Any addiction that is left untreated can leave a wake of destruction in its path. This is especially true of a sex addiction. Even though you think you’re only “having sex,” in reality you are putting many other people are risk. Once you’ve crossed over to the addiction side, the need to fulfill your compulsions takes over. This could mean engaging in unprotected sex which puts your health and the health of your spouse at risk. It could mean seeking out a sexual encounter that is illegal which could put you behind bars. Even in a more “personal” form of addiction such as an obsession with online pornography, you can put your career, finances and other relationships at risk. You don’t need to be asking yourself, “Is it worth it?” Instead you should be asking yourself, “How can I control this behavior?”
The cycle of a sexual addiction follows a familiar pattern. Can you recognize these phases in your own behaviors?
The Sexual Notion Prelude to Addiction
This is that first sexual thought that pops into your head when some emotional trigger goes off. There could be many forms of these triggers such as a periodic bout of loneliness, depression, anger, stress or anxiety. You might run into an old girlfriend or boyfriend on Facebook that could set off a wide range of memories. The sexual notion could even be simply seeing something that stimulates you, whether that’s viewing a sex image, reading erotica or watching a romantic film. We can’t really control the fleeting thoughts that come into our brains. However, it’s what happens next that could or could not become the problem.
The Sexual Fantasy Sign of Addiction
If that sexual notion pops out of your head as quickly as it popped in, you’re on firm footing. However, if you begin to spin that notion into a more elaborate fantasy then it could take root as a form of an obsession. You’ll find that the root cause of a sexual addiction is that obsession. This begins to dominate your thoughts as you work out variations of the fantasy in your mind to the point of becoming aroused at the very idea. Again, it’s all about duration. There is nothing wrong with using sexual fantasy to enhance a consenting relationship between two adults or even to stimulate an occasional self-pleasuring moment. It’s when these thoughts occupy more and more of your time does it veer into addictive territory.
The Arranging Phase of Sex Addiction
The sex addict will quickly move on from the fantasy phase into the planning phase as they begin to work out how that can bring this fantasy to life. Even if the fantasy would involve risky behavior, it’s hard for the addict to shake it off. Their lack of compulsion control takes over and they are compelled to move forward. It’s in this phase that the addict might be cruising online personal ads for potential partners. These plans can also involve going out into environments where the sexual behavior can be engaged in, such as clubs, erotic theaters or other places where sex is offered.
The Tangible Sign of Sex Addiction
The sex addict won’t be satisfied until they can carry out the sexual act they’ve been thinking about and planning. Whatever form this takes, it fills the addict with an instant rush and sense of fulfillment. However, those thoughts are extremely fleeting.
The Regret Phase of Sex Addiction
After a sexual encounter, the addict often becomes overwhelmed with sense of shame or disgust. This can lead to abandoning contact with friends and cutting off from society at large. Unfortunately, these feelings of regret are supplanted by a repetition of the entire cycle.
If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, you should reach out for help. Counselors are standing by at the toll-free number on this page to provide information about treatment options.