Breaking the Sex Addiction Cycle

Breaking the sex addiction cycle

There are many phases and different cycles that are related to sex addiction. By better understanding the cycles you can gain the power you need to intervene and begin the process of changing your life for the better.


There are four distinct aspects of the sex addiction or hypersexual behavior cycle –


Preoccupation is how the overall cycle begins. In this phase, you have thoughts about engaging in problematic behavior by starting to act out. These ideas can come in quick flashes or last awhile, but they can awake the addict.


If you are a sex addict in treatment and have these thoughts, you can fall back on your relapse prevention skills. If you can implement these skills while you are still in the Preoccupation phase, you can work to break the cycle before it continues to grow,


As an example, we will turn to a fictional client whose behaviors mirrors the traits of a sexually addicted male. During the Preoccupation cycle, he begins to think about how his daily drive home from work can include a route that will take him to an area where there are many strip clubs. He also thinks during the drive about how he can look at pornography at home because his wife is on a business trip.


At this point, he could clear his head and decide to call his therapist or sponsor. He could also choose to meditate, exercise or engage in some other healthy behavior that will support his recovery.


The next phase of the cycle is Ritualization. This sequence focuses on actions that lead to acting out. Your actions now become habitual and “ritualized.”  It is harder to stop your actions at this point. Many sex addicts relate that during Ritualization they feel like they are in a trance.


It is harder to stop the cycle at this point, but still easier than if you wait until the acting out cycle begins. The Ritualization cycle results in forgetting about the consequences of your actions. Because consequences start to move to the back of your mind, they lose the immediacy of the power to stop the addictive behavior.


Let’s return to our previous client example. For him in the ritualization cycle, he turns his vehicle toward the street where the strip clubs are located. He turns off his cell phone, so he can’t be found through GPS. When he gets home, he turns on the computer, closes the blinds, and types the web address of his favorite porn site. At any point, he could still abort the cycle and choose healthy recovery behavior. Unfortunately, in this cycle, it is more difficult to stop than it was at the Preoccupation stage.


Addictive Behavior (acting out) is the next stage in the cycle. Like Ritualization, this is about action, but it has become problematic action. When you have reached this point, it is even harder to stop because you are already in the acting out phase. It is not impossible at this point though to interrupt the acting out cycle.


For our fictional client, this acting out stage includes going into the strip club or viewing pornography.


Next in the cycle is the Despair stage. This phase is met with shame and guilt. The consequences make addicts feel so bad that they put up an inner wall to tune out and ignore what they are doing. By creating this wall, it distances them from the reality of being in a state of intractability.


For our client, this is a very lonely time where he enters into a type of dissociation. This causes him to move away from his feelings because it’s just too difficult to accept them. He feels powerless to change his behavior and so the cycle just begins again as he seeks out sex as a way to escape.


By understanding the different cycles of sex addiction, and where you fall into that cycle currently, are your first steps to understanding it’s time to change your destructive behavior.


Confronting your place on the cycle can lead to a path that steers you away from destructive behavior, relieves guilt and shame and restores your ability to maintain a healthy and meaningful marriage and other relationships.

Duane is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist, and co-founder of NOVUS Mindful Life Institute, which helps individuals affected by sex addiction. His vision is to provide comprehensive care for individuals struggling with process addictions in the utmost confidential, comprehensive and caring environment to ensure clients feel safe and accepted with anticipation that recovery is possible.

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