Criteria for Sexual Addiction
There is a tremendous amount of bad information circulating about the area of sexual addiction. It is essential to understand the criteria for sexual addiction so that there is no misunderstanding or confusion about this subject.
1) There is a repetitive pattern of unhealthy thoughts, feelings, choices and/or behaviors that influence and encourage the use and practice of inappropriate sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
2) There is a significant amount of time spent on thinking, planning, preparing, obtaining, using and/or recovering from sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
3) There is a sense that parts of life are out of control because of the sexual behaviors.
4) There is an ongoing internal battle to stop or control the sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
5) There is an inability to completely control the sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
6) There is often damaging consequences because of the sexual behaviors.
7) There is an inability to stop or fully control the sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors in spite of consequences, damages or pressures from others.
8) There are often random and/or severe mood changes because of the sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
9) There is a damaging / destructive pattern of attitudes, moods and behaviors that harms oneself and hurts others because of the sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
10) There is a neglect of important relationships, work and/or activities because of the addiction.
11) There is often a growing need or desire for more in order to maintain or achieve the same effect.
12) There is a continual pursuit of unhealthy, damaging, dangerous and/or risky sexual behaviors.
13) Sexual behaviors become a way to medicate or cope with the stress, pain and/or pressures of life.
14) There is often a deep sense of guilt, shame and/or denial because of sexual desires, fantasies or behaviors.
15) There is a sense that something has damaged or influenced the core of the person and that the addiction is an attempt
to address or medicate their "heart" problems.
* Often a person can identify with one or two of these criteria. However, if a client can identify with at least four of the statements
then they have met the criteria for having a sexual addiction. For many people this is their primary addiction, however, some people struggle with multiple addictions. The impact of any addiction on a person's life is tremendous. However, the damage from Sexual Addiction tends to be more global and damaging to the persons heart, thoughts, feelings, choices, behaviors and relationships.
Four Stages of Sexual Behaviors
* If a person meets or exceeds the criteria for a sexual addiction then their behaviors often fall into one or more of the following four areas of sexual behaviors. These behaviors often indicate a serious paradigm shift in the person’s heart which impacts their theology, identity, purpose, significance, values, worth, sense of belonging and security and how they handle pain and reward. Note: Each state has their own definitions of levels of inappropriate and illegal sexual behaviors.
Stage #1 These are inappropriate sexual behaviors where there is no contact or interaction with a living person. Sexual Behaviors involving one or more of the following… compulsive masturbation, sexual magazines/ books / TV / Video / DVD / Internet / downloading pornography, sexual role-playing games, 'adult' stores, and/or obsessive sexual fantasy/imagery that causes anxiety, distress and disturbs a person's life/work.
Stage #2 These are sexual behaviors that have a verbal, visual and/or physical contact with a living person. Sexual Behaviors involving one or more of the following… sexual chat rooms, phone sex, live Internet sex shows, strip & lingerie clubs, prostitution, one night stands, affairs, multiple sexual relationships.
Stage #3 These are sexual behaviors that intentionally cross boundaries, are often predatory in nature and are sometimes illegal. The client often believes that they are entitled to act out or they believe that their behaviors have little to no impact on their victims. Sexual Behaviors involving one or more of the following… voyeurism, exhibitionism, nudism, frottage, 'shock' sexual acts (sexual phone calls, masturbating in or exposing themselves in public places etc.), the taking clothes of the opposite sex. Other behaviors include the targeting, grooming and taking advantage of adult sexual victims.
Stage #4 Sexual behaviors that are often either … harmful to oneself or others, and/or contrary to heterosexual relationships, and/or predatory in nature, and/or is highly illegal, and/or unusual/bizarre. These behaviors often indicate a serious paradigm shift in the the person’s heart which impacts their theology, identity, purpose, significance, values, worth, sense of belonging and security and how they handle pain and reward. Sexual Behaviors involving one or more of the following… multiple sexual experiences needed daily, sex with total random strangers (i.e. anonymous sex), risky sex (i.e. with known STD/AIDS carriers), threesome, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, grooming and/or having sex with family members, grooming and/or having sex with infants, children or minors, sex with animals, dead people, occult sex, sex that involves the torturing of animals, BDSM, the use of drugs or weapons to obtain sex, or sex that involves trafficking, torturing and/or the murder of people.
Understanding Sexual Addiction
1) Oddly enough, sexual addiction is often not really about "sex". Like alcohol, drugs, prescription drugs, gambling, food, and even some forms of physical exercise all have aspects of medicating a person's pain and/or providing a system of rewards. Sex is able to provide instant pleasure/medication/gratification for a moment. But immediately after the event guilt, shame, self hate, rituals and cycles resurface to enslave the person to their addiction of choice - sex. Also in this process old wounds tend to resurface and the core issues of the heart (Matt. 5:28; 15:19; Eph. 4:17-19) often get severely damaged … identity, purpose, values, significance, morals, personal theology, a sense of belonging, important relationships and how you address pain in life.
2) Some make a comparison between sexual addiction and eating foods. We all have hungers and appetites. Similarly, we are all sexual (.i.e male or female) and we all have sexual desires and needs that correspond to our gender and stages of life. Just as eating proper portions of healthy foods tends to be good for you, sex between a husband and wife can be very healthy as they learn to develop an intimate / growing / nurturing / loving relationship. However, just as some foods can harm or kill you, sexual addiction can harm or kill a person’s most valued relationships.
3) Although, stopping the behaviors associated with sexual addiction is a top priority. The primary focus of breaking sexual addiction and recovery is to develop a life based on truth, trust and integrity which is reflected in your heart, thoughts, feelings, choices, behaviors and relationships - before the Living GOD, our spouse, family and the world. When our heart is right and as we become healthy adults - then there is no need to medicate.
4) Sometimes clients come to counseling with multiple addictions - sex, drugs, alcohol, spending, food etc. These clients often have a lot to medicate because of the unresolved pain in their lives. For them to recover from their addictions they must be willing and determined to address their pain, to put it to death and to release it. This can be a brutal process that strips away the chains that enslaves the client. But the process is worth being free of the pain, the medication and the addictions.
5) Addicts are often in a unhealthy, codependent relationships. Often there is a child (addict) <-> parent (codependent) relationship or a “Master of the Universe” (addict) <-> “slave (codependent) relationship. The therapist will often ask the spouse to attend a few of the counseling sessions in order to help them break away from any codependent thinking and behaviors.
6) There is no “Little Blue Pill” to resolve the issues associated with sexual addiction. Sexual addiction damages a person’s heart, thoughts, feelings/emotions, choices, body behaviors and a person’s relationships. Often sexual addiction starts with simple curiosity and then starts to develop "root system" that penetrates every area of a person's life. Other times sexual addiction, like other addictions, becomes a way to medicate deep wounds in a person's life. Childhood and Youth are fertile ground for this addiction. Therefore, it is unrealistic to believe or expect that a person can break this addiction by pure will power, magical thinking, or by spiritual rituals and promises. The process of breaking and recovering from a sexual addiction often takes around five years. The first two years are the hardest, which is why counseling is so important, while the next three years are difficult but empowering and fulfilling.
7) Sometimes the client will have an unhealthy relationship with GOD. Sometimes the client will be locked into a very rigid “black or white” / “all or nothing” / “perfect” thinking pattern that puts GOD in a box where He can be controlled and manipulated. Or, at the other extreme, GOD is not wanted or needed for a person’s recovery. The client is either the “master of their fate” or someone else is to blame for their troubles. In either case, the addict tends to live in the extremes when it comes to faith and their relationship with GOD. And yet the addict needs to come to a place of balance - where they can love and trust GOD in spite of their pain. They need to learn how to be an ADULT who are responsible for their own heart, thoughts, feelings, choices, behaviors and relationships. My hope is that the client can break free from the chains of addictions and find a place of balance and health where they can know and love GOD.
For more information about this subject and/or to sign up for individual or couples counseling please go to the "Contact Page" and give me some basic information about how I might best help you, your marriage and/or your family.
Other Related Issues...
Along with sexual addiction, there are a number of other sex related addictions and problems that couples struggle with....
Love Addiction is a very difficult problem where one of the spouses has deep issues of abandonment which causes them to be extremely needy, jealous and unaware of their spouse’s personal boundaries. They tend to want to enmesh with their spouse, having a fear of being alone and becoming a healthy individual. Boundaries are often crossed and the spouse gets smothered to a point that they have to separate in order to survive.
Sexual Anorexia is often thought of as the opposite of sexual addiction - and in many ways it is!
Sexual Anorexia is the terror and dread of sex. Often the person has experienced sexual trauma, abuse and/or extreme shame over an event or a series of events. These experiences are often treasured and protected. They become part of the person’s identity and purpose. Sometimes the person does not want to let go of these events even when it is damaging their love relationship with their spouse.
A No-sex Marriage does not mean total abstinence, but that sex occurs less than 10 times a year. Approximately 20 percent (one in five) of married couples have a no-sex relationship.
A Low-sex Marriage means being sexual less than every other week (i.e., less than 25 times a year). An additional 15 percent of married couples have a low-sex relationship. Rekindling Desire McCarthy, Emily; Barry W. McCarthy
Codependency is not something to be taken lightly. Often addicts either look for people/spouses who will take care of them while enabling their addiction and bad behaviors. OR sometimes addicts look for people/spouses that they can dominate, control, blame and often use/abuse so that they can shift the responsibility of their bad behaviors on to someone else while seeking to fly "under the radar" and maintaining their facade of "Master of their Universe".