As therapists, we increasingly see clients who struggle with pornography and sexual compulsive behavior in our practice. This section of salifeline.org is meant to be a resource and information hub for those who consider themselves sexual addiction clinicians and those who are general practitioners. Although each of us has different specialties, it is important to know what pornography and sexual addiction is and looks like, who is influenced within the client’s system, and what recovery will take.
What does pornography and sexual addiction look like?
Although Hypersexual Disorder is not a recognized disorder in the DSM 5, many clinicians find that compulsive sexual behavior is a common struggle of their clients. Those who suffer from pornography or sexual addiction (as it is called in layman’s terms) have the following symptoms, very similar to the symptoms of those who struggle with substance abuse:
- Compulsivity – The loss of control over a behavior. An addict continues in the behavior or relationship despite repeated attempts to stop.
- Continuation despite negative consequences.
- Preoccupation or obsession.
- Tolerance – More of the same behavior or an escalation of progressive behaviors is required to get the same “high” (Patrick Carnes).
Some common dual-emotional and behavioral struggles:
- Emotional distancing or disconnect
- Victim attitude (the whole world is against me)
- Anger management problems and impatience
- Compulsive lying, hiding, minimizing, justification
- Domestic violence
- Substance abuse, compulsive shopping, gambling, eating etc.
Addiction is formed in three stages:
- Pleasure – use for enjoyment, periodic, non-compulsive
- Coping – use to heal emotional wounds, periodic, non-compulsive
- Entrapment – use despite the individual’s desires, regular and patterned, compulsive (Butler, 2009).
If the individual you are assessing is in the entrapment phase and you are not a qualified sexual addictions therapist, it would be best that you refer this client. Clients can take this free assessment to determine if addiction exists.
Who else is influenced and how do I help them?
The spouse or companion of the individual struggling with addiction will almost always experience betrayal trauma that presents similarly to PTSD. Spouses need their own recovery and healing. There are specialists who work with spouses in trauma. Depending on the circumstance, it may be best for you to refer to such specialists.
Parents, close family members, and friends will be influenced by the addict’s outward behaviors and attitudes. Parents experience hurt and loss. These individuals may need clinical support as well.
What does recovery take?
Recovery from true sexual addiction takes engaging with a qualified sexual addiction’s therapist, 12-step recovery work, spiritual guidance and spiritual work, and education. Click on the petals in the top bar for more information.