What is it?
Sexual addiction is not sexual desire. Sexual addiction is defined not by
the type of sexual act performed or even by the frequency of sexual
activity. Instead, it is defined by an addict's compulsive use of sex to
address non-sexual emotional needs. It is frequently indicated by the
willingness of an addict to suffer enormous consequences for
engaging in sex. Even great sex can't be that good. And that's just the
point, sexual addiction has very little to do with sex, and a lot to do with
why we have sex to begin with.
It is thought that sex is used by the addict as an escape, a means of
avoiding stress, emotional strain, boredom, anxiety, and the pursuant
shame and isolation that results from their compulsive behavior. Sex
may be used to feel powerful or desirable. Sexual addiction is often
accompanied by other addictions, such as an addiction to work or
chemicals. The addict displays increasingly secretive behavior,
deception, and withdrawal from those closest to him.
The consequences of sexual addiction frequently have an enormous
social impact. Sexual addiction often leads to the sexual abuse of an
addict's coworkers, friends, and/or sexual partners. It can leave an
addict isolated, depressed, and sometimes suicidal. Sexual addicts
engage in sexual behavior that they know is risky, putting themselves
and their partners at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually
transmitted diseases. Like other addicts, sexual addicts will sacrifice
relationships, their own health, and jobs to pursue their compulsion.
Living with a Sex Addict
Sex addiction can have serious consequences for the families,
partners, and coworkers of an addict. Sexual addiction is frequently
indicated by an addict's willingness to go to great ends for sex. The
addict's compulsion forces others into being either potential targets or
potential fall off. Unfortunately, the consequences of sexual addiction,
like many addictions, usually fall equally on the people around the
addict. In many cases it does not really matter why someone is
targeting a woman sexually, it only matters that it is happening at all.
For women being sexually harassed at work, their concern is not to
diagnose sexual addiction but rather to combat sexual harassment.
However, the situation can be quite different for the partners and
families of sex addicts. In those cases, the underlying reasons for the
addict's behavior are important to those that surround him.
If a woman's partner is a sex addict, first and foremost she should
make sure that any sex she is having with him is safe sex. Sex addicts
frequently engage in risky sex, which may include unprotected sex.
This can be a difficult thing for a woman to ask of her partner, primarily
because it requires confronting his infidelity, but a woman's health can
depend on it. It is also important for a woman whose partner is a sex
addict to seek counseling for herself as well as her partner. Being in a
relationship with a sex addict can have a real effect on a woman's self
esteem, and her feelings of desirability, power and trust.
For a coworker of a sex addict, the situation is quite different, as it is
often one of sexual harassment. Sex addiction or straight up sexism, it
does not really matter what his reasons are. What matters are his
actions. If a woman experiences unwanted touching or other physical
contact, unwanted sexual jokes or comments, sexual advances, or
exposure to pornography from a coworker the first step is to say no
clearly. If the behavior continues she should document all of her work,
and document all of her interactions with the harasser. This can
include sending him a memo that asks him to stop his behavior and
making a copy for her own file. If there is no one within the organization
to speak with there a number of organizations a woman can contact
for legal and emotional support.
Of course, we all have emotional and social reasons for having sex as
well as the physical pleasure it might bring us. Sexual addicts are
distinguished by their compulsion to have sex under even the most
risky and abusive situations. For many people sexual addiction has its
roots in a family history of sexual abuse and addiction. Its treatment
requires some form of counseling. Therapy options are numerous,
including twelve step programs, psychotherapy and support groups. It
is recommended that the partners of addicts also seek counseling
either independently or with the addict. The treatment of sexual
addiction aims not so much to bring all sex to an end but rather to
place sex into the context of healthy relationships and to encourage
sex that is mutual and not compulsive.