Coping with out-of-control sexual behavior is not about denying your sexuality. But if you’re struggling with what feels like an addiction to sex, you may not see another way.
If sex is an aspect of your life that enriches your existence—one that you feel in control of—you likely don’t have a sex addiction* (and you probably wouldn’t have landed on this page).
But if you feel burdened with a compulsion toward sex, if you feel at the mercy of sexual impulses/acts that control you, if you know your behavior is harming your relationships, your career, even your own-well-being (and yet you don’t know how to stop), you may need some help in reclaiming your life.
What does problematic sexual behavior look like?
Because sex is perhaps the most intensely personal aspect of being human, it’s also one of the most varied from person to person. Because no two people’s sexual experiences or sexual mindsets are exactly alike, no two sexual addictions are exactly alike either.
But problematic sexual behaviors have something in common: they diminish your life as you wish to live it, rather than add to it—even if they bring pleasure in the moment, they result in emotional pain afterwards.
Someone struggling with out-of-control sexual behaviors feels imprisoned by a mindlessly repetitive behavior that doesn’t lead to connection but rather takes away from connection, a behavior that hijacks other aspects of life, often stealing time away from work and family and friends. Indeed, it can feel so compulsive that it’s no longer enjoyable, but to the contrary, it feels toxic or even makes you feel emotionally empty.
Someone who isn’t suffering in this way might ask at this point, “Well, why not just stop then?”
It’s not that easy. Wanting to stop is most definitely necessary and the most important first step, but willingness alone isn’t enough for those who struggle with problems of sexual impulsivity.
Among other negative consequences, these kinds of out-of-control sexual behaviors have led men to cheat on partners they love and feel horrible about betraying; to pay for sex or to engage in sexual acts in dangerous situations; to neglect work and family while seeking the next form of escape; to ignore their own physical and emotional well-being; to keep secrets from their loved ones and to deny they have a problem when caring people express concern.
It’s not easy to ask for help…especially for men
Often men mistakenly equate asking for help with weakness.
Actually, recognizing that you need help and then seeking help is a sign of strength, not a shortcoming. Still, the male ideal of “stoic pride” is hard to counter, especially when you’ve been raised to believe that you should handle everything on your own.
This fear of being perceived as weak, along with the reluctance to admit to needing help, can obviously stand in the way of men seeking treatment. But more than that, it can even contribute to the underlying problem itself.
The knee-jerk reaction when pain is present (physical or emotion pain) is to avoid or numb the pain in some way. If men are ashamed of their struggles, they tend to push them underground so they can deny them.
But denial doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, denial keeps the underlying issues alive. What is hidden can have great power over us.
Why a sex addiction group for men?
✓ Men need a safe environment to come together with others who know what it’s truly like to be caught in the grips of sexual acting-out;
✓ Too many men have been socialized to ignore and/or devalue their emotional lives (which keeps them vulnerable to self-destructive patterns). The group process offers in-the-moment opportunities to examine the ways in which we defend against our emotional experiences;
✓ Sex — as well as the obsessive thinking about, planning for, and pursuit of sex — offers a powerful way to cover up and temporarily blot out the psychological struggles that are part of many men’s lives. Together we will explore alternative ways to cope with the underlying emotions that sexual excess is being used as a diversion for;
✓ Cycles of sexual acting-out occur in isolation–secrecy — the state of being cut off from one’s emotional needs and from others keeps men vulnerable to patterns of mindless acting-out. Group therapy offers a powerful space to break this painful isolation (and to renew connections to oneself and others);
✓ When hyper-sexualization is used as a defense, increasingly larger portions of one’s experience gets filtered through an erotically-charged lens. This forces the individual to abandon essential parts of himself. This self-division comes at a great psychological cost (to the individual and his relationships). The group creates a space where we support each other and hold each other accountable; we will work together to reclaim those abandoned aspects of selfhood with the goal of regaining emotional wholeness.
Guiding principles of the group
⇒ A therapeutic environment that fosters emotional safety, support, curiosity, “safe uncertainty”** and respectful challenging are integral to the group process;
⇒ Healing occurs in relationship — group interactions offer powerful opportunities for self- and interpersonal examination and growth;
⇒ Pain that is avoided increases the possibility of acting-out behavior. The group prioritizes an exploration and discovery of these shame-based, dissociated experiences;
⇒ An essential task of the group is to build/restore our capacity to identify and observe our experiences without moving into mind-altering or mind-numbing action;
⇒ There is no singular pathway to self-growth. A variety of approaches will be used, including: Psycho-education, mutual support and feedback, practical strategies that foster emotional grounding and self-control, mindfulness/mentalizing approaches, as well as an in-depth/psychodynamic exploration of core wounds.
Fee: $50 per 90-minute group meeting
Session length: 90 minutes
Group duration: The group will run for 16 meetings
Day/Time: Mondays, 6:30pm-8:00pm
Start date: Currently interviewing potential members; start date to be announced
Location: Georgetown, Texas
Taking the next step:
***A 45-minute meeting with Dr. Nicastro is required to help clarify your struggles and to determine if the group is right for you. There is no charge for this meeting. ***
If you are interested in joining the group or have any questions (or if you are seeking individual therapy for sexual acting out), please contact Dr. Rich Nicastro (512) 931-9128 or rich@RichardNicastro.com
Prefer Individual Therapy?
I work with many men in individual therapy as well as group therapy. Please feel free to contact me if you prefer to work on these issues in individual therapy.
*The phrase “sex addiction” is being used descriptively for behaviors that are difficult to manage and that are having a negative impact on your life; currently, there is not a consensus in the mental health field about whether out-of-control sexual behaviors meet the criteria for addiction.
**a term coined by Barry Mason.