Sexual Addiction: Understanding the Addiction Cycle
Unfortunately, pornography addiction takes more than it promises to give. Here is a great article on this I found by Eric Gomez, licensed counselor, regarding the nature of pornography addiction as explained by one of the world’s renown sexual addiction experts, Dr. Patrick Carnes.
Sexual Addiction is not unlike other forms of addiction. There is an addiction cycle which contributes to the continuance of unhealthy and often unwanted negative behaviors. In order to begin the process of breaking the addiction cycle, you must start by gaining a greater understanding of what this cycle looks like.
Dr. Patrick Carnes, in his book Out of the Shadows, provides a clear description of each level:
1. Preoccupation: The trance or mood wherein the addicts’ minds are completely engrossed with thoughts of sex. This ID-10060259mental state creates an obsessive search for sexual stimulation.
2. Ritualization: The addict’s own special routines that lead up to the sexual behavior. The ritual intensifies the preoccupation, adding arousal and excitement.
3. Compulsive Sexual Behavior: The actual sex act, which is the end goal of the preoccupation and ritualization. Sexual addicts are unable to control or stop this behavior.
4. Despair: The feeling of utter hopelessness addicts have about their behavior and their powerlessness (Carnes, 2001).
Once you have an understanding of what the addiction cycle is, it is equally important to determine what drives the addiction cycle itself.
Elements Contributing to Addiction
There is more to addiction than the stages listed above. There are powerful elements which contribute to the continuance of one’s addiction. Once more Dr. Carnes (2001) provides insight into what these elements are. He explains how addiction begins with an individual’s faulty belief system, which may contain inaccurate core beliefs about who they are (e.g., not perceiving themselves as a worthwhile person; not believing others would care for them if they knew about the addiction), and ultimately drive them toward the behaviors which make their reality more bearable (Carnes, 2001).
Dr. Carnes (2001) notes impaired thinking is the second key element in addiction, and is characterized by a distorted view of reality and patterns of denial (e.g., denying the problem, ignoring the problem, minimizing one’s behaviors). He continues by showing that continued patterns of denial and defensiveness contribute to the addict cutting themselves further off from the reality of their behavior, and that once denial, rationalizations, sincere delusions, and blame fully take effect the addictive cycle, the third element, is now free to work in the life of the individual. The fourth element, unmanageability, eventually catches up with the addict, and is characterized by them trying to keep their secret life from affecting their public life (Carnes, 2001).