Those who suffer from a sex addiction typically experience what is called an addictive cycle, which includes four elements: preoccupation, ritual, sexual behavior, and despair.
Cycle of Sex Addiction #1: Preoccupation
During the preoccupation stage, a sex addict thinks ahead, making sure that he’ll have enough time and money to visit to the singles bars or clubs. He plans his day, even his week, around his hunt for sex. Many people think that “preoccupation” means having a subject on one’s mind all the time—but not necessarily. Many of those afflicted with sex addiction claim they aren’t thinking about sex constantly. However, sex addicts will use a lot of sexual humor, steer a lot of their conversations around to sexual topics, and build their lives to support sexual opportunities.
Cycle of Sex Addiction #2 Ritualization
In ritualization, sex addiction becomes a creature of habit, frequenting the same bars and clubs, always wearing the same clothes or cologne, visiting the same chat rooms or websites—and behaving in similar ways each time.
Cycle of Sex Addiction #3: Sexual Behavior
Paradoxically, by the time the sex addict finally engages in sexual behavior, he is not nearly as aroused or excited. Unconsciously, most sex addicts prefer preoccupation and ritualization to the act itself—because after achieving orgasm, they “crash” into the last stage: despair.
Cycle of Sex Addiction #4 Despair
Afterward in the sex addiction cycle, sex addicts feel the same emotional letdown that most men feel, along with incredible shame and depression over the amount of time they’ve wasted. They may have engaged in behaviors they didn’t want to experience, having said and done things that go against their values. To relieve and dispel their depression, sex addicts start the cycle over again so that they can enter the enjoyable preoccupation stage once more.
The sex addict often prefers to be online over meeting a partner for sex —or even over having a partner at all. He’ll spend hours on the Internet, viewing porn online, reading personal ads and frequenting chat rooms. His partner or relatives can be watching television in the same room while he’s enjoying cybersex on his laptop. The others will have no idea what’s going on.
Surfing for porn needn’t be associated with masturbation. For sex addiction, the chase and the hunt are more exciting than the catch. But for them, their activities can consume an entire afternoon or evening, interrupting their life. They may even leave work early to engage in these behaviors.
But above all, sex addiction blocks its sufferers from achieving deep connecting relationships. They’re deprived of being able to relate to other human beings on nonsexual levels. Time and again, studies show that the sex addiction is most effectively helped by engaging in individual, group, and/or 12-Step groups—and ideally, all three together-. Being placed in proximity to others, addicts are forced to examine their reservations and aversions to intimacy and how skillfully they relate with other people.
Tip for Healing from Sexual Addiction
Create three overlapping circles:
This category would include all the sexual behaviors you believe are healthy and which don’t cause problems for you—or anyone else.
This would include any sexual behaviors that you are unsure about, whether they’re problematic or not.
This “bull’s eye” includes those are sexual behaviors that you know are unhealthy, off limits and not in your—or anyone else’s—best interests.
These circles in sex addiction are dynamic and fluid. That is, you may assign a given a “semi-kinky” activity to your Outer circle, only to realize over time that it really belongs in your inner circle.
Recovery from sex addiction takes time. Be patient with yourself, and be aware that your partner needs patience, too.