Sexual addiction is a nasty thing. It develops slowly and subtly, often early in life, robbing innocent people of their divinely given willpower and faith. It fosters shame, fear, anger, selfishness, depression and hopelessness, all of which launch the addict into a vicious cycle of self-medicating lust. When discovered, it wrenches the hearts of innocent loved ones, causing almost irreparable damage to marriages and other family relationships.

For those whose lives have not been turned upside down (and even some who have), there are certain myths about sexual addiction that, if better understood, can better help those who are addicted get the help they need. It can also help the innocent victims to find their own healing and recovery.

Sex addicts are disgusting perverts

If I were to ask you to picture the typical sex addict in your mind, you might imagine a middle-aged pudgy man with greasy hair, a scraggly beard and an insatiable desire for the disgusting. That is, unless you happened to know one personally. The fact is that, although some sex addicts fit this description, they are often regular men, women and children you come across every day - good people who are wounded and struggle mightily. They desperately wish sex weren't such a huge part of their lives and hope against hope that they can one day be healed.

It's a matter of self-control

When confronted with the devastation caused by a sexual addiction, the solution may seem simple to an afflicted spouse or a well-meaning family member or ecclesiastical leader: "Just stop" or "Just pray more." What they do not understand is that, unlike their own ability to avoid the temptation entirely with ease, the circuitry of an addict's brain has actually been modified so that whenever a problem presents itself (i.e. stress, loneliness, depression, anger, etc.), the automatic response is to turn to the pre-programmed release - that is, a sexual release.

Although the addict is by no means lacking responsibility for his own actions, making him think it is just a matter of self-control or a lack of spirituality can cause him to spiral further out of control when he realizes that he isn't good enough or can't do it just by willing it so.

Getting married will solve the problem

Some believe that having an intimate relationship can cause the sexual addiction to go away. However, many addicts are disappointed to realize that their addiction returns soon after marriage, sometimes after a few months or even after just a few weeks. And sadly, the nature of the addiction destroys any true intimacy in that marriage relationship.

If the addict is married, it's the spouse's fault

This can be a common misconception among spouses of the addicted as well as the addicted, themselves. The fact of the matter is that most sexual addictions begin long before marriage. Studies show that the average age of beginning addiction is 11 years old. Some wives feel that they are not sexy enough for their husband otherwise he would not default to his virtual or even real-life mistresses for release. Some even attempt to spice up their sex life to divert his attention. But it is important to recognize that the addiction is something deeply entrenched and is a response to something missing in the addict's life, or something they have not yet learned to cope with in a healthy way. Here are some signs of pornography addiction.

An addict can sometimes let resentment build from a spouse's reactions or co-dependent behavior and even go as far as to blame her for his actions. This is also deeply flawed thinking and is a result of pride that has developed to falsely "protect" the addict from harm and rationalize that his behavior is reasonable.

Leopards can't change their spots

When wives are made aware of their husband's addiction, whether they catch him or he voluntarily confesses, divorce is almost always something that crosses their minds. However, the majority of such marriages don't end in divorce. The reason why can be best explained by telling the story of a prison warden whose sole purpose was to rehabilitate his inmates. A critic who knew of Warden Duffy's efforts said, "Don't you know that leopards can't change their spots?" Warden Duffy responded, "You should know I don't work with leopards. I work with men, and men change every day."

Through proper recovery - which consists of a clean confession, transparency, working with a sponsor and/or a professional therapist, finding faith in God, and being a part of a sex addiction-specific 12-step group - men and women can change.

Sobriety is enough

On the topic of recovery, it is important to remember that sobriety and recovery are different terms. Sobriety can be accomplished for short, or even long, amounts of time by "white knuckling it." However, unless the elements of true recovery are present, the addict will always revert to the addiction. True recovery is an effort to change one's whole being. It cannot be done with just a few filters and a couple extra prayers. It requires a radical change in what one hears, watches, listens to and does. It necessitates sacrifice and humility, effort and faith.

You can deal with it on your own

In the beginning, most addicts are in denial of their addiction, thinking it is just a small problem they have. Some hide it for decades, afraid to talk to their spouse or their ecclesiastical leader because they think they can beat it on their own. Reality, however, shows that without the tools of recovery and the process of repentance and recovery itself, what started out as flaxen cords have turned into iron chains. It is absolutely essential for addicts to seek spiritual and professional help if they wish to overcome.

According to research done by the Journal of Adolescent Research in 2008, 87 percent of college males and 31 percent of females admitted to viewing pornography. This data crosses all religious, educational and social barriers. As easy as it may seem to avoid it or ignore it entirely, these days, it is important that we understand the addiction and the affects it has on families, marriage relationships, and children. Without an understanding of the truth about sex addiction, stereotypes and misconceptions will only further stifle the cries of those in need of help and healing.

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