3 PRIMARY SYMPTOMS OF SEX AND PORN ADDICTION

3  PRIMARY SYMPTOMS OF SEX AND PORN ADDICTION

Let’s face it, sex is a loaded concept in our culture. What's considered acceptable sexual behavior runs in extremes: on one end of the continuum are those who pretend sex doesn’t exist and only acknowledge it in the context of a marriage bed in efforts to procreate. Don’t even think about saying you enjoyed it!

On the other end, almost anything goes, sexually speaking – no rules, no boundaries, and don’t judge me.


Enter stage right: Sex Addiction.  Or, what the World Health Organization (WHO) is now calling Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD) found in the new ICD-11 (not yet released).

 
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The inclusion of CSBD into this manual is an important step forward in the recognition of sex and porn addiction or CSBD as a serious, but treatable condition. CSBD includes all the major components of sexual and porn addiction:

1) loss of control

2) obsession and preoccupation

3) continued behavior despite negative consequences.

Today we will explore these concepts further, using the ICD-11 as a guide. Along the way we will consider examples of typical clients who seek sex addiction treatment at The Trauma and Addiction Recovery Center.

 

1. Loss of Control in Sex and Porn Addiction

Having a sexual or pornography addiction means no longer being able to control acting out behaviors.Temporary periods of abstinence or control often lead the sex addict to believe they don’t need help, but they are not able to consistently predict how long this control will last. Once acting out has begun, the sex addict can’t reliably predict when they will be able to stop again. Despite promises to self and others, good intentions, or efforts to stop or cut back the sex addict always finds himself right back where he started – acting out when he didn’t want to.

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ICD-11 CSBD Loss of Control.jpg
 

Example: Jon’s wife was out of town for the week. Bored, lonely, and antsy, Jon decided to take the edge off by watching some porn. “This is just what I need to be able to fall asleep. I need a good night’s sleep because of that presentation at work tomorrow. I’ll just watch it for 30 minutes…an hour at the most.” At 3 in the morning, Jon realized he had been watching porn for over four hours and that he had to be awake at 6:00 AM. With less than three hours sleep, Jon woke up exhausted and unprepared for work, again.

 

2. Obsession or Preoccupation in Sex and Porn Addiction

Those who struggle with porn and sex addiction find that it takes up a lot of space in their lives. When not acting out, sex addicts are often thinking about when the next “fix” will be. An excessive amount of time is spent thinking about acting out, planning to act out, engaging in acting out, and/or recovering from acting out.

ICD-11 CSBD Obsession and Compulsion.pdf.jpg

Some with compulsive sexual behavior disorder find that they sexualize people, objects, and situations which are non-sexual. They might find that they are easily lost in sexual fantasy and operate with certain sexual beliefs and expectations that others don't have.

Example: Julia had been in the library for the last 2 hours to work on an important paper for school but had accomplished very little. The problem? She met a guy the night before and could not stop thinking about him. She knew where this path went: After obsessing for a while, she would eventually find him on Facebook. Initiating contact via private message, flirty and suggestive communication would follow. Julia would find herself checking her FB messenger every few minutes and spend endless hours crafting the exact right seductive responses. She would accept his invitation to meet up for sex. Afterward, she would no longer be interested in him. Feeling a twinge of frustration – she already knew she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from doing the same thing she had done dozens, if not hundreds of times – she brushed it away with the thought, “Well, I have a pretty good grade in the class. If I bomb this paper, it won’t kill me.” Packing up her things, she left the library to pursue her new obsession.

 
Obsession and Preoccupation Woman.jpg
 

3. Continued Behavior Despite Negative Consequences in Sex and Porn Addiction

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A key characteristic of sexual addiction is being sexual even when the person knows it will end badly. Non-addicts find this the most puzzling aspect of the disorder. “Why did he have that affair when he knew his wife would divorce him?” “Didn’t she know she would get fired if those pictures were found on her work computer?” “It’s like he was asking to get arrested!” Because sex and porn addicts have lost control (see #1), they are unable to stop acting out even when they know, or should know, that it will lead to negative consequences in their lives.

 
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Example: A prominent physician finishes dressing after having yet another sexual liaison with a patient. The predictable shame, fear, and despair began to set in. Why did I do this again!? He knew he was at risk for losing his job, his marriage, his license, his reputation, and potentially could face legal trouble as a result of his continued sexual behavior with patients. His office was in a small town and part of him knew that it was only a matter of time before he was found out. And once that happened his downfall would be very public, very humiliating, and very destructive. Despite this awareness, he would not be able to stop himself when the next opportunity presented itself.

Sex Addiction is Not Defined by Moral Failure

A final note about the CSBD diagnosis as described by the ICD-11: Perception of moral failure (either from other people, religious institutions, society, or from oneself) is not a defining characteristic of CSBD. Sex addicts certainly act in ways contrary to their moral values - this is a consequence of the disorder. However, simply acting against your own or another person's sexual value system does not mean sex addiction is present. For CSBD to be present, there must be loss of control, obsession and/or preoccupation, and continued behavior despite negative consequences.

A Treatable Condition - Sex and Porn Addiction Counseling and Treatment are Available

As you can see from the above examples, Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder is a devastating issue. Fortunately, Treatment Is Available and Recovery is Possible. If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors, don’t wait! Call (423) 269-7395 or contact us.