Sex Addiction Defined

The disease, although not identified as such in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is recognized by knowledgeable addictions treatment professionals as one of the primary obstacles to the maintenance of sustained sobriety in the recovery from Alcoholism and other forms of substance dependency. Old timers in the 12 Step movement will remember the ominous warning of the more seasoned members of their group: Beneath every skirt is a slip. The adage will be dismissed as a sexist comment by those fail to see its intent. Its authors were talking to men, of course, because there were very few women in the recovery rooms 30 years ago, but the wisdom should not be ignored because it speaks to one gender or because it may sound “corny.” Many relapses will begin with the problems associated with the instability an individual is experiencing in their sexual life. Unfortunately the issues surrounding sexual instability are rarely discussed with sponsors, let alone brought up as discussion topics for meetings.

Sexual addiction is a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience which becomes central to the addicted person’s life. In Out of the Shadows, Dr. Carnes explains the four-step cycle the sexual addict progresses through which intensifies with each repetition:

    1. Preoccupation with sex: The trance or mood wherein the addicts’ minds are completely engrossed in the thoughts of sex. This mental state creates an obsessive search for sexual simulation
    2. Sexual Ritualization: The addicts’ 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 sexual 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 process that a sexual addict progresses through. The discomfort of despair will ultimately lead the sex addict to return to his or her preoccupation with sex, thus begin this cycle all over again.

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