Sex addiction can affect anyone, regardless of education, profession, location, religion, background or age. If you think you “can’t” be a sex addict, think again.
In my work as a counselor, one of the more common misconceptions I run into is the idea that sex or porn addicts have a certain “look.” Or, if not their appearance, then something about where and when they were raised, their profession, or their attitude will be a dead giveaway about their lurking problem.
Not only is this untrue, it can actually be damaging in ways most people don’t consider. For instance, if you have the image of the overcoat-wearing peeping Tom in your mind, it may prevent you from seeing an addiction in someone close to you – in the “normal guy” sitting across the table. Likewise, if you yourself feel that you are too affluent, too broke, too educated, too stylish, too young, too old, or too anything to be a sex addict, you may be ignoring warning signs that are all around you.
Addiction Can Strike Anyone, Anywhere
We humans tend to group ourselves by certain criteria: socioeconomic status, occupation, religion, geographic location, age, sexual orientation, etc. The problem is, this can lead to a false sense of security about how addiction can’t affect you.
Make no mistake, addiction can and will find anyone.
In my work, I get calls from people all over the world. I’ve spoken with addicts in the UK, Dubai, Belgium, the Ivory Coast, as well as plenty of people struggling right here in the United States. The people I speak to represent nearly every profession including lawyers, doctors, computer scientists, fire fighters, artists, skilled laborers, pastors, and monks.
I mention all of this to stress the fact that your profession, where you live, or any other criteria by which you define yourself do not exempt you from coping mechanisms – which is what addiction really is. Sex or porn addiction puts you into a fantasy world…and a euphoric state. Those things are attractive to everyone.
Sex Addiction Doesn’t Always Look like Sex
One thing that people struggle to understand is that sex, to an addict, is a lot like getting drunk would be to an alcoholic. Yes, the activity looks different, but the end result is the same: you are mentally checking out, avoiding responsibilities and stress, and inducing a euphoric state over and over again.
For many people, sex means enjoying themselves with a partner, sharing intimacy, and a deep connection. But a sex addict is looking for exactly the opposite. They want to avoid the intimacy and connection, and focus only on the physical aspect, because that is what triggers the euphoria that they are addicted to.
And here’s another startling fact: sex addicts can sometimes be much younger than you might think. A teenager who has been exposed to too much porn, who doesn’t have a happy home life, who has suffered abuse, or who simply has no guidance in how to interpret their feelings and changing bodies might turn to sexual release in times of stress. In the wrong set of circumstances, that coping mechanism can become an addiction, even before this person has had a chance to reach adulthood.
Sex Addiction Feeds on Fear, Shame, Self-Doubt, Criticism, and Anger
Negative emotions affect everyone. If a person has the wrong combination of a bad home life, no support system, fear, shame, self-doubt, criticism, and/or anger they can end up facing down a sex or porn addiction as a response to these negative emotions.
So, when I begin working with someone, the first thing I do is put some kind of handle on their behavior. An addict feels as though they are spiraling out of control, but I show them that they have the power to take back control for themselves.
This is hard work, because an addict has become so good at avoiding the topic of their addiction, being asked to face it all at once can seem overwhelming. This is why I have a system. The addictive coping strategy has been teaching them to lie, rationalize, and get lost over and over again — but nothing good has ever come from this behavior, and they know it.
Together, we work to retrain their brain and bring them to what’s always true – conscious awareness. We get them out of their stories, history, and past behavior, and bring them into a position where they can face their addiction head on. They can talk to it, look at it as a something separate from themselves, and be much more objective.
This way, when triggers come up they can recognize them.
If You Think You Know a Sex Addict…
If you have been hesitant to reach out or confront someone in your life about a possible sex addiction because you were afraid they didn’t fit the image, I am here to tell you that there is no profession, religion, hobby, bank account, education, or location that exempts a person from falling into addictive behavior.
If you’ve been in need of a wake-up call, here it is. Trust your instincts. If you think someone close to you is struggling with a sex or porn addiction, the best thing you can do right now is reach out to us for help. Together, we will formulate a plan for helping this person take back control of their life.