There is something so fundamental about sex that it is difficult for people to view it as potentially addictive. Many men do not want to consider their patterns with sex as addictive because recovery from addictions often means abstinence from the substance or behavior, and sexual abstinence is not thought of as a viable, long-term option.
It is only when the negative consequences of a sexual addiction continue to be present and to worsen that some men are willing to consider the possibility of addiction and search outside of self for answers and hope.
We are sexual beings, yes, but we were not meant to be thinking about sex all the time. As men, we’re wired to think about sex a great deal, but we’re not animals — we’re capable of control and context. A mind continually thinking about sex is an undisciplined mind. When your thoughts continually gravitate toward the sexual, this results in a perpetual state of sexual arousal.
In order to maintain this arousal state, some men will begin to engage in sexualized fantasy, reliving actual sexual experiences or fantasizing about potental sexual experiences. Engaging in this fantasy life of anticipated sexual fulfillment can become more satisfying than the sexual act itself, which, when compared to personalized, idealized fantasy, invariably comes up short.
Engaging in pornography is a sexual act, whether or not it results in a physical release. Pornography is part of a disordered experience because it is grounded in sexual narcissism.
One of the negative consequences of sex removed from proper boundaries is the sexualization of other people and situations. When sex becomes the paramount experience in your life, then you begin to view all of your other experiences through a sexualized filter. Sexualization occurs when every situation can result in a sexual joke, comment, or thought, when the very people you as a man were brought up to guard and protect become possible targets for gratification.
When sex becomes the primary means by which you deal with uncomfortable or painful feelings such as anger, frustration, loneliness, boredom, invalidation, or lack of self-worth, your ability to deal with those feelings in other ways become atrophied. When sex is the one tool you reach for in order to feel better, to avoid feeling worse, or even to feel nothing at all, you chain yourself to a continual need for sex, not as a physical release but as an emotional one.
Time and Energy
Thinking about, planning for, engaging in, and recovering from sex requires time and energy. This is time and energy in competition with other areas of life. When sex is given supremacy, other areas of your life will, necessarily, suffer.
Withdrawal from Activities and Relationships
As time and energy diminish because of the drain of a sexual addiction, you may find yourself reordering your priorities, saying no to so many good and valuable things is order to keep telling sex yes whenever and however it demands. You begin to withdraw from those people and things that are in the highest competition with sex. Your sexual addiction becomes a jealous, smothering lover.
The more sex is used as the anwer to emotional needs, the more your emotional stability becomes tied to sex. Whether or not you have sex, whether or not that sex is what you wanted it to be, how you feel about yourself before, during and after sex — all of that becomes the foundationg for emotional stability.
Inability to Cut Down or Stop
Counseling has not been Plan A for any of the men I’ve worked with. All of them first tried to get a handle on their sexual addiction themselves, to no avail. Each tried time periods of sexual restriction, lasting from a few days to mere hours, only to return to their behaviors with increased desperation. One of the telltale signs of sexual addiction is when you tell yourself on a regular basis you need to cut down or stop what you’re doing yet find yourself failing over and over again.
Escalation of Behavior
Some people are able to stop, to restrict, through sheer will-power, but only for a time. An untreated addict will at some point inevitably break down in resolve and return even more strenuously to past behavior. This inability to stop can often partner with a desire for increased stimulation. An active addiction is never satisfied; it requires more and different to maintain the same level of gratification.
Failure to Heed Risks and Consequences
One of the most persuasive ways to help a man understand that sex has become an addiction is to show him the severe and negative consequences he has either experienced or risked in order to continue his sexual behaviors. This can be a sobering confrontation, depending on the severity of the behaviors and the depth of the consequences.
The above is excerpted from chapter 2 in Battles Men Face: Strategies To Win the War Within by Dr. Gregory Jantz.