Tag Archives: sex addiction

Clarification, re-clarification. . .

It seems it is once again time to clarify our guiding principals. We previously had attempted to be gentle with our feelings on the subject, but find part of living authentically is to as clearly as possible say what we think. To that end, we have updated our “About” page and “Our philosophy” page to be more direct on this topic.

I really do not think this is a big surprise to most of our readers, those who have been reading for a long while anyway. But, just to be absolutely clear, here it is. We do not believe, nor ascribe to the idea that all serial cheaters are sex addicts. In fact, we wholeheartedly agree with Peggy Vaughan’s assessment that it is being over diagnosed.

A sex addict is defined as a person who is addicted to the sexual experience and its surrounding behaviors. Some people see affairs as being caused by “sexual addiction.” Even though sexual addiction includes deviant sexual behavior that has nothing to do with affairs, the term has been used to include ANY person whose sex life is destructive and out of control. Certainly there are sexual deviants in this society, but based on the large numbers of people having affairs, this is hardly “deviant” behavior.

While the term “sexual addiction” may be relevant in a few cases (perhaps 7 percent according to Patrick Carnes who coined this phrase), it’s unfortunate that many people are tempted to grasp at this simple explanation as the cause of affairs—whether or not it fits. However, despite the problem of inappropriately labeling someone who has affairs as a “sexaholic,” any genuine effort to understand and deal with this issue may be helpful to some people, especially when it involves getting more perspective of the consequences of their behavior and working to deal with the problems it has caused. Peggy Vaughan

Our site is NOT a supporter or adherent to sex addiction diagnosis and twelve-step facilitation (TSF). We do not believe this is the right model for our situation. From time-to-time, as part of our journey forward, we will discuss why we feel this is not a good fit for every serial cheater, including MC. Though we are certainly willing to look at and consider specific exercises that may come from that field of diagnosis and treatment, we believe that SA and TSF control the conversation to such a degree that other conversations are being stifled. We want our site to be a safe place for those other conversations.

And, in those fewer cases where an addiction diagnosis is appropriate, TSF is one of a multitude of options that exist in the United States for addiction treatment. Being the most vocal does not equate to proven, nor to most successful. In fact, TSF and AA actually rate 37 and 38 respectively, out 48 different examined treatment methods for addiction (in this case to alcohol) according to the comprehensive results-based research (see Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives, 3rd Edition). Or if you do not want to read the entire book, you can see the chart from their book at: http://www.behaviortherapy.com/researchdiv/whatworks.aspx

It is clear that an SA diagnosis provides the much longed for “why.” We can understand the desire to have a ready made answer for “why,” but for us it falls short in fundamental ways. We do not believe that the abdication of responsibility for self-control of past behaviors  is appropriate. Ultimately, it is up to you to realize that you are responsible for your life, for your choices and deciding the kind of person you want to be and choosing to do what it takes to be that kind of person. Additionally, we believe 12-step encourages the “SA” to continue selfish thinking at the expense of the traumatized spouse. We believe that the serial cheater must focus on empathy development, gratitude, and providing safety to the betrayed spouse (regardless of the decision to reconcile or divorce). This must be central to the healing process, not put on the back burner. If TSF is the treatment of choice, fine. But, it must NOT be mutually exclusive to empathy and safety for the betrayed. We get that self-care is an important aspect of the needed work for both cheater and betrayed. Still, it cannot and should not be at the expense of the traumatized spouse. Doing so only continues the victim mentality and selfish thinking of the “SA,” which in our view are, more often than not, the core problems needing to be addressed in the first place.

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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?

Sex addiction?

This article is worth reading twice, I think, especially the paragraph about infidelity and the last paragraph, where it talks about the role of culture.  Having lived at the seams of two cultures, I think about that often.

Why Isn’t Sex Addiction in the DSM-5?
by Mark Griffiths, PhD on March 5, 2015 in Porn Addiction Expert Blogs, Sex Addiction Expert Blogs

Sex addiction appears to be a highly controversial area among both the general public and those who work in the addiction field. Some psychologists adhere to the position that unless the behavior involves the ingestion of a psychoactive substance (e.g., alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, heroin), then it can’t really be considered an addiction. But I’m not one of them. If it were up to me, I would have given serious consideration to including sex addiction in the latest (fifth) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Given that “gambling disorder” was reclassified from a disorder of impulse control to a behavioral addiction in the DSM-5, there is now no theoretical reason why other behavioral addictions can’t be added in the years to come. So why wasn’t sex addiction included in the latest DSM-5? Here are some possible reasons:

Some researchers think that sex addiction just doesn’t exist (for moral and theoretical reasons): Many scholars have attacked the whole concept of sex addiction, saying it is a complete myth. It’s not hard to see why, as many of the claims appear to have good face validity. Many sociologists would argue that “sex addiction” is little more than a label for sexual behavior that significantly deviates from society’s norms. The most conventional attack on sex addiction is a variation on the position outlined in my introductory post to this blog (that “addiction” is a physiological condition caused by ingestion of physiological substances and must therefore be defined physiologically). There are also attacks on more moral grounds, with people saying that if excessive sexual behavior is classed as an addiction it undermines individuals’ responsibility for their behavior (although this argument could be said of almost any addiction).

The word “addiction” has become meaningless: There are also those researchers within the social sciences who claim that the everyday use of the word “addiction” has rendered the term meaningless (such as people saying that their favorite television show is “addictive viewing,” or that certain books are “addictive reading”). Related to this is that those that work in the field don’t agree on what the disorder (e.g., “sex addiction,” “sexual addiction,” “hypersexuality disorder,” “compulsive sexual behavior,” “pornography addiction,” etc.) should be called and whether it is a syndrome (i.e., a group of symptoms that consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms) or whether there are many different sub-types (pathological promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, etc.).

There is a lack of empirical evidence about sex addiction: One of the main reasons that sex addiction is not yet included in the DSM-5 is that the empirical research in the area is relatively weak. Although there has been a lot of research, there has never been any nationally representative prevalence surveys of sex addiction using validated addiction criteria, and a lot of research studies are based upon those people who turn up for treatment. Like Internet Gaming Disorder (which is now in the appendix of the DSM-5), sex addiction (or, more likely, “Hypersexual Disorder”’) will not be included as a separate mental disorder until the (i) defining features of sex addiction have been identified, (ii) reliability and validity of specific sex addiction criteria have been obtained cross-culturally, (iii) prevalence rates of sex addiction have been determined in representative epidemiological samples across the world and (iv) the etiology and associated biological features of sex addiction have been evaluated.

The term “sex addiction” is used an excuse to justify infidelity: One of the reasons why sex addiction may not be taken seriously is that the term is often used by high-profile celebrities as an excuse by those individuals who have been sexually unfaithful to their partners (e.g., Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas, David Duchovny, Russell Brand). In some of these cases, sex addiction is used to justify the individual’s serial infidelity. This is what social psychologists refer to as a “functional attribution.” For instance, the golfer Tiger Woods claimed an addiction to sex after his wife found out that he had had many sexual relationships during their marriage. If his wife had never found out, I doubt whether Woods would have claimed he was addicted to sex. I would argue that many celebrities are in a position in which they’re bombarded with sexual advances and they succumbed. But how many people wouldn’t do the same thing if they had the opportunity? It becomes a problem only when you’re discovered, when it’s in danger of harming the celebrity’s brand image.

The evidence for sex addiction is inflated by those with a vested interest: One of the real issues in the field of sex addiction is that we really have no idea of how many people genuinely experience sex addiction. Sex addiction specialists like Patrick Carnes claim that up to 6% of all adults are addicted to sex. If this was really the case I would expect there to be sex addiction clinics and self-help support groups in every major city across the world – but that isn’t the case. However, that doesn’t mean sex addiction doesn’t exist, only that the size of the problem isn’t on the scale that Carnes suggests. Coupled with this is that those therapists that treat sex addiction have a vested interest. Put simply, there are many therapists worldwide who make a living out of treating the disorder. Getting the disorder recognized by leading psychological and psychiatric organizations (e.g., American Psychiatric Association, World Health Organization) legitimizes the work of sex addiction counselors and therapists so it is not surprising when such individuals claim how widespread the disorder is.

There may of course be other reasons why sex addiction is not considered a genuine disorder. Compared to behavioral addictions like gambling disorder, the empirical evidence base is weak. There is little in the way of neurobiological research (increasingly seen as “gold standard” research when it comes to legitimizing addictions as genuine). But carrying out research on those who claim to have sex addiction can face ethical problems. For instance, is it ethical to show hard-core pornography to a self-admitted pornography addict during a brain neuroimaging experiment? Is the viewing of such material likely to stimulate and enhance the individual’s sexual urges and result in a relapse following the experiment?

There are also issues surrounding cultural norms. The normality and abnormality of sexual behavior lies on a continuum, but what is considered normal and appropriate in one culture may not be viewed similarly in another (what is often referred to by sociologists as “normative ambiguity”). Personally, I believe that sex addiction is a reality, but that it affects a small minority of individuals. However, many sex therapists claim it is on the increase, particularly because the Internet has made sexual material so easy to access. Maybe if sex addiction does eventually make it into future editions of the DSM, it will be one of the sub-categories of Internet Addiction Disorder rather than a stand-alone category.

Elements of compulsion 

Recovery Nation said consider a particular compulsive ritual, and identity the elements of it.

First, I have to identify what, for purposes of this exercise, is a relevant compulsive ritual. I have a few rituals today that I’d like to stop: picking at my cuticles, scratching inside my ears, and scratching my butt during the night. I’m not sure those are topics for this exercise. They don’t really address the greater problem: my long history of adultery and lies.

Alternatively, I could go back in time, five years ago, and consider my previous compulsive rituals: viewing porn, masturbating, and having sex with prostitutes or other abnormally available women. I am skeptical that those behaviors would be relevant for this exercise because I have not engaged in any of those behaviors for over 50 months. I believe I have extinguished those behaviors.

Just to be thorough, did I derive pleasure from those behaviors according to any of the nine common elements of sexually compulsive behavior suggested by Jon Marsh?  How about sensory stimulation, orgasm, power, or accomplishment? Yes, sadly, I did enjoy stimulation of all the senses, as well as the orgasm, sense of power or control of the situation, and feeling of accomplishment. Was I motivated by my past? Yes, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, I did use my feelings about my religious upbringing and perceived lack of experience to justify my adultery.

Was I motivated by poly-addictions? No. Did I derive pleasure from the fantasy? Maybe. I was leading a double-life, and that seems to me to be an example of being motivated by fantasy. What about danger or suspense? I did not consciously seek nor enjoy those aspects of the experience. Did I seek them subconsciously? Possibly.

Finally, it makes more sense to me to examine the compulsive behavior that was at the root of the problem for me, and the one that has haunted me more recently than 50 months ago: self-pity. Is that a compulsive behavior, for purposes of this exercise? At the very least, it was a self-destructive habit. My past was clearly the prime motivator for that behavior in me, as I thought, wrongly, that God owed me a life with more freedom and experience than what I had.

What other elements of compulsion might have been involved? Did I get any sensory stimulation or orgasm from self-pity? Definitely not. Did it give me a sense of accomplishment or address a desire for danger or suspense? No. Was it aimed at fantasy? Maybe. It was a form of escape into an alternate world, a world where wishes and beliefs were the coin of the realm, as opposed to goals, plans, commitment, and responsibility.

Was it related to any poly-addictions? At first, it was not. As I got older, I think it may have paired up with compulsive use of porn and masturbation. I eventually paired it with compulsive use of prostitutes and other abnormally available women, as soon as they became available. After D-day, I struggled for one year with compulsive smoking. I lied to hide it, perhaps because I knew it was an unhealthy compulsion. Looking back on that, I think perhaps I can say that the smoking became a poly-addiction paired with self-pity.

Did self-pity satisfy a desire for power, perhaps meaning control? Maybe. Perhaps it’s a method of self-soothing, in the absence of better habits that should build resilience. One counselor said maybe I used the self-pity to rationalize adultery and smoking. Perhaps so. But, in the context of this exercise, what did I want from self-pity? Why did I seek it, or create it? What did I think it would do for me?

It allowed me to blame something for my unhappiness or dissatisfaction, something other than my own inaction, hesitation, cowardice, and unwillingness to exert effort. In a way, I perceived self-pity as the easy way out, the path of least resistance. Why put effort and commitment into fitness and self-improvement when I could just tell myself those goals were unobtainable and that fantasy, anger, and adultery were acceptable? Why, before marriage, bravely and patiently get to know a girl, or, after marriage, make my wife a real priority as a person, when I could just give up and turn to self-pity? Why push myself to be more flexible and more persevering, when I could just blame God for life’s challenges and wallow in self-pity. Self-pity was my teddy bear, my blanket. It also became my weight, dragging me down and stopping me from reaching my full potential, giving me an excuse not to try.

Too often in life, I’ve been too lazy, afraid, or inflexible to try. So, perseverance, bravery, and flexibility may be my best antidotes to self-pity

SA or philanderer?

Just to be clear, though I think Sex Addiction (SA) is over diagnosed, I am not saying it is not a possibility. Still, as Peggy Vaughan pointed out, even Patrick Carnes said that in cases of infidelity, SA exists about 7% of the time. And, yet, it seems that the world around us has tacked on another 90% to that total. That being said, like Peggy Vaughan indicated, if a program requires stepping up and taking responsibility, addressing the issues at hand, then who cares the label, accepting help and following through is what is important.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, who does recognize SA, still had this distinction to make:

“Sexual addicts are compulsively attracted to the high and the anxiety release of sexual orgasm. But such release comes with a price — feelings of shame and worthlessness. In contrast, philanderers who perceive extramarital sex as an entitlement of gender or status take advantage of opportunities without guilt or withdrawal symptoms.”

MC fully admits it was the later. That is very scary for him to admit and for me to know, but denying that truth helps nobody. An “I deserve” attitude fueled by a desire for ego kibbles, a sense of injustice, self-pity, a victim mentality or whatever the case may be can be addressed once admitted to by the cheater. Like SA, it is also a brokenness, but one that has to do with character weaknesses and a foundation of mysogynistic ideas that must be addressed.

The success or failure of our path forward, says absolutely nothing about the success or failure of anyone else’s path forward. That does not mean we cannot each share thoughts, ideas, and exercises from our own paths that we have found useful, that others may also find useful. I think that any exercises, from any source, that helps the cheater face their demons, and the betrayed work through their trauma, can be useful. Drawing from a variety of sources, listening, sharing and helping each other, with different perspectives and exercises that can get at core issues, promises greater understanding of ourselves and each other. We look forward to those conversations.

 

 

How I really feel!

I am open to the ideas of others and try to set aside my filters to truly listen to other view points. I do know that it is not easy to do, for any of us. Still, trying to predict what filters may be in place for others, trying to write to ensure that such filters do not get in the way of understanding, is too big of an expectation to put upon myself. After all, an important component to coming through this shit storm is that authenticity needs to be the guiding star on this journey. So, with that being said, here is how I really feel.

I am not a fan of the prevalent idea in the reconciliation community that most, if not all, serial cheaters are sex addicts (SA) and that such a diagnosis, accompanied by twelve-step, is the only path forward. In MC’s case, to make such a label fit would require too broad of a definition, overshadowing specific issues that needed to be targeted and addressed, specifically his (a) victim mentality, (b) excessive desire for external validation, (c) complete inability to self-validate, (d) fundamental misogynistic attitudes about what it takes to be a man and what is acceptable and desirable in a wife, (e) obsessive focus on himself, (f) obsessive focus on his self-pity and (g) avoidance of and cowardice toward conflict.

I do also see, time and again, those in SA twelve step programs being encouraged to, or at least not being discouraged from, using their shame and addiction as a shield from the anger of their spouse, as well as the potential of being guided by people who themselves are not healthy people. SA twelve-step and being there for the betrayed spouse do not have to be mutually exclusive, and yet, too often that is exactly what happens. Still, I also recognize that there is value to be found within a group setting.

As long as it doesn’t turn into another mechanism for reinforcing self-pity, a continuation of a victim-mentality, conflict-avoidance and self-absorbed pursuits, I can see value to a group dynamic to treatment and therapy. In fact, I think a sense of community and belonging to combat the isolation of both the cheater and betrayed is THE positive element of twelve-step.

But, I am bothered by the mantra that “AN SA DIAGNOSIS AND TWELVE-STEP ARE A MUST FOR RECOVERY.”  Sex addiction and twelve-step are one path, but not the only path. Why is that so threatening to some? We too want a sense of community to combat the isolation. It is part of the reason for this blog.