First Steps To Overcoming Sex Addiction
When you first learn how to walk, there are two important stages: propulsion and balance. You take action and ensure the action continues.
Taking the first steps as a sex addict is like learning how to walk. You’re motionless at first. You consider how to take action. You accept that you need to move. You put one foot in front of the other.
Decades ago, we learned how to do this. Now, you’ll reapply that process.
We’ll walk through the first steps in this article.
Denial Will Stand In The Way Of Forward Momentum
The first part of problem solving is admitting that there is one. Every 12-step program starts with addressing denial and admitting there’s an issue.
The Mayo Clinic defines denial pretty well:
“Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations — but staying in denial can interfere with treatment or your ability to tackle challenges.”
Those in denial will be blocked by three things: not acknowledging a difficult situation, not accepting the facts of a problem, and downplaying consequences.
Addicts are at a stand-still until denial is addressed. That’s why this is the first consideration when figuring out what to do as a sex addict.
Once denial has been taken care of, addicts can begin to consider making progress.
Contemplation Will Help You Figure Out Where To Go
Information is a good treatment for denial or uncertainty. It’ll clear the air, so to speak, and set you on the right path. Education is a great starting point once there’s an understanding that something’s not right, which begs the question:
What are the warning signs that might indicate a sex addiction?
There are a few areas to consider.
- Frequent sex with anonymous partners or prostitutes
- Multiple sexual partners or extramarital affairs
- The amount of sexually explicit content you’re viewing
- Avoiding emotional attachments in sexual relationships
- Being fixated on an unattainable sex partner
- Excessive masturbation
- Recurring, intense, unavoidable sexual urges, behaviors, or actions
- Impact on relationships and personal development due to sexual fantasies or behavior
Dr. Patrick Carnes developed the acronym PATHOS to help screen potential sex addicts. It asks six questions:
- Preoccupied: Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?
- Ashamed: Do you hide some of your sexual behavior from others?
- Treatment: Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like?
- Hurt: Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?
- Out of control: Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire?
- Sad: When you have sex, do you feel depressed afterwards?
Perhaps those questions yielded some hard answers. There are more formal tests that will help you solidify this newfound realization.
Acceptance Will Be Your First Stride
If you answered yes to the questions above, consider taking the sexual addiction screening test (SAST). The SAST was developed to identify sexually compulsive behavior.
Sometimes a formal procedure will help kick people out of contemplation and into acceptance, which is the next process to go through.
It can be quick and deliberate for some to determine whether their actions qualify as sex addiction, and therefore accept them. For others, before acceptance happens there may need to be some more awareness of just what types of problematic sexual behavior can occur.
The researcher who developed PATHOS wrote, “By examining the psychological motivation for addiction, there appear to be three basic categories: arousal addictions that stimulate and thrill; satiation addictions that ease tension and discomfort; and fantasy addictions that escape mundane reality. Sexual behavior has the capacity to span all three of these types of addiction.”
Benjamin Franklin once said that the things which hurt, instruct. It might be a painful process, but the addict must accept their condition in order to gain momentum for the next step.
Seeking Support Will Be What Keeps You On Your Feet
Seek others — treatment, groups, counseling, therapy, outpatient help, online professional aid, the list goes on.
Individual therapy is extraordinarily helpful. It’ll start with an assessment that gathers an understanding of the conditions that a patient may be dealing with, and will yield a therapy plan unique to the situation. There will be goals and strategies that come from it. More importantly, over time the therapist and patient will develop trust and healing will move faster.
Group therapy may feel strange at first, but the addict will have a forum to tell their story. They’ll hear others’ stories and realize that they’re not alone and that what they’re going through isn’t shameful. Sustaining contact over time with group counseling will reinforce personal accountability and commitment to stay the course.
The problem will not go away overnight. It takes time and determination. Seeking the support of others will help when you feel like you may stumble or fall.