Denial in sex addiction is a form of distorted thinking. In fact it is a masterpiece of distorted thinking. Breaking through denial marks the beginning of addiction treatment. This is just as true for sexual addiction and behavioral addictions generally as it is for chemical dependency.

Without treatment, the set of ideas, rationalizations and beliefs that constitute a system of denial become more and more entrenched and tend to spread, becoming a world view which supports a deceptive and disordered way of life.

Even for a practicing sex addict, there are moments of clear-headedness when he or she suspects that they are engaging in a problematic or pathological pattern of behavior. But that awareness does not hold up. Why? Because denial is distorted thinking in the context of a semi-dissociated (i.e. “checked out”) state. The distorted thinking creeps back in when dissociation provides an opportunity. And the greater the awareness in recovery, the greater the dissociation needed to overtake it. But let’s begin at the beginning.

Denial During addiction

Addicts in the grip of an addiction have a set of beliefs that support that addiction. That is, beliefs which protect them from the need to examine their behavior. These can look absurdly deluded to a non addict. When challenged in any way, the practicing addict uses these ideas or “theories” to defend against the idea that they have a problem.

These may take many forms such as rationalization:

  • “It’s normal behavior”,
  • “It’s harmless”,
  • “I need it”,
  • “I have a high sex drive”,

or minimization:

  • “Everybody wants what I want”
  • “I’m not that bad”,
  • “I’m cutting down”,
  • “It’s not bad enough to need treatment”

or projection:

  • “So-and-so is the one with the problem”,
  • “I’m being judged unfairly”,
  • “My wife/husband makes me the way I am”

The practicing addict at this point is considered to be in the stage of “pre-contemplation” in the stages of change framework, meaning they have not even consciously contemplated the idea of change.

Usually something rather dramatic happens to bring the addict to the point of contemplating change. The sex addict may be found out by a partner, lose a job, neglect a career, get/transmit a disease, become impotent in intercourse (as happens with many teen porn addicts) or get arrested. At that point the addict may begin to suspect that the behavior is destructive and compulsive. But this dawning awareness is not enough to impact the addiction in the long run. Neurologically, addiction is a pathological form of learning. The distorted thinking which surrounds it provides a powerful undertow. If the crisis somehow passes without the addict getting some serious help, the behavior will return.

Denial in Early Treatment

The addict who has actually made an initial foray into treatment will often come up with a different set of distorted beliefs. These beliefs serve to justify the addict’s natural urge to escape from treatment. These may involve ideas like

  • “Maybe sex isn’t really an addiction”
  • “I’m not sure I belong in this kind of treatment”,
  • “Treatment is ineffective”,
  • “Treatment works for other people but not me”,
  • “I tried it once and it didn’t work”,
  • “I’m hopeless so why bother.”

In early recovery the addict tends to be in crisis. His or her world feels like it is crumbling and the addict is prone to extreme emotions. Emotionality can stand in the way of rational thinking and rational examination of the situation. With treatment, the addict’s delusional beliefs are challenged and he/she gradually replaces them with more reality based thinking and becomes more fully engaged in recovery.

Denial and dissociation in relapse

Dissociation is a mental state in which some of our rational decision-making and impulse control functions are off line. What seemed like a terrible idea this morning can seem like a great idea tonight. What we rationally knew is no longer engaged; we are no longer mindful i.e. we are not present. And in place of rational self-awareness is a set of thought distortions that make no sense but which we are unable to critically examine.

The dissociated or semi-dissociated state then becomes the context in which the delusional thinking can lead the addict into acting out. This context is one in which decisions are not realistic, consequences are not considered and impulses reign supreme.

Some examples of the kinds of circumstances and thought patterns that lead to this dissociation and to “slips” and relapses might be:

  • Alcohol or drugs which lead to an altered “I don’t care” state. The higher centers being temporarily off line makes way for the distorted thinking and addictive behavior.
  • Being alone with no one around to inject a note of reality into the situation. In this situation pessimism and self put-downs can take over; the addict “forgets” that he has people he can call; he grabs for relief.
  • Being in stressful or unfamiliar situations such as business travel which can feel disorienting and threatening. This makes it difficult to hold onto a mindful, self-directed state. The addict may find it easy to slip into unreality.

Dissociation is the opposite of mindfulness. Any situation which threatens the addict’s ability to return to a mindful, self-aware state can open the door to thoughts and behaviors that make no sense. Is it any wonder that the core mindfulness skills we stress so much in treatment are ones that must be practiced and reinforced even into the later stages of recovery?

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

Recommended Posts


  1. Need a call asap

  2. Can you help with being told I’m “acting in”…After bringing material to my husband to read.

  3. You pose as experts in sex addiction. Since u make money from this please define:

    *What defines ANY addiction whether substance or behavioural in nature?

    *Are elite athletes addicted to performance or just high achievers?

    *How do you define “normality” for any behaviour given that normal behaviour in Afghanistan is to beat my wife? If I don’t regularly beat my wife, am I addicted to “peace in the home”?

    *Please explain why women who cheat are not perverts like men?


    • I mean this with all good intentions, but you seem angry and as an addict myself I suspect that you are directing your anger at those trying to help and not facing your addiction. It is a problem and it can eventually destroy your life.

      • I’m not angry. We can all play amateur Freudians and claim any criticism (of you) is anger on my part. Next time your partner raises an issue with you just tell them they’re angry. Or the tax office. Sometimes people are wrong and need to be told. Telling them they’re angry as you did to me is just a cop out.

        My point is that until you can define sex addiction then you are just a charlatan. ANY behaviour is fine if it doesn’t hurt anyone else and one is perfectly accepting of the consequences of one’s choices.

        Are racing car drivers addicted to speed? Hmmm. They need therapy. How about big wave surfers? Or people who run marathons. (Gee I dunno, all that training that takes us away from our spouse. I mean only a SMALL fraction of people do it so it must be aberrant).

        The point is you can’t define deviance based on norms otherwise everything that is extreme (and extremely good like people who rescue others from mountains) is decried by people like you.

        Message: if IT (sex, drugs, empire building, research and study, extreme sports, POLITICS) is practiced to an extreme and doesn’t hurt anyone else and you accept the possible consequences (loss of relationships, loss of capital, failure etc) then what is there to argue about?

        Oh I know. Having sex 6 times a week is bad as decreed by you and needs therapy to reduce it to the normative once per week.

        Lucky Edison didn;t listen to you and tested those thousands of light bulbs.

        And of course now you’ll just tell me I’m angry when I’m just pointing out you’re wrong.

        Pack up shop and do something honest for a living.

        • Hey, as the former girlfriend/SO/fiance (haha) of a sex addict, I’ll say you’re actually correct. It’s true – as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences of your sexual acting out, cheating, you should do whatever the hell you and your consenting (or paid) sex partners want. But – to deceive, lie and sneak around hooking up is not exactly fair, is it? I’d say most of these people have narcissistic personality disorder, so they cannot even conceive of how what they do destroys the person who loves/loved them. I wouldnt think that you, or anyone else who is not admitting outright their extracurricular sex hobby, is being forthright about it. Most likely deceiving someone who loves them, they can’t seem to grant their own right and privilege to make decisions and decide what they want to do with their own life to another human being.
          I told mine he should move to Las Vegas where young prostitutes are plentiful (he’s 70 now) and openly be who he is. Are you openly who you are? Have you set free who loves you to lead a life without deception and humiliation?

          • You are naive and deeply afflicted by hollywood stereotypes of what relationships have to be like. What emotional drivel. “set free””. Really? Tell that to the average gold digging whore AKA trophy wife. Nothing but a hooker. Tell that to the average american snake bitch who is mesmerised by a man’s salary but complains about being judged by her looks. Life is complex and full of imperfections. Some of us actually have the guts to accept it that way and not bail out when hollywood disappears. Question: is it better to get the occasional 5 minute blowjob for $50 or get rid of the wife because she won’t suck dick? Oh I know u would raise the monastic standard and demand total fidelity of dick and thought. BECAUSE NOTHING LESS IS ACCEPTABLE. Now I know your next response is “how would you like it if your wife did the same? Guess what. She has!!! If she got some guy to ball her some days she might be easier to live with. I like her as my best friend. Not my sex partner. We are a team and not some hollywood stereotype of happily ever after who are “free to be ourselves”. Trophy wives and huge number of women would never stay with a guy who went broke. This is reality sister and the complexity of life is what adults deal with. Children like you demand the impossible. Proof?? Find me a ton of 50 year plus marriages. Scarce as hens teeth. Not thru lack of trying.

            But you go on searching for rainbows. Maybe of you sucked your guy;s dick more often and expected less hollywood he might not have gone for outside pussy.

          • You are so on point here. I was going to reply something VERY VERY similar but you said most what I was going to and quite eloquently at that. That guy is not “SPECIAL” or “UNIQUE” in any fashion and you can read his words and it’s so obvious that he is a narcissist and he so clearly has a problem with sex and with being full of bitterness towards ANYONE daring not to side with him as his diluted cry for confirmation. He has no heart obviously, nor is he close to being as smart as he thinks. No one gets hurt? I too, am one of those women who “isn’t getting hurt” as he thinks, but I am. You see, I am stuck living in the same house as my cheating lying sneaker and I wish mine would move to Vegas, too…..or ANYWHERE at least 100+ miles from me. Anyway…good comment.

  4. I just learned after 25 years of marriage my husband has a sex addiction. What are the percentage rates of actually taking it a, step to being with a woman? He has been dealing with this over 30 years.

    • No he is just a classic male primed by millions of years of evolution to breed as much as possible just as you as a woman are primed to nurture children and snag the resources to raise them. The fact that so many of u do and are effectively prostitutes, trophy wives and gold diggers attests to that.

      Tell me, what evolutionary value is there in having sex with a post menopausal woman? New age, feminist garbage.

      • Honestly, Dave, nobody gives a damn what you do. Nobody. It is your source of pride in yourself, so it’s working for you. It’s only a problem if you are deceiving someone and hurting her – then because you are a narcissist it’s only her problem, isn’t it.
        Your ridiculous excuse for deceit and hateful disregard for women who have been so unfortunate as to have ended up with you or your ilk is 99% untrue and not an excuse for breaking trust and vows if true! Most women I’ve met who have a cheating husband have been conditioned to perform for him to the max because of his nasty attitude and making them feel they are constantly in competition with all women.
        No sense in anyone’s talking to you because you’ll always be a narcissist, obviously no spirituality or concern for a higher power to whom you must answer. You don’t know the meaning of love and you’re too handicapped to ever know or care to know. So you should spend all your energies in pursuit of your endorphin highs until you die a lonely old man with no connections to any other human, nor to God.

        • Cheryl, as a female u simply choose to ignore facts and science. This is because u and millions of females have been duped into the hollywood love cult which is only a cover for female evolutionary mating strategy. You have evolved to secure resources to raise young. How do we know? Women marry upward in income and status. They rarely marry downward. The female doctor does not marry the plumber for “love” which is odd since love is supposed to transcend all boundaries. We KNOW that women find poor old men ugly and rich old men surprisingly sexy and attractive. WE KNOW THIS THRU RESEARCH. Marriage for the bulk of the planet has historically been a survival strategy based in resources and politics. Romeo and Juliet is an aberration of the nobility and not even they tolerated it. Tell me, is a sheikh with a harem a sex addict or just a successful high status male who can support many wives? Many women just leave men who go broke. Many women throw themselves at high income men. Thousands of them do every day.

          Can u tell me how nature would endorse having sex with a post menopausal woman? It does not yield children and is a loser as a survival strategy. Most men want sex with young nubile women because the odds of their young surviving are higher. The odds of female’s young surviving rise with increased resources. It’s a very basic game of gene survival. But you go on and believe that god has created vows and other rubbish. No doubt you believe that love is between soulmates forever. I know dozens of fat, horrible women who actually believe that their white knight soul mate will appear and stare into their soul and ignore their 200lb fat ass and love them for their soul. Of course they won’t fall in love with a 200lb fat ass, unemployed loser male because white knights aren’t like that and even better they never get fat old and ugly because they are white knights!!

          Ah the psychotic delusions of females are hysterical. Women have an inbuilt need to secure resources for their young and that’s it. They go mad for fashion to attract a mate. The males just get the resources to pay for women to have sex with them and they choose young women because they have evolved to maximise gene survival thru their young. Pretty basic. All the rest- vows, guilt, hollywood love are meant to bind the males to the females to overcome basic male instinct. But it isn’t going anywhere.

          Meanwhile women will catch their men cheating and try to blame it on sex addiction or midlife crisis instead of accepting the truth- they want to ____ younger women klike nature intended.

          • So yes, in a sense it is “natural” for men to want to perpetuate their genetic material, to “seed the herd”. Yet we always have choices. Lots of things are natural but we choose to get rid of them. Polio is natural, so is malaria. Did you get a flu shot? I hope so.

          • First, since nature did not develop drugs for erectile dysfunction, obviously nature intended that you old men stop your “natural” breeding activities. Apparently, you are supposed to step aside for the younger and stronger – and certainly more attractive.
            I’d like to say that when I was young and looked like a Victoria’s Secret model, old men flirting with me, to my dismay, happened frequently. I recall the feeling of horror that Grandpa actually thought there should be some physical interaction between himself and me. It was a horrifying thought and I recall that my response was pure revulsion. To me, you were repulsive. So honestly, I can’t imagine what’s wrong with young women now. Doing something so disgusting used to be only the job of prostitutes (poor things), but I guess some small percentage of younger women turn into whores upon smelling money.
            Why are you here for help? What help did you have in mind? As I said, whatever makes you happy, nobody else is interested. And I’m quite sure you are horrifying many a young woman upon her realization that you seriously want to “breed” with her. Just know that I would NEVER have been interested in an old man, even in my 40’s or 50’s – so your screwed up ideas that are rather like fantasies are NOT science. Go overdose on Viagra.
            If you can coax your tired old non-functional weenie that nature intends for you to retire to give you a good time with a very confused and possibly abused young woman. Each to his or her own.

          • You are coming across as a very embittered man Dave?. Why so angry?… Why are you judging women so harshly?… Have you been wronged?, hurt?, deceived?… To hate women as much as you do is worrying!!!!…..In my experience it has been the men who have borrowed, lent my money… Not me!…I’m self sufficient, are most of my friends, so myself, I’m not interested if a man has money!… But I’m well aware that there are lots of good men around!…And good women!… I came to this site because I found out my boyfriend is a Voyeur… He has been since he was 11 he says…I found photos of my best friend, his Ex wife’s Mum, his landlady who lives below, people we had gone for a drink with!, a work colleague who he swore blind was just a friend!,,ex girlfriends! Photos he had taken of his neighbour and lots of cut outs from mags and newspapers,,,Plus videos of days out when his children who are 5 and 8 were there, with me, yet he was scanning women’s legs and bums!.. He had taken photos at school sports days of women’s bums and legs…. Using his children to access images,,, I am very attractive and always found him attractive! And I always wanted him sexually!…. Yet he pushed me away and said I was pressuring him!…. He is 59, but looks younger and is attractive. We got on so well, didn’t argue and had lots of fun. We were talking of moving in together!…So to find this out has rocked my world!… I’m so hurt…. And two days ago I found his sons iPad, who is 8,,I have never looked on it before but I was sat watching telly and picked it up!… I first looked at messages and could see he was looking at face book and football sites.. Then I pressed an icon which turned out to be photos…bear in mind this is his sons iPad!…on it were photos of him taking photos from his living room window,,, his young neighbour of say 18!!! …she was riding a bike just doing nothing really,,,plus his penis…one video one pic!… I nearly died,,his son will of seen it!… Plus other pics of women who he is following at a train station and one woman’s lady area in jeans.. I’m utterley broken…..

          • Let me put it straight. No doubt you thought you married for love but few women will marry a beggar even if they stare into each other’s soul. Women usually gather resources via men, go to university to find a man and most will have kids and leave the breadwinning to the male. Facts don’t lie. Next truth. Your man has sexual needs and is fighting the unnatural constraints of monogamy. All of human history is about harems, polygamy, chastity belts and even in islam a woman is cattle to be owned and impregnated and covered from male gazes. This is evolution. Successful males get to breed via risk taking and resource gathering to attract mates and impregnatre them. I am not bitter, just realistic. Your man jerks off to other women because he has evolved that way. when caught he will claim he has a sex addiction or a midlife crisis so that you can believe he is ill and he really does not want to fuck other women. But he does. Most of us do. Just as you are evolved to bond and respond to give giving, romance and pair bonding activities he is evolved to pass on genes. There is a saying that women need a reason to have sex but men just need a place. I know I am sounding harsh, but if you accept him as a typical male and not a pervert it will all go better. Minf you if he is 59 then you should be pretty close which means he will naturally be looking for younger vagina. Again he is geared to achieve reproductive success. There is no point in having sex with a menopausal woman. Be his friend and let him jerk off nown and then for god sake. You are lucky he’s not paying young hookers for a blow job. Most of us are.

          • Dave….We are not married….been together two years,,,,and believe me I know a good looking man when I see one…and I am five foot ten, and am extremeleyI attractive,,, it is me who gets the looks and often from younger men,,,, and he has no money whatsoever,,, does not own his own place,,, he rents it…and he does not drive,,, so I do all of that…,he works nights at a supermarket…so I can ASSURE you he is not nor am I after his money!..he has none…And .we get on!!! I am a person who laughs a lot!…I’m a naturally fun person,,,,I once had a relationship with a man who was 18 years younger than me,,,it was the best relationship and the happiest time of my life,,,we were so happy,,, then he died of cancer…..So I have had really happy relationships that were successfull…. I can hack ups and downs,…iWe live in the Uk…he has back problems so struggles,,,,it is me who has vitality and get up and go… He is like an old man…to be honest…. But when I met him his back was ok but him playing football and his job has not helped his back… I’m not saying I’m perfect either!. If he wants a young girlfriend then he needs to have one,,,, be honest and say so…l but since he struggles with his back and is always tired due to his medication then I wish him luck,,,, it’s the deceit-!!! I am honest,,, he knows I look at porn on the odd occasion, but I look at women… But not often but if I do I say,,,,,it doesn’t rule my life,,, honesty is what’s required,,, and respect,,,

        • Well said.

          • I would reply longer but my responses just get edited out. So I don’t bother. These sites are populated by women who have discovered that their male partner is not solely devoted to them either in mind or body or both. This rocks the necessary female delusion of endless love between soul mates and so they look for an excuse. Usually the guy says he is a sex addict or he is having a midlife crisis. This is because he has been caught and like 90% of males just wants sex with as many females as possible but he also enjoys sex at home, a comfortable abode, meals etc. So he wants it all and will lie to keep it. Why would he walk out on regular sex, some conversation, home comfort and as much as he can get on the side? You think he should just be single again? Why? It’s rough out there. So yeah he’s a sex addict or he’s having a midlife crisis- anything to convince you that it wasn’t really him who stuck his penis repeatedly into that woman’s mouth. Not not him. he has an illness. Grow up all of you!

          • Why do you go on “these sites” mate? You talk a lot about everybody else but not at all about your own experience in relationships.

          • I am not a sex addict or the victim of “sex addiction” and so therefore have nothing to contribute from my relationship. However I have certainly observed the delusions of many women wanting to believe that common infidelity in their relationship is due to a sex addiction or a midlife crisis. Ask yourself- millions of years of evolution make males want to spread their seed. A few centuries of civilisation label this as sex addiction. Which is more likely? All I am saying is that most males wanting different sex are not sex addicts. They are just ordinary males. Get a grip. Your partner wanted some different sex as nature intended. You are shattered and can’t accept that your soul mate could be such an animal. No he must have an illness. Sorry. He is a perfectly healthy male who got on this planet by his forebears reproducing as widely as possible. Were they sex addicts? Nope.

          • Polio and small pox are “natural” too. Unless and until you talk about yourself you are just a troll. Save your breath.

  5. Dave you may want to watch a documentary that fight the new drug have put together. A lot more facts for you to consider. For instance how porn can physically alter the brain and therefore lead to addiction just like drugs and alcohol. You do seem awfully angry, especially towards women. Addiction or not you most certainly have a problem of some kind. To be on this site being a keyboard warrior.. Perhaps if you tried connecting with your wife on a more respectable level then she may not have wondered into the arms of another man to get something she is missing from you. And for the record, my so is in recovery and there are many women that also go to saa due to sex addiction you nieve little bully.

  6. I am a sex addict in Mt. Pleasant, SC close to Charleston. I have been reading the literature for working the Twelve Steps and the Big Book. I have been going to meetings for 8 or 9 years. But dealing with lust is still a terrible struggle. I have been a dry drunk for two separate years and several months at a time. But sooner or later relapse occurs. I need a CSAT to help me but don’t know where one is locally. Can you help me with this? When I act out it involves internet porn and Masterbation.
    Thank you very much,
    Mario S

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.