What is sexual addiction and how to recognize it?


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 we often 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 by sexual addiction, a terrible evil that puts the couple at 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 has been blurred over the years.

Three to six percent of Americans have sexual addiction, according to Dr. Patrick Carnes in his book Don’t Call It Love: Recovery From Sexual Addiction. So, how can a sexual addict be identified 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 a 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 why he/she abuses drugs, he/she will tell you that they do 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, through either genetic predisposition, or due to the way someone was raised.

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 sexual 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. From this book, you will be able to learn how an addiction advances little by little. These are the stages:

First stage: Use

The first stage in an addiction is when someone starts to abuse a substance or behavior. An alcoholic will abuse alcohol, a sexual addict, sex. Family members may notice this behavior, but the addict does not, he/she will insist that the worrying is exaggerated.

Second stage: Payment

For the second stage, addicts obtains a type of reward from 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 is momentary and will last only a short period of time, since, one it is over, negative consequences follow. He makes denial one of the most powerful mechanisms for addicts. According to them, there are no bad consequences for their bodies or souls.

Justifying and minimizing their acts might also be mechanisms that appear, since for an addict, his/her addiction is just a means to obtain something, or he/she believes that they 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 appear in conscious and unconscious ways, but regardless, 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 of the compulsion to practice sexual acts, whether alone or with someone else. There are many ways in which sexual addiction can manifest, one more harmful than the other.

For example, there are people who are addicted to masturbating compulsively, or who watch pornography regardless of the time or the place. People who have compulsive sex with prostitutes or multiple unknown partners also suffer from sexual addiction.

I do not have to elaborate on how these behaviors can destroy a marriage. But, what I do have to elaborate on is 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 the addiction consists of 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. They could show signs such as:

  • Inability to stop the behavior, and provide excuses for it
  • Won’t settle for a monogamous sexual life or conventional sex
  • Tendency to sexualize other people and situations that are not sexual
  • Spend a large amount of money pursuing and continuing the activity
  • Feelings of excessive euphoria when 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, many of them have suffered some kind of traumatic experience during their childhood or adolescence and therefore 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. He/she will feel that choosing with how many people he/she is going to sleep with is a manifestation of “power”.

Sexual addiction is a consequence of a need that needs to be met. Which one depends on your life story.

Last words about sexual addiction

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 in the same way it is gotten easily, it will also easily lead to remorse and guilt.

The answer is in God, and how He can guide you so that you can determine what is wrong and heal. Do you need help or have a doubt? I can help you in the comments section. You will find a friendly hand in me.

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