Problems in controlling sexual behavior usually reveal themselves in four distinct stages:
Preoccupation: The person continually fantasizes about sexual prospects or situations. Constant sexual focus results in a high level of arousal which can trigger an episode of sexual “acting-out.”
Ritualization: A preferred sexual activity or situation is often stereotyped and repetitive, and may include a wide variety of activities intended to keep arousal at a high pitch, rather than being aimed at sexual release.
Compulsion: The person continues to engage in sexual activity despite negative consequences and a sincere desire to stop. A sex addict can feel as powerless as an alcoholic or drug addict over his or her addiction.
Despair: Sex addicts experience guilt or shame, often intensely, over their inability to control their behavior or feel remorse for pain they’ve caused others. The psychological fallout is equally crippling. Addicts may suffer other behavioral problems, particularly substance abuse and eating disorders.
Sex addicts also frequently suffer from intense depression and anxiety, often fueled by the fear of discovery. Suicide rates also tend to be higher among those with problems of sexual control.
The toll that compulsive sexuality takes is often seen in a loss of intimacy with loved ones, including problems in family functioning, communication, and marital sex life.
Ironically, the way out of sexual addiction often centers on renewing and strengthening the same relationships most affected by the problem.
- See also
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- Sexual Compulsive Anonymous
- S-Anon for partners and friends of sex addicts