These 10 things are not so much myths as they are distortions born of fear and misinformation. When people do not understand sex addiction treatment they may see it as suspect or threatening in some way. This is most often based on very little direct knowledge or a misunderstanding of what they have heard.
The prejudice against sex addiction treatment is much like any other prejudice. It is constantly reinforced by other people who have the same prejudice and it breeds all kinds of misinformation about the feared group. These false beliefs serve to create further distance from that group of people and solidify the prejudice.
It is a scientific fact that when we hold an extreme view, one that is all the way at one end of the attitude scale, we are very bad at making discriminations about the attitudes of people who are at the other end of the scale. We lump the “others” together in an unexamined way. And the more polarized our attitude, the more forcefully we tend to believe it.
People seeking help for sex addiction are anxious to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are often stunned when I tell them that, even for those who are diligent and motivated, the whole process takes about 3 to 5 years.
Some practitioners might say that, like alcoholism, sex addiction is a chronic condition requiring continuous treatment for life to prevent relapse. I don’t think this is always the case. As I have argued elsewhere I believe that sex addiction recovery is possible and lasting. At some point people can say “I am a recovered sex addict”.
And yet the actual process of getting to that point of solid and reliable recovery seems to take a determined effort over a period of years. There is one possible form of sex addiction which may be different, and I will discuss that further on.
The Six Stages of Sex Addiction Recovery
Manipulation can be very subtle. We often talk about how manipulative addicts are. And in particular we talk about how sex addicts manipulate others in order to avoid discovery, throw their partner off the scent and “gaslight” their partners. In gaslighting, a term taken from the 1944 movie Gaslight, a person controls another person by finding ways to make them think that they are imagining things or that they are actually delusional.
Most sex addicts, no matter what their behaviors consist in (prostitutes, anonymous sex, serial seductions, pornography etc.) will tend to sexualize other people they look at. You might say that sex addicts view the world through sex colored glasses. But this does not mean that they are voyeurs.
Voyeurism is a distinct category of behavior that characterizes certain sex addicts. And although most people who identify as sex addicts have more than one type of behavior, research by Patrick Carnes and others found that there were 10 distinguishable types or clusters of addictive behavior of which voyeurism was one.
We commonly think of our sex addict self as bad. And indeed the addict part of us does things that harm others and ourselves and that usually go against our deeply held values. We would like to distance ourselves from this part of us, to stamp it out.
In poetic language we think of the addict as a “dark passenger”. Clinically, we think of the addict behavior as a learned byproduct of early attachment injuries.
But in practice I believe that it is impossible to simply lock that evil twin in a closet or cut it out of us.
Asking a sex addict to take a polygraph seemed ludicrous to me at first. First off, it seems like something you do with a criminal, not with a patient who has come in for help with a sexually compulsive behavior.
I do not take sides on the issue of whether it is better to stay in a marriage or committed relationship with a sex addict or whether it is better to get away and start over. I think there are many valid arguments on both sides depending on the situation.
New studies in progress using the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), The Millon Clinical Inventory and the Sexual Dependency Inventory suggest that different general types of sexually addictive behavior tend to clump together with different personality types or traits. These types vary from less to more severe.
I was starting a romantic relationship a while back with a guy I liked a lot. I was talking to a friend about it and the friend said “how does he get along with your dog?” This was a striking question at the time because the guy, as nice as he seemed, didn’t relate to the dog at all! As it turned out I should have trusted my friend– and the dog.