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Sexual Addiction--No One's Immune

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 13

Sex is a drug. Like other addictions...

* It builds tolerances to ever-growing quantities which produce ever-diminishing returns of relief.

* It produces withdrawal symptoms.

* It is an obsessive-compulsive response to trauma, loss of control, failure of coping mechanisms, etc.


"As the obsession turns to compulsion, the addict finds himself in the act of doing things he doesn’t want to do, things he has promised never to do again. It is as though he is standing outside himself, pleasing with himself not to go on, but deaf to his own cries." 1


Characteristics of Sexual Addiction

* Done in isolation

* Secretive

* Impersonalises sex

* Detachment

* Double Life—A "public" and "private" self

* Addict devoid of authentic interaction

* May have victims (children and/or adults)

* Leaves addict with greater guilt, emptiness, shame and despair.

Levels of Sexual Addiction

Level I: The self-deceiving "not that bad" things--fantasy, pornography (magazines, video, cable TV, Internet, etc.), masturbation.

Level II: Satisfying the obsessive craving—live pornography, nude dancing, affairs, fetishes, phone sex, inappropriate "accidentally on purpose" touching.

Level III: Criminal Activities—prostitution, "casual" and "intentional" voyeurism and exhibitionism.

Level IV: Severe Criminal Consequences—child molestation, sexual assault, rape.

The Addiction Cycle

1. Obsession…

"The addiction loses the ability to concentrate on daily life as his mind becomes Saturday of how he or she will obtain relief. The trigger can be anger, shame, pain, anxiety, poor-me obsession with hurts, or a from of pornography."2

2. The Hunt…

The addictive craving is driven to action.

3. Recruitment…

Identify and obtaining a "victim"—pornographic magazines, peep show, enticing unsuspecting person.

4. Gratification…

"Finding the right kind of pornography, or the right kind of partner, or the right brand of perverse sexual behavior is what fuels the addictive process from one level to the next." 2

5. Return to "Normal"…

Usually the relief/release is only temporary. Relapses are almost certain to occur.

6. Self-Justification…

Self-talk such as "No one was hurt, it was really OK, everyone does it."

7. Blame…

Scapegoats someone (parents, society, God, etc.) for the dreadful feelings instead of accepting responsibility

8. Shame…

Recognition of the shame of the addiction

9. Despair….

Finally, the pain of acting out the addiction is greater than the despair.

10. Resort to other addictions…

Healthy or unhealthy

11. Promises…

Never to do it again.

Origins of Sexual Addiction…

* Poor coping mechanisms in trauma.

"Those with poor coping mechanisms will often use sex as a means to reduce stress. They may become periodic abusers, resorting to sex only when the pressures of life are at their worst. The greater the stress and more frequently the stressors surface, [the greater likelihood that]…compulsive behavior and addiction [will speed up]….The quickest relief [of the stressors] is often seen as sexual" 3

* Self-obsession with guilt, shame, fear;

* Childhood abandonment, history of abuse;

* Dysfunctional family or origin;

* Lack of intimacy with spouse, family, friends;

* Generalized detachment and inapproachability, rigid social boundaries;

* Inability to forgive molester, and/or persistent anger.

How To Avoid/Overcome Sexual Addictions

* Commit to a long-term/lifetime recovery or support group.

* Find someone (of same sex) to whom to be accountable.

* Develop a "protection" plan to avoid sources of sexual addiction.

* Consider professional counseling for the really deep hurts.

* If possible, leave the source of trauma (It’s better to change churches than lose a ministry).

* Check for mental illnesses—clinical depression often perpetuates obsessive thoughts. (cf.

* Develop effective coping mechanisms.

* Differentiate more effectively.

* Deepen your personal spirituality and connectedness with God (e.g. Biblical Readings--Psalms, Jeremiah, et al); Scott Peck’s, Road Less Traveled Series; Chas. Stanley, Advancing Through Adversity, et al.).

* Pray for strength in weakness and the ability to "let go".

* Do anything possible to learn, understand God’s undeserved grace and forgiveness (e.g. Walther’s Law and Gospel, et al.)

Thomas F. Fischer

Outline inspired from Stephen Arterburn, "When Sex Becomes An Addiction." Full article is available from American Family Association Outreach Division, Box 2440, Tupelo, MS 38803. 1-601-844-5936

1 page 1 of "When Sex Becomes An Addiction."
2 page 4 of "When Sex Becomes An Addiction."
3 Page 5 of "When Sex Becomes An Addiction."

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:05 PM