Between sex addict and sociopath?

I asked my counselor about this. My wife and I often discuss it. I have yet to find a satisfying answer. Here’s the question: Is it possible to commit extreme serial adultery for years while being neither a sex addict nor a sociopath? My wife fears the answer is negative. I believe the answer is affirmative. Tell me whether you agree.

Counselors I’ve tried to ask have either answered affirmative or demurred. When I asked B this question, she asked whether I ever hurt animals or wanted to do so. I told her honestly that I have always been very kind, gentle, and even empathetic to animals. She implied that sociopaths are sadistic to animals. Even the thought shocked and repulsed me. And, no, I’ve never been anything but repulsed by the idea of tormenting humans too.

I believe there are a very few people out there who might have developed some chemical dependency on the endorphins released by sex or a compulsive habit of seeking sex. I doubt that a chemical dependency on one’s own endorphins can not be overcome with serious motivation and commitment to do so. I doubt that compulsive habits can not be overcome with serious commitment and motivation to do so.

I believe many people who say they are sex addicts are not. They are just selfish and amoral. I believe I was not a sex addict. I was just very selfish and amoral. I told myself I deserved to behave that way. And, I got away with it for years.

So, is someone that selfish and amoral, necessarily, a sociopath? I just took a test at illnessquiz.com. I scored 30 percent, not a sociopath. I took a similar test at psymed.info and scored 18, not a sociopath. I took the test for narcissism, using the same website. I scored 17, not a narcissist. Then I began to question the efficacy of these tests. The number of questions per test is small, and the answers can vary from year to year.

I looked back to definitions. theravive.com said:

“According to the DSM-5, there are four diagnostic criterion, of which Criterion A has seven sub-features.

A. Disregard for and violation of others rights since age 15, as indicated by one of the seven sub features:

Failure to obey laws and norms by engaging in behavior which results in criminal arrest, or would warrant criminal arrest

Lying, deception, and manipulation, for profit tor self-amusement,

Impulsive behavior

Irritability and aggression, manifested as frequently assaults others, or engages in fighting

Blatantly disregards safety of self and others,

A pattern of irresponsibility and

Lack of remorse for actions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

The other diagnostic Criterion are:

B. The person is at least age 18,

C. Conduct disorder was present by history before age 15

D. and the antisocial behavior does not occur in the context of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)”

I also found another version of the foregoing definition that said one needs to check at least three of the boxes under criterion A to be a sociopath.

Five years ago, when I was willfully engaged in lying and cheating, I think I could have checked the following, bearing in mind that they would have to have been present since before age 15:

Lying, deception, and manipulation, for profit tor self-amusement,

Impulsive behavior

A pattern of irresponsibility

Today, I have eliminated all three of those behaviors. That suggests that I was a sociopath before D-day, and that I have now grown beyond that. One article I read even said it is not uncommon for sociopaths to abandon sociopathic behavior at some point after age 40. Yes, I know, abandoning the behavior and eliminating the cause are two different things.

I still think this tracks with what I said in my last post, that I’m not recovering from some mental ailment. Rather, I am working to internalize good habits of empathy, gratitude, and perspective. I know the sex addict label is inadequate. I am also uncertain about the sociopath label. Can’t it just be that I was a selfish person and that I’m now trying to learn to be caring and grateful? Why do we need a clinical label for a problem that I increasingly view as a spiritual problem?

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11 thoughts on “Between sex addict and sociopath?

  1. Your last few posts and comments that follow are strongly focused on making sure you are not classified as a sex addict. My thought is, “why?” For the purposes of recovery, and I use that term broadly to mean getting to a healthy, spiritual lifestyle, the most accepted approach is a 12-step program that was designed to get a person out of self, to have a spiritual awakening, and to develop a relationship with God, as defined by each individual. If that is the way forward for an addict, then why the reluctance to be categorized as such?
    I think the answer lies in the stereotype of the term more than the actual definition and path to recovery.

    I don’t believe there is a line that is crossed that definitively classifies a person as an addict. The classification has to be a personal decision anyway, since the only way for the program to work is to begin with admission of the problem and the willingness to do whatever it takes to recover. I have enjoyed many of your posts, but these last few just seem a little too defensive.

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    1. Mike, call me defensive if it helps you feel better. I don’t much care whether you think I’m a defensive addict in denial, or something else. After working on my mental health and my spiritual health for over four years now, I have learned a few things. Maybe those lessons don’t apply to everyone. But, I apply them to myself because they are just more logical than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

      Why, may I ask, is it so important to you to use the term “addict?” And, even if that term does work for you, why should it necessarily work for me or for others?

      I don’t know what your behavioral problems were. Mine were extreme adultery and lying, for years. I chose those behaviors. I made terrible, selfish, heartless, self-centered choices. But, they were active, conscious choices. I didn’t get there by accident or via some mental ailment. I got there by being morally corrupt. If those are the words of a defensive man, so be it.

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      1. My comment wasn’t an attack. It was just a constructive observation, and you clearly got very defensive about my reply. I can see you aren’t interested in any points of view than your own, so good luck.

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        1. OK, Mike. I can’t help but ask, what is your history with sexual malfeasance and what is your track record with self-improvement?

          In my case, I spent 18 years committing adultery and lying, and spent several decades using porn and masturbating. But, in the past four years I have neither done those things nor been tempted to do them — not one iota.

          How’s your track record?

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  2. 12-step groups should not be controlling, and they should never say their way is the only way. They simply have a proven, spiritually based, method, which seems to be very similar to MC’s approach.

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  3. To be fair, there was a time about a year ago when I was reading the news on the Internet and a suggested website box said something stupid like, “25 unbelievable women.” I clicked on it. It wasn’t porn, but it could have been. I did stop myself before getting further, and it was nothing like the way I had pursued porn in the past. But, to be fair, that probably does qualify as a case of being tempted.

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  4. I think you misunderstood my original point, but I won’t continue to push it. I hope the path MC is on continues to work for you and him.

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    1. Mike, I sort of lost track of your point. Are you asking why I write about addiction despite not believing it explains every case of sexual malfeasance? Though I thought I said this many times before, I’ll reiterate. I was using Recovery Nation as a way to organize my thoughts. I ran into a unit that was all about addiction. I just had to honestly say I couldn’t make much practical use of that unit on account of my beliefs. Does that make sense? Or, was that not your question?

      Also, on this topic broadly, after doing this for four years, TL and I no longer have time for 12-step acolytes who drop in to proselytize. There are plenty of sites on the Internet for that. We’d like our site to remain a place for broader, more nuanced discussion about serial cheating.

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  5. Clinical labels, as the diagnoses based on DSM-5 are often inadequate. One of the persistent criticism the DSM receives is that there is no consensus among clinicians. This means that by visiting a few and providing identical stories, a client might get different diagnoses from different clinicians. Personality disorders have been under fire for years. The suggestions in the newest version of the DSM (DSM-5) is to eliminate some of the listings.
    In my experience I have found that people who meet symptoms of a personality disorder might actually not fit just one of them, but a few symptoms across the Cluster B listings, this means that a diagnosis of one cannot be made.

    Others feel strongly that personality disorders are describing people and their short comings or flaws, often influenced by upbringing and past trauma (apart from the more serious and harmful Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), aka psychopathy/sociopathy.

    In addition to sex addiction, many people who serial cheat in many forms have been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Here again, in my experience and despite that clients need only 5 of the nine described, it is not always so straight forward. Clinicians tend to be careful and state “traits of NPD” have been identified by client and clinician.

    More important is to let clients identify these traits and guide them to work with these.
    In general, people with traits of Personality Disorders are reluctant to take responsibility for their behaviour. This is a clear indicator. They often do not seek therapy as they blame others or drop out soon deeming their therapist as inadequate. Those are warning signs.

    Those who assume responsibility and are determined to change, might not have personality disorders as these are supposed to be traits (life long) and not states (situational). I think this gives hope to a lot of people and their families.

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  6. Thank you, Elizabeth. The only thing that really worries me about labeling myself with a personality disorder is the connotation of hopelessness and inability to change. I really do believe I have changed.

    As always, I value your nuanced understanding.

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