The first thing I need to say about this subject is that I am NOT a therapist and, therefore, not able to diagnose anyone of anything – except for myself and my kids, obviously. Truly though – I can’t.
The second thing is that sex addiction is not even a diagnosis any longer. A few years ago, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) determined that there was not sufficient empirical evidence to support sex addiction being its own diagnosis and it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The APA has defined an addiction as involving a substance rather than a desired feeling.
I have no doubt that you may have wondered whether sex addiction is a real thing yourself.
As I already mentioned, I am not a therapist, but I can tell you in the community of caregivers (therapists, coaches, spiritual directors) that work with sex addicts and their partners and families, sex addiction is very real and there is definitely a protocol for treatment. If you suspect that your husband is a sex addict, I urge to you find trained professionals to assess the situation as soon as possible.
If you are suspicious but not certain, here are some general characteristics to keep in mind.
First, the key word to remember is compulsive. A person with a sex addiction will exhibit one more sexual behaviors that they cannot manage or control. These are accompanied by persistent sexual thoughts that interfere with their ability to work, maintain relationships, and complete their daily activities.
Second, according to this article, sex addiction will also include the following:
Repetitive sexual activities that become a central focus of the person’s life, to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities, and responsibilities
Numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce the repetitive sexual behavior
Continued repetitive sexual behavior despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it
A pattern of failure to control intense sexual impulses or urges and the resulting repetitive sexual behavior over an extended period, for example, 6 months
Persistent behaviors that cause marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, and occupational functioning
Does this sound familiar to you yet? Keep in mind that sex addiction can manifest in many different compulsive, sexual behaviors and are specific to each case.
However, a short list of behaviors can include compulsive masturbation, multiple affairs and/or one-night stands, persistent use of pornography (despite you begging him not to), virtual/online sex and sex workers. Voyeurism and exhibitionism are other ways this debilitating disease can take form.
I want to add that there is nothing inherently wrong with masturbation and, under normal circumstances, it is a healthy expression of one’s sexuality. Even pornography can have its place as long as the viewing of it is consensual to both spouses.
The important thing to take note of here is the word healthy and the word consensual. Compulsive masturbation and the use of pornography to the detriment of your marriage and even consequences in other areas of his life, are not healthy or consensual. In other words:
If your husband’s compulsive, sexual behavior is a problem for you, then it is a problem.
Also, I would urge you to trust your intuition until it’s proven wrong. If your gut is telling you that there is a problem, then pay attention to that! If your husband tries to convince you that you are over-reacting, or a prude or just plain crazy, that’s called gaslighting and it is a form of emotional abuse.
It is also probably why you are having such a hard time trusting yourself right now. Sex addiction and gaslighting go hand in hand.
Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling just a tad dissociated right now. If you’re wondering what the heck that means, it means that I feel just a little bit floaty and my head is a little bit fuzzy and I’ve kind of left my body – just a little bit. Does that make sense? Have you noticed this sensation before? It is a common trauma response and anytime it happens, do the following:
Take some deep breaths. Feel your feet on the floor. Remind yourself that you are safe.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’d sure love for you to check out my new website! You can download your free guidebook to Surviving His Sex Addiction there and even book a free consultation with me so that we can sort through all those questions you have.
Until then, keep your chin up. And remember that you’re not crazy. You are a normal girl in a crazy-making situation. It will get better – once you have the right support.