Patrick Carnes says sexaholism transcend personality, gender, and socio-economic status and lists three levels of addiction in his book, "Out of the Shadows."
Given the large numbers of people who ruin their lives and careers with sexual behaviors they can no longer control. Given the media’s daily reports about new cases of sexual compulsiveness. Given that there is a 12 Step program called Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) all over the world for sexaholics. Why are we reluctance to speak openly about it? Some groups argue that sexaholism does not exist. A case in point—sexaholism is not listed in The American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual (DSM IV-R) for mental disorders.
What is sexaholism? Patrick Carnes, Ph.D, in his book, Out of the Shadows, defines sexual addiction as having a pathological relationship with sex and using it as a mood altering drug.
Susan Forward, Ph.D., in her book, Men Who Hate Woman and the Woman Who Love Them, says "Sexaholism is a pattern in which the person demands that their partner be available to them for sex two or more times a day, as a matter of course." She says this compulsive pattern of driven, insatiable sexuality is a serious emotional disorder.
She stated that sex is used to alleviate fear and tension, the way some people use drugs and alcohol—it narcotizes deep-seated anxieties. Instead of handling problems in a mature direct manner, anxieties are temporarily deadened with sex.
Barbara DeAngelis, Ph.D., in her book, "Are You The One For Me"? says it is easy, at first, to mistake your partners sexual addiction for sexual interest in you. However, the partner will eventually feel like an object that exists only for sexual release. The sexual contact has little to do with the person.
Many sex addicts become so proficient in their seductive techniques they keep their partners sexually stimulated. However, their partners eventually complain that they no longer feel they own or control their bodies.
Forward says some partners acquiesce to the addict’s demands because sexual contact creates an atmosphere of calm and receptivity. If a partner protests the frequency they may be called frigid or repressed, and accused of withholding and not really caring about them.
DeAngelis says, "I've had so many woman ask me if I thought there was something wrong with them because they minded the fact that their partners wanted sex three times a day. In each case, I would reassure the women that, no, there was nothing wrong with them, but there was something wrong with your mate. The sighs of relief I heard were unbelievable."
Carnes says sexaholism transcend personality, gender, and socio-economic status and lists three levels of addictions. Level one involves sexual behaviors that are destructive to the individual and their partners but they do not violate any laws. They may participate in obsessive masturbation or obsessive sex with a partner or partners. They may also have dangerous or obsessive relationships with pornography, prostitution or homosexuals.
Level two involves exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, and indecent liberties. The public usually views this level as pathetic and sick but harmless.
A level three addiction involves child molestation, incest, and rape and usually involves public outrage. The public often sees them as sub-human and beyond help.
Carnes says the addicts experience progresses through a four part cycle. The cycle involves preoccupation, ritualization, compulsive sexual behavior and despair.
The preoccupation stage involves a trance like mood where the addict becomes obsessed with the search for sexual stimulation. Ritualization is the special routines that add arousal and excitement. The inability to control or stop the compulsive sexual behavior leads to despair. Sex addicts become hostages of their preoccupations. The conscious or unconscious despair results in a let down and sense of failure at not living up to their resolution to stop. To stop the despair the addict will start the cycle again.
The symptoms of sexaholism include a relationship with sex that becomes more important than family, friends and work. The addict often progresses to frequent destructive sexual encounters to feel normal and their sexual mood altering "experience" becomes central to their lives. The addict often confuses nurturing with sex and support, care, affirmations and love are all sexualized.
Carnes says the addicts core belief and self-image are faulty. Addicts, usually do not perceive themselves as worthwhile. They believe sex is their most important need. The desperate struggle around sexual impulsivity confirms their feelings of inadequacy and failure. Some addicts appear grandiose and full of exaggerated self-importance to create a front of "normalcy" and hide their addiction and poor self-esteem. The addict’s family and friends often become angry and frustrated with their "egocentricity" and insensitivity to others. Addicts often create an image of being in charge of life and in no need of help. Since guilt and remorse cannot be expressed the addict may become progressively more isolated and unreachable as they close off their vulnerability.
Carnes states that since the addict feels unloved and unlovable they have little confidence in the love of others and become calculating, manipulative and ruthless. The addict begins to believe rules and laws are made for people who are lovable. The addicts rage about unmet needs in the past prevents the possibility of expressing needs now because they anticipate being rejected. Addicts appear to not want or need anything. They are purposely unclear about their intentions in relationship and are seductive in their behavior. The addict may not express that they need to be affirmed or cared for so they do not risk rejection. Some addicts make extensive efforts to show how respectable and law-abiding they are. Cover-ups, lies, and deceptions are made to conceal personal sexual behavior. They also have a high need to control all situations in an effort to guarantee their sexual supply and ensure all possible sexual opportunities. Their sexual obsession pervades their life style and behavior.
To get help Carnes recommends SA's 12 Step Program. He says the Program helps the addict to, "separate themselves as individuals from their addiction which, as a powerful illness, is destroying their lives. By admitting the addictions power, hope emerges from connecting with others and Higher Power. The fellowship of the Program surrounds participants with people who have suffered in the same way. They no longer feel unique. They trust and are trusted with personal secrets."
Carnes states that the Program gives the addict the opportunity to assess their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to take stock of their own values and behavior. The addicts vulnerability allows them the hope of depending on others outside the Program. They discover the fundamental human process for restoring relationships through amends and forgiveness. They have the opportunity to develop a more realistic sense of their strengths and weaknesses, of their personal worth, and the limits of their impact on others. In time the addict can learn to take resistibility for their behavior and it will be more congruent with their values.
Carnes says the Program teaches the addict that they do not need the addiction to survive, but will need the Program because of the addictions power. When the addict recognizes how powerless and unmanageable they are over their addiction, they start to live a life which focuses on human relationships as opposed to sex.
Carnes points out how members of the Program continue to learn about the process through teaching others. He says addicts can become responsive and responsible members of the human community.
THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
ADAPTED FOR SEXUAL ADDICTS
- We admitted we were powerless over our sexual addiction-that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We were are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The following should be included DSM-IV-R
SEXUAL ADDICTION (SEXAHOLISM)
000.00 HYPERACTIVE SEXUAL DESIRE DISORDER
Persistent or recurrent obsessions with sexual fantasies, desires and sexual activities.
The inability to respect and accept the boundaries and limits of their partners or others.
Having a pathological relationship with sex and using it as a mood altering drug.
Frequent and destructive sexual activity with one or more partners who exist only as something to be used.
Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced due to sexual preoccupations and activities.
Marked need to deny, ignore, minimize problems and consequences as a result of their pathological relationship with sex.
A pattern in which the person demands that their partner be available to them for sex two or more times a day, as a matter of course.
When a partner (or partners) feel victimized by the others sexuality.