In Dr. Carnes classic work on sex addiction, Out of the Shadows, he says there are four core beliefs that sex addicts share.
1“I am basically a bad, unworthy person.” This belief keeps a person locked into a cycle of shame and acting out. They act out because of stresses in life, not the least of which is their low self-esteem. But the euphoria of acting out is soon replaced with shame, further reinforcing this core belief.
2“No one would love me as I am.” Or in other words, “If people really knew me, they would not love me.” This core belief reinforces the need to keep all acting out behaviors secret, creating a double life that is marked by deceit and duplicity. People who have the very highest morals and ethics in every other area of life, will engage in behaviors that may be abhorrent to their personal beliefs. They have a public self that is honest, trustworthy, and exhibits the highest standards. But their private self is the antithesis of these values. Secrets are deadly to a sex addict. As long as secrets exist, little progress can be made in eradicating these behaviors from their lives once and for all.
3“My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others.” This is a core value that often finds its roots in childhood. A person learns they cannot depend on others and must be self-sufficient. While self-sufficiency and independence can be very positive qualities, sex addicts often isolate themselves and find it difficult to depend on others.
4“Sex is my most important need.” It is not uncommon for a sex addict to have such an insatiable appetite for sex that they continue engaging in sex hour after hour. Sometimes this may be solo acting out where they masturbate to the point of injury. For others this may mean acting out with multiple sex partners with little or no discrimination criteria for selecting their partners.
Sex addiction is not a moral failure! Certainly compulsive sexual behavior often involves behavior that much of society would consider immoral. But a person suffering from sex addiction is caught in a cycle of addiction over which they believe they are powerless.