Denial is a common part of the addiction experience, and sex addiction is no exception. Overcoming denial and recognizing the presence of addiction is critical because this is the first step toward recovery. Denial allows us to convince ourselves that even the most out-of-control and destructive behavior is normal and manageable. People under the control of an addiction are able to rationalize and dismiss their behavior in a variety of ways, and when they do acknowledge problematic behavior, they are likely to place the blame with another person. People with sex addiction engage in sexual behavior that continues to escalate over time. Escalation can involve both increasingly frequent sexual intercourse as well as the pursuit of sexual gratification through other means such as excessive pornography viewing, obscene phone calls, phone sex or video sex. Sex addiction can also escalate to include illegal activities such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, solicitation and even child molestation or rape. Some research suggests that as many as 70 percent of child molesters may fit the profile of sex addiction.
Rationalizing, Minimizing or Shifting the Problem
Despite these destructive and antisocial behaviors, people in denial about sex addiction still manage to convince themselves that they do not have a serious problem. They may blame their primary sexual partner for being unable or unwilling to meet their sexual needs. They may feel that they are being judged by unfairly restrictive societal standards. They may believe that most other people secretly behave in the same way and that their need for sex is natural and healthy. Or, they may recognize that their behavior is problematic but believe that they still have control and are able to cut back when they want to.
It May Take a Disaster to Break Through Denial
Frequently, it takes a major shock or disaster to force people with sex addiction to see the truth of the situation and realize that addiction has taken control of their lives. With the increasingly risky behavior that sex addiction involves, there are a number of potentially devastating ways in which such a shock can come. Infidelity is extremely common with sexual addiction, and getting found out by a partner is often the dramatic event that forces someone to confront his or her sexual addiction. The addiction can cause people to neglect their work or behave inappropriately at work, causing them to lose their jobs. Illegal behaviors such as obscene phone calls, sexual harassment and solicitation can also blow up, leading to arrest and potentially serious legal consequences. People with sexual addiction also frequently put their health at risk, and the discovery that they have been infected with an STD is the shock that forces many to realize the extent of their problem.
Denial’s Distorted Thinking Can Continue During Recovery
While breaking through denial is the first step to recovery, a different kind of denial can continue through the early stages of the recovery process. People with addictions are often eager to escape from the treatment process, which can be long and difficult. They may develop the belief that treatment is generally ineffective, that it doesn’t work for them or that they don’t really belong with the other people receiving this kind of treatment. People with sex addiction may start to question whether people really can be addicted to sex; they may still recognize that they have a problem, but argue that the problem is not sex.