Let me tell you about Joe – perhaps you know him. He is a tall attractive man who entered my office with a firm handshake and a smile. Joe projects an image of a successful, interesting person who has everything externally that a person could want. He has a beautiful family, challenging and fulfilling work, and is well thought of in his community.
When I inquired as to how I might help him Joe’s demeanor quickly shifted. He dropped his head, would not look me in the eye and as he began his story his shame and sadness became more obvious. He admitted that he had been discovered using his company laptop to solicit escorts and prostitutes while in various cities where he traveled on business. Now he was worried he might be suspended or perhaps even fired.
Joe could just have easily admitted to online use of pornography and compulsive masturbation, having anonymous sex in a public restroom or having an inappropriate sexual relationship with an employee. The variations of sexual behavior are endless and for many the consequences are devastating.
Why did Joe risk so much for an impersonal sexual encounter? What was he thinking to act in such a way? The underlying reasons may be numerous, but one explanation could be that Joe is a Sex Addict.
What is sex addiction? It’s a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. The consequences may be emotional, physical, financial, legal and spiritual. None of it matters to the addict in the ritual of sexual acting out. Addicts feel powerless to stop the behavior no matter how dire the consequences.
Unfortunately the consequences are predictable and often progressively more costly. Most addicts tend to minimize their consequences and may blame others for them if discovered. Family and friends sometimes contribute to the minimization of the consequences by believing the addict’s promise that the behavior will change. Only when the blaming and minimizing stops can recovery begin. The consequences can become the instruments for change if they are recognized and accepted instead of denied.
How would Joe know if he is a sex addict? Not everyone who has an affair or uses commercial sex whether online or in person is a sex addict. But if you, like Joe, are asking yourself why you can’t seem to stop thinking about the things you want to do sexually, or engaging in sexual behavior that is either outside your belief system or value system then maybe sexual addiction deserves a closer look.