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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: How Sexual Addiction Escalates
Author: Fraser Trevor
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As with drug addiction, sex addicts generally start out with “tame” behaviors such as flirting with an old boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebo...

As with drug addiction, sex addicts generally start out with “tame” behaviors such as flirting with an old boyfriend or girlfriend on Facebook, posting a profile on a “friend finder” app, or briefly looking at porn online. Over time, the behavior is engaged in for longer intervals, and other, more intense behaviors enter the picture. In the digital age, the Internet nearly always plays a part in the development and inevitable progression of sexual addiction. This escalation can take any number of forms, the most common of which are listed below.

  • Extramarital affairs
  • Casual or anonymous sexual encounters
  • Virtual sex (via webcams, using “teledildonic” devices, or in alternate realities such as Second Life and other online sexual gaming environments)
  • Hours, sometimes even days lost to pornography and/or other forms of online sexual behavior
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse concurrent with the sexual addiction
  • Unsafe sex
  • Sex with strangers, dangerous people, or in dangerous locations
  • Exhibitionism and/or voyeurism (either online or in-person)
  • BDSM and other fetish behaviors that were not previously part of the addict’s arousal template
  • Sensual massage and prostitution (buying or selling)
  • Viewing child pornography or other illegal imagery
  • Sexual offending

Unfortunately, sexual addiction nearly always escalates in terms of time and/or content. Sooner or later these escalated sexual acting out behaviors result in profound and repeated negative life consequences. Over time, sex addicts can neglect important people (children, spouses), interests (recreation, self-care, creativity), and responsibilities (work, finances) to spend hours, sometimes even days, in a fantasy-based, emotionally elevated dissociative state. As their addictive behavior escalates, their sexual activities often start to go against preexisting values and beliefs (relationship fidelity, safe sex, not hurting others, etc.) Not surprisingly, when the acting out is finished, addicts can typically experience an overwhelming sense of guilt, shame, and remorse. At that point they will tell themselves, “This is the last time that I am going to…” Yet ultimately they are compelled to return to the same or an even more intense activity in order to simply feel OK. This downwardly spiraling cycle of shame, escalating behavior, and negative consequences is common to all forms of addiction.

Stopping the Sexual Carousel

Recovery from sexual addiction most often requires extensive counseling with a trained and licensed sexual addiction treatment specialist, coupled with or followed by group therapy and/or a 12-step program. For some people, an inpatient program such as The Ranch in Tennessee or an intensive outpatient program like the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles may be needed to jump start the process of recovery. It is important to note that sexual addiction is usually a symptom of underlying emotional and relationship concerns that will require longer-term psychotherapy and support to overcome, but this psychotherapy and support typically is successful only after the presenting behavioral issue has been eliminated.

Unfortunately, sex addicts rarely seek treatment on their own. More often than not, they are forced into seeking help by the threat of relationship separation, divorce, job loss, disease, arrest, or some other life trauma. While sex addicts are most often aware of their behavior patterns, the escalation of their addiction is subtle, intensifying (often unnoticed) over a period of time. And, like all addicts, sex addicts employ elaborate forms of denial, minimization, justification, and rationalization that help them to consciously disregard the negative consequences and continue acting out. Sadly, by the time they do seek treatment, most sex addicts end up wishing they had asked for and accepted assistance long before they actually did.

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