Sex Addiction 101 – Elements of Addiction – Continuing Despite Consequences

We discussed the definition of sex addiction in the previous post, Is It Really Sex Addiction? Within the discussion, we differentiated between Hypersexuality, Obsessive-Compuslive Disorder, and Impulse Control Disorder, and all three of these from Addictive Disorder, specifically concerning Sex Addiction. Sex Addiction has several criteria by which is may be identified. We continue to consider elements or criteria involved in Sex Addiction that are not necessarily involved in other types of struggles.

One element in Sex Addiction is that the addict continues behavior despite consequences (again, without a clinical obsession present). Let’s look at this element in the fictional although fully-realistic and commonplace narrative of today’s sex addict.

The brutal disregard of consequences with which the patients in the advanced stages [of sexual pathology] attempt to satisfy their sexual instinct, is characteristic.

Dr. R. Von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, p. 241

The Case of George

George was exposed to pornography on social media when he was 12 years old. A chronic viewing of internet porn and masturbation continued through his adolescence and young adulthood. He figured his problem would be solved once he got married and was “able to have real sex,” as he thought of it. In time, he met a good woman and they married and began having children. After the honeymoon phase, and while his wife was sexually unavailable during her a rough pregnancy, George felt the old urges haunt him.

One night, George had retreated to the bathroom with his smartphone again. This ritual developed as he learned to hide his habit from Michelle, his wife. George thought he had turned the volume down on his phone, but it was all the way up from earlier when he used the speakerphone during a call. Erotic screams erupted from the phone and bounced around the bathroom tile. George dropped his phone trying to manage his genitalia in one hand and the phone in the other. To top it off, he fumbled in his anxiety and actually turned the volume higher! Pornographic human sounds echoed into the master bedroom for nearly thirty seconds—long enough for his wife to gain a full idea what was happening with her husband.

He explained everything to her, admitting he had a “bad habit” but not divulging the full details. He was simultaneously afraid to hurt her feelings and, really, more afraid of hurting his own feelings. He was fundamentally selfish but did not realize it. His explanation maintained a lot of secrecy and self-preservation. Michelle’s impression was that her man had slipped like many men, and this would be short-lived. She began to give in to his advances during pregnancy more than she wanted to, to “help him out” and take a share of responsibility upon herself for her husband’s actions.

Despite his better instincts, George did not miss a beat in his behavior. He continued indulging in pornography on his phone at night after Michelle went to bed. He especially indulged when she went out shopping, using their big-screen TV to have a 72-inch view of human anatomy. Now he carefully edited search histories and was scrupulous about his actions, but he was eventually caught several weeks later. Michelle returned early from the grocery store because she forgot her list. Mike had run to the bathroom but left an orgy paused on PornHub in the living room. Michelle clapped a hand to her mouth and cinched her eyes shut to blot out the raw images.

Michelle moved back to her parents the next day. She told George she loved him and would move back in with him if he committed to recovery. At this point, she realized she “had been stupid,” in her words, and intuitively knew her husband had a problem, despite his protests and promises. George agreed to recovery, and began attending a Sexaholics Anonymous group. Things seemed to normalize for a few weeks, but George continued to hide and lie about his behavior. 

By now, Michelle was fighting her own suspicions about literally everything George did. She began to see evidence of his addiction even when it was not really there. She knew she was losing objectivity and “jumping at shadows,” but felt justified in her suspicions. They were eventually vindicated, unfortunately, when she decided to snoop a bit on his phone and discovered a hookup app called MiFlame. She scrolled through messages he had with several pseudonymous women on the app, then found herself dry heaving in the bathroom.

She confronted George, who lied until she whipped out the phone. Then he spilled just enough beans to convince her he was being honest. It did not work. The baby was due any day now, but she felt compelled to move out to her parents again because she “did not recognize the man standing in front of her.” She pleaded with him through tears to “get yourself together, if not for me, then for your son!” George said he would, recognizing odds were very high his son would be adversely affected by an addicted father and a family breakup.

And yet, in a sort of emotional stupor, feeling angry, guilty, stressed, tired, and lonely, George went on porn binge that very night in Michelle’s absence.


The first element of sex addiction is that an addict continues behavior despite consequences. Although a part of him was genuinely regretful, guilty, ashamed, and wanted change, George nevertheless displayed a wanton disregard for the expected outcomes from actions of repeated trust-breaking with his wife.

Notice also the objectification of his wife and of the other human beings in the virtual porn. His wife basically serviced him out of misguided “help,” not because George wanted proper, relational sex (as she did), but because he used her as an object to gratify himself as he had learned to do. So, George does not seem to be struggling with Hypersexuality per se, otherwise Michelle being more available might have solved the problem.

Notice also George is not experiencing unwanted, intruding thoughts (obsessions) and acting out to ease the anxiety associated with them (compulsions). He is preoccupied with sexual fantasies, yes, and anticipated sexual activities, of course, but these thoughts are not clinical obsessions. Rather, his behavior is geared to gratify desire and attempts to meet some felt need. George’s struggle seems to be addiction. Recovery therapy would be geared to uncover the deeper need George is attempting to meet with his addiction.


  • What else did you notice in George’s story? What jumped out at you the most?
  • What other elements might define addiction in the story?
  • Do you relate to George, or to his wife? Why?
  • What are your beliefs about George’s behavior and choices? What about his wife’s?
  • Do you think George is really an addict? Or is he OCD or hypersexual?
  • Speculate on the deeper need George might be trying to meet with porn and masturbation.

In the next post we look another element of sex addiction: Increasing tolerance.