to explain what addictions are is that they are pathological attractions to any place, thing or even a person.
These addictions are actually unconscious attempts to find something that is outside of us. Something we believe we need so that we can feel complete. This is why if you ask any addict the reason why he/she abuses drugs, he/she will tell you that he/she does it to feel relaxed, to escape from reality, to forget, etc.
The roots of addictions are so deep that they can be found as a tendency in families. Even as one of the factors that can be mentioned, is the genetic predisposition, also the way people are raised is one of them.
However, you must understand that the Lord does not want you to be an addict your whole life. Nobody is born to live in suffering, but it is going to be a personal challenge that you must face.
Understanding the addiction cycle
A good reading to understand the sexual addiction cycle is Relationship Sabotage: Unconscious Factors That Destroy Couples, Marriages, and Families written by therapist William J. Matta. In this reading, you will be able to know the way an addiction is advancing little by little. These are its stages:
First stage: Use
The first stage in an addiction is when people start to abuse a substance or behavior. An alcoholic will abuse alcohol, a sexual addict, sex. The family members can notice this behavior, but the addict does not, he/she will assure that the worrying is exaggerated.
Second stage: Payment
For the second stage, addicts will obtain a type of reward for the consumption or practice of the addiction. Whether it is a relaxing feeling, euphoria, peace, or excitement.
Third stage: Negative consequences
No matter how good an addiction might make you feel, that pleasure will be momentary and it will last a short period of time, since, one it is over, negative consequences will arrive. About this matter, denial is one of the most powerful mechanisms in addicts. According to them, there are no bad consequences for their bodies and souls.
Justification and minimization of their acts might also be mechanisms that will not disappear, since for an addict, his/her addiction is just a mean to obtain something, or he/she believes he/she can control it.
Fourth stage: Negative feelings
Shame, guilt, fear, and anger are some of the most common feelings I have seen in my addict patients in this fourth stage. They can be shown in conscious and unconscious ways, but either way, the person suffers, and if he/she does not get help from his/her loved ones, he/she will repeat the cycle over and over again.
The sexual addiction nightmare
Sexual addiction consists in the compulsion to practice sexual acts, whether while being alone or while being with someone else. There are many ways in which sexual addiction can manifest itself, one more harmful than the other.
For example, there are people who are addicted to masturbating compulsively, or who watch pornography regardless the time or the place where they are. People who have compulsive sex with prostitutes or multiple unknown partners also suffer from sexual addiction.
I do not have to deepen in how these behaviors can destroy a marriage. But, in what I do have to deepen is in how this specific addiction can silently contaminate an individual for years.
As a husband or wife, it might take months before you notice that your partner is addicted to pornography because, usually, part of these addictions consists in hiding it from everyone else.
How to recognize the signs of sexual addiction?
Sexual compulsive behaviors are a risk for the addict and his/her surroundings. Reason why they could show signs such as:
- Inability to stop the behavior, rather giving excuses for it
- Not to settle for a monogamous sexual life or conventional sex
- Tendency to sexualize other people and situations that are not sexual
- To spend a large amount of money pursuing to continue the activity
- Feelings of excessive euphoria when being in contact with the stimulus
- The need to elevate the danger or severity of the sexual behavior
Unconscious needs that drive sexual addiction
According to my professional experience, behind every addiction there is a story with similarities between them. In the case of sexual addicts, it repeats itself. Many of them have suffered some kind of traumatic experience during their childhood or adolescence, therefore they need to “feel power in their adulthood”.
The feeling of helplessness in these cases is very strong, so they desperately try to find “power” in sex. This is why a victim of sexual abuse ends up being promiscuous, because he/she will feel that in choosing with how many people is he/she going to sleep, either way, it will be a manifestation of “power”.
Sexual addiction is a consequence of a need that needs to be met. Which one? It will depend on your life’s story.
The power addicts think they get through sex is fake and ephemeral. Fake, because sex is not a tool to subjugate and show the courage or strength a person has. Ephemeral, because the same way it is gotten easily, easily will also come the remorse and guilt.
The answer is in God, and how He can guide you so that you can detect what is wrong in you and heal you. Do you need help or have a doubt? I can help you in the comments section. You will find a friendly hand in me.