Sex becomes an addiction when the addict can't stop despite negative consequences. The behavior is chronic and often times escalating. Addiction involves repeatedly or compulsively engaging in destructive behavior despite negative consequences.
NorthPoint Sexual Addiction counseling is designed to work with both male and females one-on-one. Concentration will be on first understanding what sex addiction is and what is your addiction cycle. Next, we will help you learn what steps are necessary to achieve recovery.
In addition we work on the deeper levels to get at the root cause(s) of the addiction so it doesn't re-surface later. Many sex addiction counselors do not know how to work at these levels - many only work on the surface level of the addiction and do not know how to do the deeper work that is essential so that the addiction does not resurface. NorthPoint's sexual addiction counselor and Director John Sternfels is a CSAT (Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist).
Sexual Addiction Screening Test
The Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) is designed to assist in the assessment of sexually compulsive behavior which may indicate the presence of sex addiction. Developed in cooperation with hospitals, treatment programs, private therapists, and community groups, the SAST provides a profile of responses which help to discriminate between addictive and non-addictive behavior.
There is NO COST for this assessment! You will be asked a series of Yes/No questions and presented with a profile comparing your responses with others who have taken the test. Our process ensures that NO ONE but you will know your results. There is NO information to link you with your assessment.
Click Here to begin your assessment. Be sure to print your results after completion.
The term "sexual addiction" is used to describe the behavior of a person who has an unusually intense sex drive or an obsession with sex. Sex and the thought of sex tend to dominate the sex addict's thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships.
Sex addicts engage in distorted thinking, often rationalizing and justifying their behavior and blaming others for problems. They generally deny they have a problem and make excuses for their actions.
Sexual addiction also is associated with risk-taking. A person with a sex addiction engages in various forms of sexual activity, despite the potential for negative and/or dangerous consequences. In addition to damaging the addict's relationships and interfering with his or her work and social life, a sexual addiction also puts the person at risk for emotional and physical injury.
For some people, the sex addiction progresses to involve illegal activities, such as exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public), making obscene phone calls, or molestation. However, it should be noted that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders.1
The Addictive Cycle
The addiction cycle has four distinct and sequential components: preoccupation; ritualization; sexual compulsivity; and shame and despair.
Preoccupation – The addictive cycle begins at the point where the addicts thoughts and become focused on the behavior.
Ritualization – Addicts enhance their mental preoccupation with rituals, regularly followed methods of preparing for sexual activity to take place. Anything can become a ritual for the addict.
Sexual Compulsivity – Addicts lose the ability to control their sexual behavior.
Shame and Despair – The addict's intense emotional pain is transformed into the pleasure during the preoccupation and ritualization stages, becoming euphoria during the fleeting moments of sexual release. However, following the climax experience, the addict plummets into shame and despair more deeply with each repetition of the cycle. Isolation also increases.2
Effects of Sexual Addiction
For most people, sex contributes in positive ways to the quality of life. However, about three to six percent of Americans have sexual addiction. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family members usually increases as the disorder progresses. Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. According to the findings of one study, 72% had been physically abused in childhood, 81% had been sexually abused, and 97% emotionally abused.
Addictions to behavioral processes are called "process addictions." The process of engaging in these behaviors leads to typical addiction symptoms (withdrawal, tolerance, heightened excitement or euphoria).
Over time, the addict usually has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results.
Addiction to sex can become just as destructive as addiction to chemical substances. For some, the addictive behavior does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or an extensive use of pornography or phone or computer sex services. For others, their addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape.
Through their addiction and compulsivity, sex addicts risk injuring themselves and/or their partner physically (e.g., STDs), experiencing severe psychological distress, losing their livelihood, and ruining meaningful relationships.
Compulsive sexual thoughts and/or behavior can lead to increasingly serious consequences in both the individual's internal and external worlds. The consequences may include severe depression, low self-esteem, shame, self-hatred, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, contradictions between ethical values and behaviors, fear of abandonment, spiritual bankruptcy, distorted thinking, remorse, and self-deceit.
Seventy to seventy-five percent of sex addicts have thought about suicide. Many suffer from broken relationships and more than forty percent experience severe marital and other relationship problems. Sexual activities outside the primary relationship result in loss of self-esteem to both partners as well as severe stress to their relationship.
The sex addict is frequently absent from their home life (physically and/or emotionally) and if they have children this usually results in a significant loss of necessary parental role modeling. Pressure is then placed on the partner to provide the majority of parental support and nurturing of the children. In response to added pressures, partners of sex addicts may develop their own addictions and compulsions, psychosomatic problems, or depression and other emotional difficulties. The cumulative effect of all of these factors can result in an unstable family environment. Physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect of the children may occur. Growing up in such a home increases the risk for the next generation to also have addictive disorders.
Serious health consequences of sex addiction may include HIV infection, genital Herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex addicts have an increased risk of STDs. Genital injury may result from excessive sexual activity or the use of sex aids and foreign objects. Addictive sadomasochistic sex can lead to physical damage to the body.
Some sex addicts go to jail, lose their job, get sued, or have other financial and legal consequences because of their compulsive sexual behavior. Financial difficulties from the purchase of pornographic materials, use of prostitutes and telephone and computer lines, travel for the purpose of sexual contacts, and other sexual activities can tax the addict's financial resources, sometimes to the point of bankruptcy, as can the expenses of legal representation. Sixty percent of addicts have faced financial difficulties, 58% engaged in illegal activities, and 83% of sex addicts also had concurrent addictions such as alcoholism, eating disorders, or compulsive gambling.
Legal consequences of sexual addiction result when illegal behaviors such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, or inappropriate touching, result in arrest and incarceration. Child molesting and rape in some cases are addictive behaviors. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be part of a sex addict's repertoire, and may result in legal difficulties on the job. Over half the cases of sexual exploitation by professionals are perpetrated by sex addicts.3
Behaviors Associated with Sexual Addiction Include:
- Compulsive masturbation (self-stimulation)
- Fantasy sex
- Anonymous sex
- Pain exchange sex
- Exploitive sex
- Seductive role sex
- Trading sex
- Intrusive sex
- Multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs)
- Multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands
- Consistent use of pornography
- Unsafe sex
- Phone or computer sex (cybersex)
- Prostitution or use of prostitutes
- Obsessive dating through personal ads
- Voyeurism (watching others) and/or stalking
- Sexual harassment
Generally, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sexual activity and forms no emotional bond with his or her sex partners. In addition, the problem of sex addiction often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. A sex addict also feels a lack of control over the behavior, despite negative consequences (financial, health, social, and emotional).3
How Is Sexual Addiction Treated?
- Most sex addicts live in denial of their addiction, and treating an addiction is dependent on the person accepting and admitting that he or she has a problem. In many cases, it takes a significant event -- such as the loss of a job, the break-up of a marriage, an arrest, or health crisis -- to force the addict to admit to his or her problem.
- Treatment of sexual addiction focuses on controlling the addictive behavior and helping the person develop a healthy sexuality. Treatment includes education about healthy sexuality, individual counseling, and marital and/or family therapy. Support groups and 12 step recovery programs for people with sexual addictions (like Sex Addicts Anonymous) also are available.
- Counseling for the partner of the sexual addict is also highly recommended and encouraged.3
1 MedicineNet 2, Patrick Carnes 3, 4Therapy