My partner says his sexual behavior is normal – but he is hiding it and I know something is wrong. Am I crazy? What are the signs of compulsive sexual behavior disorder?
Partners of people with sexual compulsivity often come to the clinic in great distress.
They have just learned about the latest infidelity, daily Internet porn use, visits to Orchard Towers, massage parlors or KTV lounges. The images accidently left on the family computer may be shocking or alarming.
Perhaps they have discovered condoms in the person’s luggage after a business trip, unexplained expenses on their credit cards, and unexplained absences from their hotel rooms late at night when they tried to call the person. Childrens’ birthdays, graduations and family celebrations may be mysteriously abandoned for “essential” business trips.
Partners may notice strange messages or nude photos on the mobiles; or perhaps odd phone calls at night, that seem to make the person excited or embarrassed. They may come home intoxicated at 3:00 am, after a night out with colleagues, with unexplained credit cards slips in their pockets for hundreds or thousands of dollars. They may find an STI clinic report.
The person acting out will likely try to vigorously “manage” all this fallout with their partners.
They may rationalize, minimize, intellectualize, normalize – or simply lie, to explain away all this overwhelming cumulative evidence. They may “gaslight” their partner, making them think they are crazy.
And it may work…for a time.
Meanwhile partners may feel: shocked; rejected; confused; angry, even rageful; anxious; and depressed. They may even blame themselves and feel inadequate as a partner and ashamed.
They may: become irritable, angry or overly anxious with their children; stop doing things they enjoyed, stop seeing people; forego self-care and grooming; or try to become overly sexual and breach their own boundaries to save the relationship.
They may become sleepless, without appetite and lose weight – or over eat and gain weight; and they may use medication and alcohol to numb their emotional pain. They may keep getting flus and colds that refuse to go away; or chronic backaches and neck aches that make sleep or activities painful.
The shame may be crushing.
Some partners may have experienced earlier traumas in their own childhood or adulthood, in which emotional and sexual or other physical abuse, neglect and rejection were prevalent. The acting out person’s behavior may therefore trigger strong trauma reactions, and lead to bonded relationship traumas, resulting in self-harm or even attempted suicide.
How can a partner respond when they get a feeling something is not quite right?
If they can persuade the person acting out to undertake a clinical assessment, the person will be able to understand that their behavior has become a serious self-destructive compulsion, and that they need treatment.
Even if the person won’t attend therapy, the partner can take an assessment of the extent of their trauma, and the role of the person acting out. The partner can then receive sex addiction treatment, and explore the options for the family. Do they stay or go?
Promises Healthcare Pte Ltd. provides therapy for both those with compulsive sexual behavior and their partners, so that together they can find a way out of their suffering and plan a better future for their families.
“My partner’s sexual behaviour has left me devastated – should I stay or should I go?”
Many clients come to therapy wondering whether they should leave or stay, after they have discovered their partner’s infidelity, or other compulsive sexual behavior. This may include a combination of: serial affairs at work; Internet pornography; sexual massages; use of sex workers; and use of anonymous dating Apps. Excessive alcohol, drugs and workaholism may also be involved.
Even though the behavior is intolerable or very risky, and causing great suffering – there may often seem compelling reasons to stay.
Young children may be involved. If the acting out partner has been a “good enough” parent, the children will suffer greatly if they leave. Further, the burden of parenting the children alone may seem too much.
The client may worry about the family finances – that they may not be able to support themselves and their children if the partner withholds money or does not agree to split the money appropriately.
The client may have to return to their country of origin and may not be able to bring the children with them, if their partner contests this.
Leaving may cause the client great shame, particularly with their family, friends and work colleagues.
The client may fear loneliness; or may ardently fantasize that things will get back to the way they were – eventually. After all, the couple may have a long, shared history, and may have weathered many other difficulties together.
Starting with a new relationship in future may be as daunting as living alone forever.
Some clients may be so angry and resentful, that leaving may seem like the partner getting away it. Leaving may appear like giving the partner a license to continue their intolerable behavior – unchecked and unavenged. It may result in the partners frittering the family money away.
Friends and family may be unhelpful – full of directive and conflicting advice. Clients may be ashamed, or too anxious of the reaction they will receive to even share about their suffering.
If the partner is assessed for a compulsive sexual behavior disorder and subsequently undertakes recovery; and the client works in therapy on taking care of themselves; learning and growing from the experience; and improving their relationship – there may still be hope in keeping the family together.
Ultimately, both need to work on themselves and the relationship, if it is to be saved.
Do you have a persistent pattern, over 6 months or more, of being powerless over controlling intense, repetitive sexual impulses and urges, which result in repetitive sexual behaviour? Has this behaviour made your life, and the lives of loved ones, unmanageable?
As with other addictions, the disorder results in neglecting health and personal care, family, work and other responsibilities.
Typically, those with this compulsive behaviour have made numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce it – but it continues, despite severely adverse consequences.
Clinicians qualified in sex addiction treatment use validated and reliable questionnaires and detailed clinical histories to assess clients, in order to determine whether they have a sexual behaviour disorder. These clinical tools have high sensitivity in detecting the disorder.
There are also clear therapeutic protocols to assist a client into and through recovery, substantially reducing the risk of re-offending behaviour.
DO I HAVE A SEX ADDICTION? IS MY PARTNER A SEX ADDICT?
These questions become urgent when your or your loved ones’ repeated sexual behaviour cause you acute distress.
It may be that you feel empty, frustrated, anxious, depressed or ashamed by your behaviour. Or you may be a loved one who suddenly discovers their partner is sexually acting out, and you feel betrayed, angry, raging, resentful, humiliated, confused or depressed; and have nagging doubts about your own adequacy as a partner. You may be worried for your children and your family life. Your health – or your finances – may be in serious jeopardy.
Not all sexual behaviour that causes you or a loved one suffering is a sex addiction – even if the suffering is profound and long lasting, or the behaviour is considered by others “deviant” or even “risky”. However, if it amounts to an sex addiction, there is a solution in recovery, and a loved one can play an important role.
It is therefore important to know – is it an addiction? Once sexual behaviour is persistent, it sometimes becomes impossible for a person to know whether their behaviour has become compulsive, obsessive, impulsive or even dangerous or intrusive. People can become confused.
“There is a way through – and that is to take a clinical assessment and discuss the results with a professional therapist, trained in interpreting them. “
Is the behaviour continuing because they consciously choose not to change? Is it just “normal”, “natural”, “justifiable”, or “cultural”? Is it the loved ones or others who are mainly at fault, because they can’t or won’t give the sexual intimacy needed? Is it just “temporary” or “a one off”.
Is it just a product of some unusual circumstances – such as being in a new country, starting a new job, having a baby, going on business trips, or feeling bored, stressed, anxious, lonely, isolated, neglected, or depressed?
If the behaviour has been persistent for a period of time, a person may think that it is safer than it really is, or that the risks of being found out, and the consequences, are minimal, manageable and within their control.
Sometimes a person my think that their chosen sexual partners are freely consenting, or that they enjoyed the experience – but the truth is otherwise.
Sometimes a person may lie, cover up, tell half truths and keep silent about their behaviour, because they want to protect their loved ones. They may not be willing to admit to themselves or others that they mainly wish to avoid the painful consequences of their behaviour.
After a while, they may even become confused or uncertain about what the real truth is. Being persistently deceitful and living a double life, can become a crushing burden.
There are a number of assessments available online. However, some are not thorough or confidential enough, or they cause unnecessary alarm. Many do not provide a clear interpretation; and some do not provide a path towards a workable therapeutic solution.
The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) provide Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) with an anonymised, online questionnaire, called the “Sexual Dependency Inventory – 4.0”. It takes a client 2 hours or so to complete, and a confidential, detailed client report is automatically generated for the therapist to view online – and subsequently share it with the client.
The report compares the client’s responses with the responses of many thousands of other respondents, both with and without sex addiction, to gauge whether the sexual behaviour and preoccupation are likely to indicate a sex addiction.
The report provides the client and therapist with a thorough review of the client’s: sexual behaviour and preoccupations; the consequences; the possible origins of the behaviour; and the potential future course and direction of the behaviour.
The report also helps the client articulate their motivation to change their behaviour.
This report is coupled with a subsequent clinical interview session, that assesses: sexual, medical and psychiatric history; family of origin history; education and employment history; intimate and social relationships; and other information. Together, this information permits clients and the therapist to determine the next steps.
If the client’s behaviour is likely to amount to an addiction, the recovery path has been clearly mapped by the IITAP programme; and CSATs are trained and skilled in helping client’s navigate through their recovery using workbooks, videos, books, articles, and other therapeutic interventions.
The recovery path engenders great hope for those who start on it. Life gets better quickly, and keeps getting better with each recovery step that is conscientiously taken.
What causes the greatest suffering is not knowing. Am I a sex addict? Is my partner a sex addict?
Contact us today to take a free clinical assessment.
Loved ones struggle to believe that sex can be a real addiction. Isn’t it simply bad behavior and selfishness? Isn’t it just a lack of self-control? Surely serial infidelity is a moral failing and should be punished? Those suffering from compulsive sexual behavior are also confused. It’s not like drugs or alcohol – which are not things that you need.Sex is like food – we all want and need it.
Sufferers are often exasperated.
“I love my wife and my family. They are the most important part of my life. I can’t live without them. But the thought of losing them just doesn’t seem to stop me. I can’t figure out why. It’s so crazy!”
Compulsions are defined in many ways – but there is a common thread. When a person is bonded to compulsive behavior: their life is unmanageable, and they cannot stop. What does that look like for sexual compulsion?
Here is a checklist.
Is the person about to lose or have they already lost their job? Their marriage? Their children? Their health (e.g. an STD)? Their finances?
And are they still acting out anyway?
Are they isolated from their friends?
Do they want to act out rather than spend time with their spouse or children?
Do they stop hobbies and sports?
Do they lie? Cheat? Deny? Justify? Rationalize and minimize – even about the most trivial things?
Do they spend most of their time obsessing about acting out?
When they are not acting out: are they anxious? Fearful? Jumpy? Depressed? Sleepless? Restless? Angry and snappy? Distracted and distant? Aloof and tearful?
Do they appear to drink more? Smoke more? Eat more junk food? Or lose interest in eating?
Do they go back to using sex to deal with all these things?
If the answer to more than one question is “yes” – there may be a problem.
Sex addiction is as real as the suffering it causes. But there is good news! It is manageable and it is treatable. Professionals and self-groups can help. If you are suffering or know others to be suffering, there is hope. At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life, away from addiction and find renewed hope. Please contact our clinic for inquiries and consultations.