Loss of Relationships
The life of a sex addict gradually becomes very small, in terms of the number of surrounding loved ones. The freedom of self is impaired. Precious life energies are consumed. The rapacious need for a particular type of experience in the “erotic haze” (See Chapter II) drives the addict to spend untold hours in the world of his addiction. With time, the compulsion begins to strip away all that the person holds dear: close relationships, enjoyable activities and hobbies, trust between himself and his partner, quality time with children, having a spiritual/moral center, commitment to productive, meaningful employment and financial security.
These consequences can include profound depression (sometimes with suicidal thoughts), chronic low self-esteem, shame, self-hatred, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, contradictions between ethical values and behaviors, fear of abandonment, spiritual bankruptcy, distorted thinking, remorse, and self-deceit.
Research shows that 70 to 75% of sexual addicts report having had suicidal thoughts related to their sexual behavior patterns. Often, sex addicts suffer from broken and distant relationships. The American Bar Association reported a whopping 50% of the divorces it handled in 2009 had cybersex implicated in them. Forty percent of sex addicts report severe marital and other relationship problems, and sexual activities outside their primary relationship resulted in severe stress to the relationship and loss of self-esteem for both partners.
Breakdown of the Family
The sex addict is frequently absent (physically and/or emotionally), resulting in a lack of parental role modeling. Pressure is placed on the spouse to do “double duty” as partner and primary parent. Partners of sex addicts can develop their own addictions and compulsions to drugs, food, and spending (for example), in addition to psychosomatic problems, depression, and other emotional difficulties.
Physical Health Issues
Health consequences of sex addiction may include HIV infection, genital herpes, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex addicts have a highly increased risk of contracting an STD and of passing it along to unknowing spouses or loved ones. Genital injury can result from sexual acting out, addictive sadomasochistic sex can cause physical damage to the body, and automobile accidents can result when the driver’s attention strays from the road due to sexual texting, downloading porn, or sexually cruising other drivers.
Some sex addicts go to jail, lose their jobs, get sued, or have other financial and legal consequences because of their compulsive sexual behavior. Financial difficulties from the purchase of porn, use of prostitutes, and travel for the purpose of sexual hook-ups and related activities can tax the addict’s financial resources and those of his or her family, as do the expenses of legal representation in divorce cases. Sixty percent of sex addicts report that they have faced financial difficulties, 58% report having engaged in some form of illegal activity, and 83% of sex addicts also had concurrent addictions such as alcoholism, marijuana or other drug abuses, eating disorders, and compulsive gambling. Many sex addicts also abuse alcohol and other drugs. When multiple addictions coexist, untreated sex addiction complicates recovery from chemical dependency and makes relapse to drug use more likely.
Serious legal consequences of sexual addiction can result if the sex addict’s behavior escalates into sexual offenses such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or inappropriate touching and/or the use of child porn. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be part of a sex addict’s repertoire, and may result in legal difficulties.
Many addicts report that they live in a perpetual fear of exposure. For addicts involved in illegal sexual activities (exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc.) as well as involvement in kiddie porn, arrest, incarceration and public humiliation or prosecution are very real possibilities.
Sexual addicts risk everything for the call of the erotic which promises euphoria and yet never seems to deliver in a real, consistent way and is usually followed by remorse and shame. Is the pleasure worth the consequences? It is when the negative consequences, which are different for everyone, begin to outweigh these brief periods of erotic arousal that the person seeks addiction treatment.
Adapted from The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health
Why Can’t the Addict Control his Sexual Behavior?
Most addicts would stop if they could.
It’s been said that of all the addictions, sex is the most difficult to manage. This syndrome is a complex mixture of biological, psychological, cultural, and family-of-origin issues, the combination of which creates impulses and urges that are virtually impossible to resist despite the fact that acting them out produces considerable long-term negative consequences, the addict simply cannot resist his/her impulses. Individuals who are highly disciplined, accomplished and able to direct the force of their will in other areas of life fall prey to sexual compulsion. More importantly, people who love and cherish their partners can still be enslaved by these irresistible urges.
From a biological standpoint, research has shown that certain formations in the right temporal lobe make certain individuals more prone to sexual arousability from birth. Whether or not such an individual becomes sexually compulsive or perverse then depends on the child’s home environment.
Research has also shown that the inability to control sexual impulses is associated with neurochemical imbalances in the norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine systems. The use of certain anti-depressants (SSRI’s) has thus shown to be very effective in treating the impulse control problems of many sexual compulsives.
Biological predisposition contributes and combines with psychological factors. One of the reasons the “erotic haze” (see Chapter 2) is so compulsory is that it is an unconscious but maladaptive way to repair earlier disturbed, anxiety-laden relationships. It shores up an inadequate sense of self which results from these early-life interpersonal abandonments, and abuse.
This combination of biological and psychological factors results in an “affective disorder” in the sex addict. Feelings of depression, anxiety, boredom and emptiness are quickly alleviated by immersing oneself in an imaginary world that provides novelty, excitement, mystery and intense pleasure. Sex addiction is better than Prosac. It heals, it soothes, it contains, it provides a “safe place” free from the demands of actual performance, and it gives an illusory sense of belonging. The sense of empowerment in the illicit sex act rectifies “holes in the soul” and lifts the addict from feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, depression and emptiness into a state of instant euphoria.
Relinquishing this very special (but delusional) mental and physical state can result in a sense of withdrawal which may include mood swings, inability to concentrate and irritability. These symptoms usually disappear in psychological therapy as the sense of self is solidified and he finds more creative ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
Sex addicts, as a group, are not having fun. They suffer enormously, with shame, self-hatred and humiliation the fodder in which they live.
They are consumed by an irresistible impulse to keep returning to the experience of intense, euphoric pleasure that they know will create suffering for them in the long run.
It’s hard for any of us to walk away from pleasure, even when we know it is in our best interest. For sex addicts, it’s nearly impossible. No price seems too high for them to pay because they are driven by the mirage of a beautiful, ephemeral ghost that continually promises but never delivers. And, yet, they keep returning to the empty well to quench their thirst.
Immediately following orgasm, many addicts feel the familiar void which may precipitate a return to the compulsion. It’s a vicious cycle.
- The pleasure of sex addiction comes in many forms. Examples of these include:
- compulsive masturbation,
- internet pornography,
- pornographic movies, literature
- sexual fetishism,
- anonymous phone sex,
- use of prostitutes and escorts,
- multiple extra-marital affairs,
- regular attendance at strip clubs,
- multiple and anonymous sexual partners,
- erotic e-mailing or texting,
- transsexual compulsion, cross-dressing, or submission to femme dommes.
None of the above examples as a singular act defines a sex addict, however, it is can be the frequency and reliance on these activities, as well as using sexual behaviors to get non-sexual needs me which may constitute addiction.