Sexual Addiction is not unlike other forms of addiction. There is an addiction cycle which contributes to the continuance of unhealthy and often unwanted negative behaviors. In order to begin the process of breaking the addiction cycle, you must start by gaining a greater understanding of what this cycle looks like.
Dr. Patrick Carnes, in his book Out of the Shadows, provides a clear description of each level:
2. Ritualization: The addict’s own special routines that lead up to the sexual behavior. The ritual intensifies the preoccupation, adding arousal and excitement.
3. Compulsive Sexual Behavior: The actual sex act, which is the end goal of the preoccupation and ritualization. Sexual addicts are unable to control or stop this behavior.
4. Despair: The feeling of utter hopelessness addicts have about their behavior and their powerlessness (Carnes, 2001).
Once you have an understanding of what the addiction cycle is, it is equally important to determine what drives the addiction cycle itself.
Elements Contributing to Addiction
There is more to addiction than the stages listed above. There are powerful elements which contribute to the continuance of one’s addiction. Once more Dr. Carnes (2001) provides insight into what these elements are. He explains how addiction begins with an individual’s faulty belief system, which may contain inaccurate core beliefs about who they are (e.g., not perceiving themselves as a worthwhile person; not believing others would care for them if they knew about the addiction), and ultimately drive them toward the behaviors which make their reality more bearable (Carnes, 2001).
Dr. Carnes (2001) notes impaired thinking is the second key element in addiction, and is characterized by a distorted view of reality and patterns of denial (e.g., denying the problem, ignoring the problem, minimizing one’s behaviors). He continues by showing that continued patterns of denial and defensiveness contribute to the addict cutting themselves further off from the reality of their behavior, and that once denial, rationalizations, sincere delusions, and blame fully take effect the addictive cycle, the third element, is now free to work in the life of the individual. The fourth element, unmanageability, eventually catches up with the addict and is characterized by them trying to keep their secret life from affecting their public life (Carnes, 2001).
How does one go about breaking the cycle of addiction? One of the most difficult, yet most effective means of breaking this cycle is being transparent about one’s addiction. Transparency requires an individual to put an end to patterns of denial and to face the reality of the addiction. However, it enables them to humbly seek out the assistance of family members and the help of a professional counselor. The individuals I’ve worked with in counseling were ultimately able to break free of their addiction, work to restore trust and openness in their marriages, obtain important resources and clinical information, build a strong network of family and friends, and strengthen their walk with God. It is amazing to see the transformation that has taken place in their lives.
Sexual addiction does not have to consume anyone’s life. Those who are personally struggling with this dark phenomenon can be free from its grasp and experience life with all of the joy, life, and peace God intended.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit
(Psalm 34:17-18, New International Version).
Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the shadows: Understanding sexual addiction. City Center, MN: Hazelden
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