According to studies conducted on sexual addictions in the United States nearly 12 million people have an active addiction. Due to the accessibility of sexual material available on the Internet, cable television and videos, these numbers are increasing. Despite common misunderstandings, this addiction is not simply about “too much sex”, or “wanting sex all the time”. Sexual addiction is a serious and growing problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one’s self or others.

Like most addictions, sexual behaviors continue despite sincere and persistent efforts to stop or limit one’s activities. Unfortunately, many people still do not believe sexual addiction is a “real addiction” as there are no chemicals involved or abused. However, the body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters during sex that produce the same chemical “high” as drugs or alcohol.

To the surprise of many, most people suffering from a genuine sexual addiction are not being selfish, uncaring, or are trying to deliberately hurt their partner, sexual additions like most addictions is a maladaptive way of managing and coping with stress. Often, many sexual addicts have a background of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and/or neglect, and family histories sprinkled with numerous addictions.

As a result of the stigma and shame associated with sexual behaviors, many people do not believe or acknowledge the existence of the addiction itself. Only recently sexual addiction has been acknowledged by those caught in its grasp or by treatment professionals. When one partner in a marriage or relationship is a sexual addict, both partners and the relationship will suffer.

The damage to the partnership and the relationship is further exacerbated when there are other addictions present in the relationship or other existing issues. The extent to which each partner is negatively impacted by the sexual addicts’ behavior and impulsivity varies, depending on the type of addiction, how long it has been present, whether it has progressed to more blatant and potentially serious behavior, whether or not there are children in the family. If one party has a sexual addiction, it is already enough to seriously disrupt the partnership or family unit. Without treatment, the sexual addict will only get worse. So, too, will the relationship.

Charlotte & Julian

Charlotte & Julian have been married for 3 years, they have a 1-year-old daughter named Amber. To those on the outside looking in both Charlotte & Julian look like the perfect couple, they both have great careers, a lovely home, and a new baby. What most people can’t see is Charlotte’s unhappiness and anxiety. For the last 2 months Charlotte has been sleeping with multiple men at her advertising firm. Initially it started out as harmless flirtations with her boss, but quickly escalated to kissing, petting, and other sexual acts.

After several trysts with her boss, he decided to end the affair out of fear of his wife finding out. Charlotte’s then proceeded to engage in affairs with other partners, agents, clerks, etc. Charlotte never considered she may have a sexual addiction, but attributed her behavior to having a large drive.

Recently, Charlotte has been experiencing challenges at work, she has become internally preoccupied with images of sex, seeking sex, and ensuring she always had a “stash” of willing participants. Charlotte’s recent change in behavior has not been lost on her husband Julian. He has questioned Charlotte about her forgetfulness, distractions, late nights, suspicious evening phone calls, etc., but she insists her increasing work demands has led to her distraction, late nights, and inattentiveness. He reminded Charlotte, she has been recently forgetting to go grocery shopping (which was a task alternated weekly between the couple), burned dinner several times, was too tired to play with their daughter, or feed their daughter at times.

One morning Charlotte arrived early to work to prepare for a presentation she had neglected when she was approached by Leo, one of the clerks she was sleeping with. Leo greeted Charlotte with a sly smile and began to speak quickly, unsure of what Leo was saying Charlotte asked him repeat himself. At this point Leo, reiterated to Charlotte what he had said to her earlier, he needed money to pay off a “large bill”. Appearing confused, Charlotte asked Leo how he intended to raise the money for this bill, when he sharply responded he wanted her to give him the money for this “bill”, and she needed to do so before the end of the week. Leo assured Charlotte if she did not give him the money he would reach out to her husband, informing him of the affair.

Anxiety, regret, and fear consumed Charlotte’s day, she was in a dreamlike state unable to concentrate. Charlotte feeling increased anxiety and fear, began to engage in familiar behaviors used to cope with stressors and anxiety. After work Charlotte sitting in her car a few blocks away from her home began to have sexual relations with a male clerk from her work. Charlotte having lost track of time didn’t realize her husband would be on his way home shortly. Seeing his wife’s tan car parked on the side of the road, Julian worried his wife might have been experiencing car trouble. Slowing down he approach the car, stopped and peered into the window.

Contributing Author: Terri Allen, Director of Nursing Services.