There is a predictable cycle in the sexual addiction experience that is important to understand as it helps people self-identify as having a sexual addiction problem, and also points towards ways out of addiction. Defensive operations like denial, minimizing, rationalizing and projecting blame – as in “everyone does this,” “it’s not hurting anyone,” “he/she is making me behave this way,” etc… – are main facilitators of sexual addiction (and addiction in general) which enable the behavior to continue. Seeing the addiction cycle as descriptive of one’s own behavior is a critical step away from denial and towards recovery from sexual addiction
The addiction cycle is circular and repetitive. Elements of the addiction cycle:
- Sexual “acting out” often involving pornography use, and escalations of that behavior, like engaging in phone sex or seeing escorts. The behavior has an out of control and compulsive aspect that is usually denied by the addict.
- At some point in the acting out, misgivings about the behavior arise – it could be the result of external pressure from a partner, greater clarity about the risks involved in the behavior, or internal feeling states like anxiety and shame. In the face of negative consequences, an intention to stop arises.
- The effort to stop relies mainly on will power, called “white knuckling” in 12 step language, rather than addressing in a healthy way the underlying pressures that trigger the behavior.
- After a period of abstinence, which may last hours, days, or months, internal pressures increase and “stinking thinking” arises which distorts reality with thoughts like “I haven’t looked at porn in months. I don’t really have a problem. I will just go online for a few minutes.” A dramatic or more often gradual slide back into the old behaviors occurs.
- Preoccupation with acting out and planning emerge in thinking patterns that lead to a repetition of the sexual acting out phase of the cycle.
If you recognize yourself or someone else in this pattern, contact us for a confidential consultation to learn more about sexual addiction and the recovery process. Find out how to have a richer, much more satisfying and healthier life experience.