Sex addiction can go by many names including: Hypersexuality, Compulsive Sexual Behavior, and Sexual Compulsivity.
While some people are immediately repulsed at the idea they might be a sex addict, for others it is freeing because the term finally explains why they continue to return to destructive, compulsive, sometimes dangerous behaviors in spite of sincere promises to stop.
Approximately 5 to 6% of the population of the United States has some form of sexual compulsivity (Coleman 1992, Schaffer & Zimmerman, 1990). That means between 14,786,000 and 17,744,000 persons in the US struggle with some form of compulsive sexual behavior. To get an idea how that stacks up against other disorders, consider the prevalence of some commonly observed disorders.
In other words, there are probably as many sex addicts in the US as all of these disorders combined! Or to look at it another way, there are as many persons struggling with compulsive sexual behavior in the US as there are in the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston combined!
Sex addiction can affect people regardless of education, race, economic status, religion, or occupation. Factors contributing to sex addiction may include:
Behaviors by Addiction Level
Compulsive sexual behavior is commonly broken down into three levels. Some persons who meet the criteria for diagnosis of sex addiction have behaviors that are confined to one level. While sex addiction is generally progressive, their behaviors may have begun at that level and never progressed beyond that level. Still others find that their acting out behaviors started out as level one behaviors and then escalated to level two or level three behaviors.
In the background of sex addicts, there is frequently a history of abuse:
For every three men who are sex addicts, there is one woman who is a sex addict.
Children who have their needs met inconsistently or not at all will generally make two decisions about what to do about their needs. One is, "I'll take care of them myself, and I don't need anyone but myself." This decision leads to the solo activities like masturbation and cybersex.
The other decision is, "If I'm going to relate to other people, it's only going to be in terms of their body parts—their genitals, their breasts, their legs, etc., but I will not relate to them as persons. I'll relate to parts of clothing, or videos, where people aren't real, because every time people get into the drama they mess it up, and I want this to be perfect. I want to stay in the trance exactly as I want it, and when I want it." (Dr. Jennifer Schneider, 2005)
But childhood trauma doesn't adequately explain the origin of sex addiction for every addict. There are some sex addicts that have not experienced any childhood abuse or abandonment. Also there is also a belief by researchers that some people who are sex addicts would never have gotten addicted if it were not for the powerful draw of the Internet.
Regardless of the cause, sex addiction can threaten relationships, occupation, and health. It can be a life-threatening condition.
Have you gotten the idea something is going on behind your back that your partner/spouse does not want you to know? Are you continually finding clues that your partner may be involved in sexual behavior outside of your marriage?
Diagnosis of sex addiction should be left to a health care professional. However, partners/spouses sometimes observe behaviors that are unusual and may lead them to believe their partner is hiding something.
Is My Partner Cheating?
The following are some of the things that may be present when a person is involved in compulsive sexual behavior or may be a sex addict. Important: The presence of any one or even several of these items is not proof your partner is a sex addict. Diagnosis of sex addiction should be deferred to a health care professional. Treatment for sex addiction should be referred to a health care professional who has expertise in dealing with sex addiction.
Is There Hope for Our Marriage?
Yes there is hope! But that is dependent on both you and your husband being willing to do some very difficult work. He will have to work on his sex addiction. You will need to work on boundaries and recovering from the trauma that has been caused by his acting out. And together, you will need to work on your marriage.
One way of addressing all three of these is to participate in a Three-Day Intensive. This is not a three-day cure. But it is good way to get a jumpstart on recovery and lay a foundation upon which your marriage can be rebuilt. You may read more about Three-Day Intensives on our website or you may call us at (704) 464-0065.
Is it my Fault?
If your partner is a sex addict, rest assured that you did not cause it. Not only did you not cause it but you cannot change him and you cannot cure him. Your focus needs to be on yourself, on getting healthy, and learning to set healthy boundaries.
If My Partner Is a Sex Addict, What Do I Do?
Get help yourself
Consider a Three Day Intensive for you and your partner. These have proven to be a good way for couples to begin the road to recovery. Set some good boundaries for what is acceptable in your relationship—and be ready to back them up!
Before you assume there is no hope, it is important to realize that many people find that after recovery relationships/marriages are strengthened and, in some cases, are better than they have ever been. If a person is being physically abused, separation is certainly in order. In some cases where verbal abuse is present, separation is also indicated. (Your therapist will help you explore the option that is appropriate for you.)
Learning about Sex Addiction
One of the first important steps you can take is to learn as much as you can about sex addiction. In addition to this website, there are a number of good books that can help you learn more about sex addiction. A good place to begin is in reading Hope & Freedom for Sexual Addicts and Their Partners.