Sexuality has become a part of our popular culture. Also, our contemporary lifestyles place a high value on the quality of sexual experiences. Within this context, many forms of sexual addiction are often overlooked. Sexual addicts represent a group of people who are distressed by compulsive sexual behaviors which they do not want to engage in. Although this definition of sexual addiction gives us an idea of what sexual addiction is like, it is also important to understand that sexual addiction has three distinct levels.
Understanding Sexual Addiction Levels
Addiction manifests in behaviors which are regarded as normal or tolerable within the cultural context. It is the compulsive and excessive nature, resulting emotional despair, and functional impairments which define addiction at this level. Examples of behavior at this level include masturbation, anonymous sex, compulsive sexual relationships and pornography.
Addiction creates victims and the behaviors at this level are illegal. Behaviors at this level include offenses such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls and frottage (rubbing up against a non-consenting person for the purpose of sexual arousal.) Addicts usually become aware of their problem because of legal charges and excessive lost time. Time at work or home must be sacrificed to carry out the sometimes elaborate plans needed to engage in these behaviors.
Addictions are the most destructive with the greatest legal repercussions. Behaviors at this level include rape and child molestation. It is important to understand, however, that these behaviors may not indicate addiction, but that addictions to these types of behaviors can exist. These types of violent and highly offensive behaviors can be the result of other forms of severe psychopathology unrelated to addiction.
Remember that the levels of sexual addiction do not necessarily represent a progression. An addict at level one may never develop behaviors in level 2 or 3. A high risk exists for those in level 1 to progress to level 2, but it is rare for those at level 2 to progress to level 3.
Keep in mind that the levels of sexual addiction can overlap. It is common for behaviors in level 1 to overlap with level 2. It is also common for addicts at level 3 to engage in most or all behaviors in level 1 and 2.
Understand the different levels of sexual addiction, myths abound what sexual addiction is, and how it can be changed. It is important to understand the different levels so that one can seek professional help for their specific needs. Treatment needs are different for the different levels of addiction.
Not all excessive or compulsive sexual behavior indicates a level 1 addiction. Sometimes these behaviors increase slightly during a time of sexual exploration. And, even if level 2 behaviors are not an addiction, the fact that it creates victims indicates the need for change.