Jennifer Thibodeau, MSW, RSW, CSAT (C) Steven Thibodeau, PhD, RSW, CSAT (C) Jackie Thibodeau, BHSc, RPC (C) website: www.LifeSTARAlberta.com
What is Sexual Addiction? “Sexual addiction is operationally defined as a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience. Sexual addicts no longer have the ability to say no or choose; they are unable to control their cycle of thinking, feeling, and acting when it comes to their sexual behaviors” (Carnes, 2001)
Criteria for Sex Addiction Patrick Carnes Loss of control Severe consequences due to sexual behavior Inability to stop despite adverse consequences Persistent pursuit of self destructive or high-risk behavior Ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior Sexual obsession and fantasy as primary coping strategy
Increasing amounts of sexual experience because the currently level of activity is no longer sufficient Severe mood changes around sexual activity Inordinate amounts of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences Neglect of important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of sexual behavior
Ten Types of Sex Addicts A total of 10 “types” of sexually compulsive behaviors emerged in the sex addicts surveyed by P. Carnes, Ph.D.
Fantasy Sex Sexually charged fantasies, relationships, and situations. Arousal depends on sexual possibility.
Seductive Role Sex Seduction of partners. Arousal is based on conquest and diminishes rapidly after initial contact.
Voyeuristic Sex Visual arousal. The use of visual stimulation to escape into obsessive trance.
Exhibitionistic Sex Attracting attention to body or sexual parts of the body. Sexual arousal stems from reaction of viewer whether shock or interest.
Paying for Sex Purchasing of sexual services. Arousal is connected to payment for sex, and with time the arousal actually becomes connected to the money itself.
Trading Sex Selling or bartering sex for power. Arousal is based on gaining control of others by using sex as leverage.
Intrusive Sex Boundary violation without discovery. Sexual arousal occurs by violating boundaries with no repercussions.
Anonymous Sex High-risk sex with unknown persons. Arousal involves no seduction or cost and is immediate.
Pain Exchange Sex Being humiliated or hurt as part of sexual arousal; or sadistic hurting or degrading another sexually, or both.
Exploitive Sex Exploitation of the vulnerable. Arousal patterns are based on target “types” of vulnerability.
Sexual Addiction Due to the wide availability of unmonitored internet use by adolescents there is a predicted tsunami of sexually addicted people ( Carnes 2010)
Truths Highly addictive Changes the Brain Destroys emotional, physical and spiritual health Negative impact in relationships Distorts healthy sexuality Promotes objectification Decreases empathy and sensitivity to others Connected to illegal activities
Prevalence of Domestic Violence One woman in six is physically or sexually abused by her husband, ex-husband or live in partner (Lawson, 1992) Rape is a significant or major form of abuse in 54% of violent marriages (AMA, 1992)
The relationship between domestic violence and sexual addiction Addictive sexual disorders are frequently associated with domestic (sexual)violence … … many of the same factors that predispose an individual to the development of an addictive or compulsive sexual disorder can also predispose one to being a participant in a violent sexual relationship (Irons, 1996)
While Carnes (1990) advises us that sexual addiction represents the antithesis of love … it is also important to note that sexual violence is often a significant feature of addictive sexual disorders.
Cycle of Violence passed from generation to generation We have been taught that sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence is often sustained and then repressed or split off during growth and development … only to affect relationships decades later.
Physical Altercations Isolated and vulnerable Efforts to reconcile difference Sexual activity as a mood- altering behaviour Such efforts are short lived Cycle of Sexual Violence in Relationships (Irons, 1996)
Progression of sexual violence Light bondage: indirect pressure to submit to unwanted sexual activity More overt coercion: may include an insistence on sexual performance Blatantly Violent sex: Sex may deteriorate into hostility, repressive bondage, human degradation, intense combat, aggravated assault, rape
It is important to recognize the degree of exploitation of power, and the use of control and aggression by the addict, so that legitimate issues of domestic violence and sexual assault can be named and explored therapeutically at the appropriate juncture.
[Sex Addict] I look back now and know that my wife was the perfect partner for me to be able to have this other life. She always wanted to believe in me. I controlled her with anger. She had been raised by a raging father, and then her stepfather sexually abused her. All I had to do was raise my voice and ask, ‘How can you doubt me after all I do for you? You should be grateful.” I’d see the shift in her eyes and she would crumble. Then I’d switch to telling her everything was okay, telling her I really loved her, and acting like I forgave her for her suspicions.
Therapeutic Strategies It is common that when an addict is confronted with his exploitation of power and control, and victimization of another, he will commonly express denial
The addict will try to reframe the behaviour, from that of perpetrated violence, to that of an alternative and fully consensual sexual life style.
Opening Pandora's Box (Iron) The risk of escalating violence is a concern as others (partners and other family members) learn of the abusive behaviour The partner (victim) may not be aware the violence is being addressed in therapy and may not be able to defend against the increased risk of and lowered threshold for abuse
The role of therapist with the abused partner While the addict (perpetrator) may ask the therapist to be a bystander and do nothing, …. the partner (victim) asks the therapist to ‘share the burden’; demanding action, engagement and remembering (Herman)
The lives of partners [partner] My life has been riddled with the horror of addiction. My father committed suicide when I was only a year old. My mother had just left him due to his ‘womanizing’. Today we know it as sex addiction. I began believing early that if I could just keep the peace, protect my cousins, stop the depression, everyone would be happy, and then I would be safe. My idea of an attractive man was my uncle, a hard- drinking, raging handsome woman-chaser. I used sex addicts in much the same way they used me to re- create our family history.
Partners of Sex Addicts … often grew up in families where addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and work were present (Schneider & Schneider, 1996) …were more likely to have experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse as a child (Crawford, 1996) … have difficulty bonding emotionally and experienced rigid responses to change in their families of origin (Wildmon-White and Scott Young, 2002)