Women and Sexual Addiction

by Marnie Ferree

While most people tend to assume that sexual addiction is a problem only for men, the evidence suggests the contrary. Addictions, all addictions, are pretty much equal opportunity diseases. And sexual addiction is no exception. Marnie Ferree is a pioneer in the treatment of female sex and relationship addicts. This article is material taken from a workshop she gave recently in Seattle. Sex is the fastest growing addiction in this country. And it is, I believe, the addiction of choice among Christians. Because of the immediacy, availability and affordability of the Internet, more and more Christians find themselves struggling with sexual addiction. A third of the participants who come to the workshops we do for male sexual addicts are involved in some kind of church ministry. Men who would not be caught dead going into a liquor store, or gambling or using any kind of illegal drugs, can—within the privacy of their own home—be sexually involved with people on the Internet. It is an incredible problem.

I don't know if you have a picture in your mind of what a sexual addict looks like. I would be even more surprised if you had a picture of what a female sexual addict looks like. There are, however, many of us. And all of us must deal with the enormous shame connected with sexual addiction. Today, if someone said in a social setting—even in a Christian social setting—"I'm a recovering alcoholic," I think many people might respond with: "Good for you. You've admitted you have a problem. You're doing something about it. You're getting help." We have an element of respect for someone who admits to being a recovering alcoholic. But if you say, "I'm a recovering sex addict," you will still experience enormous amounts of shame and very little understanding.

There was a time when alcoholism was thought to be only a male problem. Surely women didn't struggle like this. But we know today, of course, that females have about the same incidence of alcoholism as do males. It is probably about the same in the area of sexual addiction. If the shame associated with sexual addiction is great, the shame associated with being a female sex addict is even greater.

Sexual addiction is not, of course, a new problem. I'm not going to suggest that the Apostle Paul was a sex addict. But he certainly understood powerlessness and unmanageability. When you read what he says in Romans 7 about the struggle between the flesh and the desire to do good—this is a man who knew what it was like to feel powerless, a man who kept doing what he did not want to do. That is the essence of all addictions.

Sin or Disease?

I'm asked often, "Is sexual addiction a sin, or is it a disease?" The answer is yes. It is both. Undeniably the kinds of behaviors we are going to be talking about are sinful. The affairs that I was involved in, the great promiscuity that I was involved in before my marriage, these are unquestionably sin. And they are also part of a disease called addiction. Sometimes people come to a Christian pastor or counselor looking for help with sexual addiction and they get an answer like this: "Pray more, go to church more, read your Bible more. Be more committed. Be more [whatever]." I don't want to be misunderstood. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in reading the Bible. I believe in being connected with other Christians and going to church. And I believe in surrendering to Christ. So I'm not minimizing the importance of these things. But these things in and of themselves will not help with the disease of addiction. Believe me, people who struggle with sexual addictions have prayed. They have tried to surrender their will to God. They have tried to get connected at church. And it has not helped. Putting a kind of spiritual Band-Aid on this problem is not going to be helpful. It is going to be harmful, because it will contribute to the hopelessness that people feel. Suppose you tell someone to "just pray more," and they take your advice and pray more, and it doesn't help. Then what? It will add to their despair. And few things are more powerful fuel for addictions than despair.

So what is the solution? Sexual addiction is a multifaceted disease, and it requires a multifaceted solution. There is a physiological aspect to the problem. We know that there is a neurochemical component to sex addiction. The neurochemical changes that happen in your brain when you engage in sexual activity are closely related to the changes that take place in your brain when you take crack cocaine. So there is a physiological, biological base to this addiction. There is also an emotional component to this addiction. The shame that the addicted person feels is overwhelming. There is a mental component. There is a relationship component. And there is a spiritual component. All these components need to be addressed if the addicted person is to experience healing.

Characteristics of Addiction

Let's look at some of the characteristics of sexual addiction. There are four components that make any addiction an addiction. First, there has to be a compulsion. I can't stop. I keep doing what I don't want to do. I'm powerless to stop. You will always hear addicts say, "I know what I'm doing is wrong; I want to stop, but I can't." That was certainly true for me. I was raised in a pastor's home. I went to church all my life. I knew that the affairs I was involved in were wrong. I felt incredible shame about the affairs. I wanted to stop. I had chosen to stop many times. But I could not.

A second key component of any addiction is obsession. It's all I can think about. It's like a blanket that covers me. I'm spending so much time being sexual, recovering from being sexual, figuring out how to hide the fact that I've been sexual, planning my next sexual or relationship encounter. It's like a little bird sitting on your shoulder; it's always, always, always with you. Either as guilt and shame or the planning or the preparation. Some part is always with you.

The third main hallmark of an addiction is continuing in spite of negative consequences. Because of my promiscuity and sexual behaviors I was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by a sexually transmitted disease. I had three major surgeries within a year. I literally almost died because of massive hemorrhaging resulting from the first surgery. But even that was not enough; I still could not stop. I lost one marriage because of my sexual acting out. I married very young for all kinds of unhealthy reasons. I was unfaithful in that marriage. The truth is that he was happy to get rid of me. And I was happy to get rid of him because he was determined to fix me and I was angry about that. But I still could not stop. I married a second time and had a fairly long period of sobriety—or rather at least a fairly long period of the absence of acting out. But I was not in recovery. When the stresses of life hit again, I returned to acting out. I knew intellectually, This is going to mess up my life. I had been there once before. I'd had one divorce because of this behavior. I can tell that things aren't going well here. They are not going well in our marriage. They are not going well for our children. We had two very young children who were already very angry and impaired by being part of an addicted family. And then the health consequences began to hit. I knew this was not working for me. And yet I could not stop. When we continue in spite of adverse consequences, that is a clear sign of addiction.

The last main characteristic of addiction is tolerance. The idea of tolerance is borrowed from our understanding of chemical dependency. We understand that, for a person who does not usually drink, a glass of wine will make you feel however it makes you feel. Tomorrow a glass of wine will make you feel about the same. And the next day maybe the same. But it won't take very long before that one glass of wine will no longer give you the same kind of feeling that it once did. It might take two glasses, or three. That same phenomenon happens around our sexual activity. There is a tolerance component to the process. Part of the tolerance effect is a purely neurochemical, physiological change in the brain. We are up against our own brain chemistry. That's one aspect of the problem. But we addicts are also often adrenaline junkies. We are in this for the high. So if the high of one kind of behavior isn't enough, then either it will take more and more of that same kind of behavior or it will take going on to other, higher risk behaviors to get the same effect. The disease progresses either to more and more of the same behavior or to higher risk behaviors.

There are other characteristics to all addictions. All addictions lead to an unmanageable life. It is a progressive or degenerative process. Addictions are used to escape feelings. What an addiction does is alter our moods.

Addictions are often fueled by a sense of entitlement. I think about a pastor who is overworked and underpaid. There are so many demands on his life, he's fighting with the deacon board, nobody understands him, and he is not appreciated the way he should be. Eventually he asks himself, Who is meeting my needs? I deserve something. That is a typical way for addicts to think. No one is meeting my needs. I'll just have to do it myself. That's what I mean by entitlement. I deserve this.

Addictions are also often used by addicts as a reward. Sexual addicts experience sex as the answer to everything. If I feel overworked or lonely or sad, sex can make me feel better. If I feel happy and things are wonderful, what's the best way to celebrate? Sex. It's the answer to everything. It can medicate the kind of entitlement, anger and loneliness that we experience or it can serve as a reward.

Finally, addictions, and certainly sexual addiction, can create a feeling of power. This is particularly true for women who are sexually addicted. There is an incredible feeling of power involved. In our culture we learn that a woman's core worth in the world is her sexuality. We use sex to sell everything from cars to dishwashing liquid to carpets. Everything you can imagine. Those cultural messages are very powerful. So particularly for women who are sex addicts there is a big power component at work.

The Link Between Abuse and Addiction

The roots of sexual addiction are often found in childhood abuse—physical, emotional, spiritual or sexual. One out of three women and one out of six men will experience some kind of overt sexual abuse before the age of eighteen.

My susceptibility to sexual addiction is deeply rooted in my experience of childhood abuse and neglect. My mother died when I was three. My father was a pastor whose duties kept him absent from our home a great deal of the time. He spoke somewhere seven nights out of seven for the entirety of my childhood. And I felt very lonely. When I was five a twenty-year-old man, a deacon in the church, came into my life as a substitute father figure. He took me roller-skating every Saturday morning for years. He encouraged my writing. He would read to me and spend an enormous amount of time with me. From the age of five to the age of twenty, when I left my father's home to be married, he abused me sexually. I never thought of it as sexual abuse. He never hurt me physically. He never coerced me physically. He loved me—I thought. I loved him—I knew. We had a relationship.

The level of sexual activity did not escalate to intercourse until I was fifteen years old. Well, by fifteen—remember I was a good preacher's daughter—I knew that was wrong. In my limited understanding I had consented to this relationship with a man who at that time would have been over thirty. The only way I could explain those experiences was, I must be a whore. I know this is wrong. I know I'm not supposed to do it. From the age of five he began to sexualize me, training me to respond to him sexually. But my experience was that it was all my fault. It was only many years later when I was in counseling that I began to see that, of course, it was sexual abuse. Even the nongenital behaviors starting at age five were clearly sexual abuse.

The wounds of sexual abuse are profound. It is my conviction that until we face clearly the wounds of childhood abuse we will not be helpful to sexual addicts whose struggles are rooted in abuse. We know that eighty-one percent of sexual addicts, both men and women, are adult sexual trauma survivors—untreated trauma survivors. It is critical to understand this link between sexually abusive experiences and sexual addiction.

It is also important to emphasize that the experience of abandonment in childhood can be as problematic as the experience of abuse. I have worked with some sex addicts who are not sexual trauma survivors, but I have never worked with a sex addict who is not a survivor of childhood abandonment. After my mother died my father buried his grief in his work addiction. It was this abandonment that set me up for the sexual abuse. Physical abandonment—through death, as in my case, or through the work addiction of a parent, or through divorce—is only one kind of abandonment. Sexual abandonment—the lack of appropriate information and appropriate modeling of sexual closeness—can also cause problems. If parents display no appropriate affection around their children, there is a neglect. I have had many women tell me of the shock of their first menstruation. No one had bothered to tell them basic information about their sexuality. That's sexual abandonment. Spiritual abandonment can also be a factor. We seem to model rules-based spirituality. But many people have never had grace-based spirituality modeled for them in their family. That's a kind of spiritual abandonment. These kinds of experiences give us some very unhealthy core beliefs that, in turn, prepare us for the addictive process.

Let me say something briefly abut the core beliefs of addicts and how they are connected to neglect, abandonment and abuse. The first core belief of sexual addicts is, I am a horrible, terrible person. When we are abandoned or abused, that is what we conclude. I thought, If I had been a better little girl, my mom would not have died. Or, for sure, If I had been a better little girl my dad would have wanted to spend some time with me. If you add on top of this the sexual abuse I experienced, what can a child conclude other than, I am a horrible person.

The second core belief shared by all sexual addicts is, No one will meet my needs. Is it any surprise that a child who experiences abandonment comes to this conclusion? The people that I should be able to trust and depend on are not there for me. The third core belief is this: Sex is my most important need. Again, the connection between sexual abuse and sexual addiction is profound. When we are sexualized at an early age and experience all the confusion around that abuse, we inappropriately sexualize love, touch, nurture and affection. Everything really important in life becomes sexualized. We come to believe that love or relationship is our most important need.

Finally, sex addicts believe this: If you really knew me, you would leave me. There is this front that I present to the world, and maybe it looks really good on the outside, but it's not what is on my inside. If you knew me, you would leave. These core beliefs, often impacting us on an unconscious level, set us up for addictions of all kinds.

Healing from Sex Addiction

There are a number of key ingredients that make recovery possible. I'll discuss just a few.

Fellowship.Fellowship is the antidote to trauma and the key to long-term recovery. We cannot recover in isolation. God made us for fellowship. We were wounded in relationships, and we have to heal in relationships. Fellowship is also the antidote to lust. Healthy fellowship is what will help us become free from lust.

Accountability. It's not enough to just have fellowship. We can have fellowship that does not involve accountability, and that's not going to solve the problem. We need people who know our story and who will hold us accountable for the rituals as well as for the acting out. In my opinion, Twelve Step programs are the best place to find the right mix of fellowship and accountability. When I walk into a Twelve Step group and say, "Hi, my name is Marnie, and I'm a grateful, recovering sexaholic," I am home. I know these people understand. They have been there themselves. And I know that we can provide for each other the fellowship and accountability we need. I won't preach the whole sermon, but I believe that Christ intended churches to operate a whole lot more like Twelve Step groups. They need to be places where it's okay to be real, okay to have problems. Places where you don't have to have all your problems fixed before you feel at home.

Counseling. The Twelve Steps lead us through a methodical process that focuses on our addictive behaviors and on the defects of character that underlie our addictive behaviors. But the Twelve Steps, as wonderful and useful as they are, will not adequately address all the problems of abuse and abandonment that are at the root of sexual addiction. That's not their goal. The goal of Twelve Step programs is sobriety. And sobriety gives us an opportunity to work on the other problems that have led to our addictions or that accompany our addictions.

For example, sexual addicts, in addition to being addicted to sex, are also often depressed. And that's a problem for which counseling and medications can be very helpful. In the Christian community we do not hesitate to treat most medical problems. It bothers me that in the Christian community we so often experience resistance to the treatments and medication that have been shown to be helpful for depression. We don't tell an insulin-dependent diabetic, "Just pray more and you'll feel better. You don't need the insulin." But people who are depressed do hear people say things just like that. Depression is a medical illness. It often requires medication in addition to counseling in order to be helpful. Counseling and medication can play an important part in the recovery process. Sometimes intensive workshops or inpatient programs can also be helpful. For some people an intensive treatment program is essential for recovery, and almost all sex addicts can be helped by having an intensive jump-start to the recovery process.

Courage. Recovery requires courage. It is a difficult journey—and one that is not undertaken lightly or easily. In the Twelve Step community we say that recovery is simple but it is not easy. It will cost a lot. For many of us giving up an addiction feels like death. It is our addiction that has helped us cope with the wounds of abuse and abandonment. When we have no other, healthier coping skills, becoming abstinent from our addictions can be an absolutely terrifying, incredibly painful process. That's another reason why the fellowship and accountability is so important. Without support we will inevitably retreat into "safer" territory.

Grace. The experience of grace is central to the recovery process. I know clearly when I first felt grace. It was when I was in the middle of getting a divorce from my first husband. I was a full-blown sex addict. My life was totally out of control. And it was the first time in my life that I felt suicidal. Some people that I worked with—people that I didn't know well at all—saw my distress. It wasn't really because of the divorce. The real pain and despair I was experiencing came from the shame I experienced from the religious community of my father, the pastor. I was disowned. And shamed. I had sweet church people coming to my home at ten o'clock at night and at seven o'clock in the morning to tell me I was going to hell for divorcing my husband. I was distraught about that as much as I was about anything else. These friends put me in their car and took me to a Christian counselor. I assume that they had arranged this ahead of time, since he was available to see me. They walked me in and introduced me to this man, and then they left. I was not comfortable in that office. I did not want to be there. He said something like, "What can I do for you?" And I unleashed on him a long speech complete with some pretty salty adjectives about what I thought about Christians and what I thought about pastors. I let him have it. I said I didn't care anything about his blankety-blank whatever. But, I said, if you can stop me from killing myself I'll give you ten minutes.

You know what he said? "Okay." Just "Okay." No moralizing. No lectures on right and wrong. Right then I felt grace for the first time in my life. I let this man know just a little about who I really was. At that moment I was a really, really angry person. But he accepted me without judgment. I only met with him a few times; I wasn't ready yet to do the hard work I needed to do. So my life continued in the pattern of acting out for another twelve years after that. But I think he saved my life that day. With a single word he showed me more of the grace of God than I had experienced before. That helped me to believe twelve years later that it just might be possible for a counselor to help me. It helped me to return to that kind of resource when I was ready and able to do so.

When we experience grace, instead of the preoccupation and fantasy that drives the addictive process, we develop a vision for a different kind of life. Part of recovery is recovering a graced vision for our lives. We need a vision of a life of sobriety, a life in recovery. We need to be able to envision a life truly connected to God in a deep spirituality. And to envision ourselves and our families living a healthy life. Instead of the unhealthy rituals that lead to acting out, we need a vision of healthy rituals and disciplines in our lives. Prayer, meditation and Bible study are healthy disciplines. To be a part of a community of faith or a support group is a healthy discipline. These kinds of healthy disciplines can support healthy choices. Instead of despair, we need a vision of joy. That's what recovery is about.

Marnie Ferree offers individual and couples counseling through the Woodmont Hills Counseling Center in Nashville, Tennessee (www.woodmont.org). An audiotape set of the workshop from which this material was taken is available from Prodigals International (www.iprodigals.com).


  1. says

    I’m glad you are able to identify your negative thoughts because they are the power source for your feelings and behaviors, they are Satan’s power source because he is the ‘father of lies.’ But once we know what his power source is, how do we experience freedom from it? We ask the Lord how He was tempted with the same kinds of thoughts, based on Hebrews 2 & 4 telling us that He was made like us in EVERY way, suffering being tempted, and TEMPTED in ALL points like us (please note the difference between suffering with temptation, and overcoming that temptation, not giving in to temptation because HE trusted in His Father’s grace.

    We also ask the Lord to break the sexual bonds in our lives, as we pray Jesus’ story into our story, and then we thank Jesus that we are bonding to HIS purity, receiving HIS purity, HIS victory, HIS peace. This is a PROCESS that takes place, over time. We can experience the power of the cross, in our bodies, minds and souls, knowing that Jesus also said we can do NOTHING in our own strength…so we need to know how to receive HIS victory, HIS purity, HIS peace. There is no easy path. And there is a Jesus who will walk with us step by step of that process.

  2. Amy says

    I’m new to this page. Trying to find some kind of way to break this cycle. But reading these comments do not make me feel very hopeful that there’s any real way out of this. I’m not married so I have no way of releasing any sexual pressure with a husband. And the sexual desires are part of the way God made us (to be sexual beings). So how in the world do I stop? I do well. I’m not as bad as I used to be. But just as soon as I’m sure I’m over the masturbation addiction, thoughts enter my mind and I’m right back to where I started. I know it’s wrong. I know I don’t want to disappoint God. I don’t want to sin. But it’s like, forgive my bluntness, eating a piece of chocolate cake and spitting it out – after you’ve already started chewing. It’s soooo difficult to stop. The only thing I can think of, is to do like Joseph and FLEE from sexual sin. Because change of scenery, conversation, environment is the only thing that ever works. But the desire to get up and go do something else (after the chocolate cake thought process has started) is just absolutely the last thing I want to do. There’s just got to be some kind of method I can utilize to make this better, so I don’t have to feel like such a wretched sinner every day.

  3. Lynnette says

    I just discovered this website and am thrilled to hear all of these stories. I am a recovering sex addict. I came to this realization 3 years ago and have attending counseling since. I even tried SAA for a short time but quit going because it was mostly men and it was also a 2 hour drive to the nearest meeting. But I learned enough to know that my problem it not isolated. I didnt even know I had a problem until my fience’ insisted I get help. My first discovery of sexuality was when I was 3, by a cousin 10 years older than me. He touched and fondled me each time our families would get together. This lasted for several years. Then an older family female friend did the same to me at about age 5. I experienced pleasure and excitement from these experiences and soon discovered masterbation. Then I was molested by an older man at age 7. This included intercourse. I experienced no pain, only pleasure. I was told it was “our little secret”. I became voluntarily sexually active with boys at age 8. It was just a past time game. This continued through high school with school mates as well as older men into their 40’s. By the time I was 21 I had had 30 partners, both male and female, including group sexual encounters. At age 17 I was molested by my step father of 10 years. This continued until I was 22. We were very close. He helped me through high school, supported me in extracurricular activities and helped me get into and through college. He paid my bills, saw to it that I had everything I needed and wanted, even after he and my mother divorced when I was 18. I learned from this relationship that I had the power to manipulate men to get what I want through sex. I felt a sense of control..i even went as far as affairs with married men. They were safe, I thought, because they would keep quiet. I never wanted a relationship with any of these people. Just sex and power. I developed a very strong desire for sex with women because it was different than with men and men could no longer give the satisfaction I needed, unless i had 2 or 3 men at one time. I slept with men from 18 to 60 years of age, married, single, mostly men with a power of authority, like cops and doctors. That gave me more sense of power and control. My first marriage of 10 years was based on sex. We slept together the first night we met and had an opensexual marriage with 2 other couples for several years. After our seperation, i had sex with 10 people in the first year. Then I met my curent husband who is the first and only man ive ever known who would not fall for my sexual manipulation. By this time i had had over 60 partners, male and female. He loves me in spite of my past, in ways ive never experienced love, even withought sex. There were times where masturbating at least once daily was my norm. Now its only occasional, once every week or two. We’ve been married for almost 2 years now and are both strong in our Christion faith and in our recovery. He is a recovering drug addict. We work hard together and support each other. Assisted by anti-deppessants, ant-anxiety meds, counseling and prayer. It takes work, every day. But with Gods grace and mercy I have hope and a future.

    • margie says


      This is just plain beautiful, I was reading this and recently I need to hear things like this
      , its just so hard somedays…

      I really dont know, I wish it all could go away… i feel really sick inside and I wish I could have someone to talk to about this, due to the delicacy of the subject and shame… some people might not understand… how do you go through life like this… ?

      Its so hard, and I really thank you for sharing all this… i need this as a constant reminder,,.

  4. says

    Psalm 86:11-12 shares David’s prayer, when he had a divided heart: “Lord, UNITE my heart… so I can praise You with a WHOLE HEART.”

    Some versions have David saying ‘Lord, give me an UNDIVIDED heart.”

    Either way, God wants to heal your wounded heart so you do not feel like you are two persons….and as we pray Jesus’ story into our story, with the ways He suffered for our suffering, and He suffered for our sin, becoming our sin, being MADE INTO our sin, and our sin offering/guilt offering (2 Cor. 5:21; Isaiah 53:8-12), on a daily basis, we can receive HIS wholeness…He will pour HIS wholeness into our brokenness, and with HIS wholeness comes HIS peace, HIS joy and the fullness of HIS forgiveness for everything we DID know, and everything we did NOT KNOW about the way we’ve been hurt by others and we have hurt others (Luke 23:34).

  5. johnsongirl says

    Woww.. Im coming to admit that I am a sex addict.. I was abused as a young girl.. not once but twice buy a my moms daughter and my guy cousin.. im really starting to realize this has an affect on my life sexually.. and I also feel bad because when I was younger about 10 I did this same sexual act to my cousin. And me being saved now it makes me fee horrible knowing that I did that to her bc of the way that I feel on the inside and what makes it even worse is that I hold this in I have never told anyone. It’s like im two people. My heart just ache thinking about telling anyone. I want to tell my mom but im scared. I ev3n want to talk ti my cousin who I did thus too but I dont know how too.. im just afraid everyone will judge me. I really need someone to talk to about this bc its something I have dealt with for 20 years now and I just got to let it out I have too.

    • Mysterygirl says

      Wow Johnsongirl you just told my story. I thought I was the only one. It’s so shameful and lonely feeling the guilt of it constantly and makes it near impossible to seek help.

    • says

      What happened to you with your mom’s daughter and your guy cousin was wrong…and it opened the door to sexual activity, leading you to sexual activity with your cousin. Satan, the father of lies, gives us negative messages about ourselves when someone sins against us…and when we sin against or hurt someone else. . And I would be glad to share a story from my book being published in August where we share/teach in the “show and tell” model, sharing a real life story of sin, guilt and shame, and how scripture can bring healing and freedom and release to your guilt and shame. As that happens, as God gives you HIS peace, and the fullness of HIS forgiveness, you can ask HIM about the next step to take. Jesus said “Forgive [ meaning there is a sin to forgive’, for they KNOW NOT what they do,” [meaning that there are things about our behaviors we do not know…we do not know all the consequences of our choices, actions or reactions, all the ways we will one day wake up and realize what we have done…. It is A PROCESS, and it is a process that offers DEEP HEALING, and DEEP FREEDOM, beginning with healing the wounds you received when you are sexually violated. We have a Jesus who was stripped naked, physically violated, shamed and humiliated by those in power over him, the very ones who should have been protecting Him, so He could go through what you’ve gone through, so you would know you are not alone…and because He trusted in His Father at every step of the way, He has also earned the right to “heal your broken heart and set you free” (Luke 4:18; Malachi 4:2)…. With prayers for God’s amazing grace to flood your body, your mind and your soul with HIS peace that passes understanding. Paul

  6. E says

    I am in need of help. I have recently come to completely understand and admit that I am a sex addict. I cheated on my husband. He has decided he wants to stay together. I desperately want the help I need in order to turn my life around. I have a strong belief in Christ. The part I am missing here is the fellowship. It has been 4 months since my husband found out and while we have been in counseling together, I have not been in individual counseling. I am moving to a new place Aug first and intend to start weekly counseling then. When my husband first found out and confronted me I wanted desperately to start the path of recovery. The problem I am having is that I cannot find a recovery group to connect to. I live near York, PA. I tried going thru sex addicts anonymous but got no where. There were no sessions near by me and the 2 phone/online session I tried to join never responded to my requests. I went as far as to contact the online administrator and was told to just keep trying. I really do want to work at this and become the person God has intended for me to be. I need to help and support of those that have through this. I am tired of trying to do it on my own and figure out what to do. Can anyone help me?

    • Chris P. says

      I am a male recovering SA in York PA with 5 years sobriety. There are several Sexaholics Anonymous meetings in The York area (see listing at Central PA SA inter group website http://centralpasa.org). There is also a 12 Step, Christian-based Life Recovery group in Shrewsbury PA (allied with NACR) which welcomes all people struggling with addiction and/or co-dependency (email is liferecovery@gfcshrewsbury.org). You are welcome to try either or both. May God bless you with His grace and power in your journey of faith.

  7. That Lady says

    I have struggled with masturbation since 8 years old. I seen a girl I’m my elementary class hunching her chair daily and I knew what exactly she was doing but I wasn’t into it. Until I told on her and I got in trouble because my teacher didn’t believe me and my mother found out and was upset. After that I would come home before my siblings and go home and hunch my chair too out of curiosity but Sadly being so young and innocent one period of my life opened up a whole book that I can discuss. So soon after in junior high and highschool I still continued to struggle with it. I always felt guilt and hid it from everyone and felt like an elephant in a room because I would always think somebody knew about it. When I was 18 years old I lost my virginity to some guy I didn’t know long and then after it just started full blown masturbating. I never been into porn at times I sneaked a peek but it wasn’t for me. Any little image or music would set me off. When I was in college I was promiscuous. I was looking for love and never was able to find “that guy” and continued to masturbate. I was ashamed and at times I would justify it by saying “well at least im not having sex” it’s been a cycle for me for all these years. I have confessed to family and prayed with somebody before. I have read books on soul ties and self stimulation/lust. I have prayed and cried. And since I left college I just try not to beat myself up anymore. Its a struggle for me because my impluse control is low. If I meet a guy that I find Im attractive to then I find myself struggling to resist that temptation. If I’m not having sex then I struggle Not to masturbate. I just know many women struggle with this and I wish it was talked about more. I know some of my friends so but none have confessed. I pray I meet s guy who understands this and respects me enough to not press up on me after I already expressed to them I dint want sex. I pray God brings the right man in my life when I’m ready. I pray that I receive complete heading in my life and these Chains are broken. Now that I have left college its still a struggle but I believe things will change. I have to start by changing my thoughts. This is a very proactive site and im grateful to have women to relate to! Thanks.

  8. priscillia says

    I read dis over nd over…..m also a victim nd i wanna brk free..I come from a very good Christian home had strict parents who wr always redy to scold you for any wrong….was molested by my relations even went as far for me being a homosexual…..this a big problem keeping me from loving myself…..nt open to people…..trying to be fake to fit in @all times…I find it difficult in being in a relationship I feel big hatred for myself….I keep falling and rising no standard# m afraid that I might loose it someday… it’s affecting me in all areas of my life…..plssss help me out…..m dying gradually

  9. Christine says

    After reading this article I believe I am a sex addict… Although I haven’t acted out sexually, I have it inside of me and it scares me sometimes. Like one day I’ll be ok and then the next day I’m desiring to have sex with someone, anyone, really bad. It really scares me that I’m feeling all these things because I know what sex will do to me if I act out. I’ll be even more depressed, more hurt and worse off maybe even have a child not being ready to take care of it because I’m having a hard time caring for myself. Please pray for me. I hope this struggle to end. It’s eating me alive. :/

  10. Seeking Peace says

    Reading all these comments has really struck me in the heart. I am 24, and have recently discovered that I am a sex addict, and I have been thinking about my past and how this came to be. I remember when I was very little, maybe 7 years old, my older brother and I stumbled onto a pornography channel in our grandmother’s house. I don’t even think she knew that she had the channel, because she was older and didn’t know how to work her TV well. The images I saw really scarred me, and it went on for hours. That day changed my life. Sometime later, my brother and I experimented with each other. Ever since then, I have been addicted to masturbating. When I was a kid, there were other times when other children wanted to do something with me like kiss or touch, and I let them, up until maybe age 14. I can remember enjoying it to a degree but also feeling disgusted with myself, and now I find myself thinking about those kids and wondering if they’re damaged, too, like me, and knowing that it’s my fault that they are. I would masturbate often – maybe once a week. Even after that age, older men often propositioned me because I had developed physically early on and I looked older than my age. One man even sexually harassed me in public for an entire bus ride. I also found myself writing sexual stories with dark themes from a young age, maybe as young as 10. One time my mother even found one of the stories and questioned me about it, but I was afraid of my father so I begged her not to tell anyone and I guess she didn’t. On the outside, no one would ever have known (and they still don’t). I was an A student, I wasn’t overweight, I had best friends in school, and I had decided to get baptized at age 11. Outside of the times that I would masturbate, I felt happy, I truly believed in God, and was a bubbly person, and people often pointed to me as a role model for others. And I sometimes believed those things about myself – it was like I had two separate people inside me. Everyone told me nice things about myself, and I believed them, and then I would be at home on our computer, reading porn stories. There were times, even when I was young, that I thought about telling someone about what was going on with me, but I was afraid. My father and all his family/friends were very fond of belittling people who were sinful or had hurt people – prostitutes, adulterers, gang bangers, etc. They always made it sound as though these people were trash and were irredeemable, and they would go on and on about them and their evil, even though he has confessed to doing some pretty bad things himself. He didn’t really hug me or say the words I love you – I think he was afraid to, because he didn’t come from a very loving household. I was always scared that if I really messed up, my father would kick me to the curb and tell everyone how he hated me. For college, my other grandmother bought me a laptop, and I found myself going on the internet weekly for porn stories and images, and masturbating. Like many people here, I wanted so badly to stop, but didn’t know who to trust. I prayed over and over again that God would make me stop. There would be times when I would be able to stop for a few weeks, but then I would fall again, and I started to hate myself for that. Even when I graduated college it still continued. No one else knows, and I have been very functional. I have never lost a job over it or anything like that. Still, as one of my New Year’s resolutions this year I prayed everyday that I could draw closer to God and hear His voice, and he has really convicted my heart over this issue. I know I need help, and I want to talk to a counselor about it, but I am afraid to tell my family members. They are all pretty happy right now, and this would completely destroy them. Right now I have been sober from my addiction for nearly two weeks, and I want it to stay that way. However, I feel trapped, and ashamed. I have been crying for days, and I have barely been able to eat or sleep, or get out of the house, except when I know people are expecting me to. I know if I could find the right person to confide in, I could work up to telling my family. I’m afraid that I’ve ruined those other kids’ lives. I’m afraid that even though God loves me, I can never be happy again, and that I can never be useful to God again. I had so many dreams of things I’ve worked hard for, and now I feel like they’re all completely destroyed because once everyone knows, they’ll see that I’m worthless. I’m trying to look past that, but right now that’s all I can see.

    • Regina says

      Take heart sister, it seems that I am going through the same thing as you do. Well done for going two weeks clean, it is a big achievement. When I was younger I thought that I was doing the things I was doing because I wasn’t strong enough mentally, I didn’t feel like Jesus was there for me, I didn’t think that my love for God was strong enough and that I was doomed to be a sex addict for the rest of my life. I will pray for your strength to continue sister, and remember, nothing is impossible. We can overcome this addiction. Best of luck xx

    • M says

      I too feel your pain! Its very hard. I have struggled for years but one thing I’ve learned is God doesn’t condemn me. I am my own worst critic. Many Christian Woman struggle with this…those who are married, single, young, older, and widowed. I have confessed my struggles to my mother, who is a minister, and she prayed for me. I feel like I done it all to stop. If you can think of it I have tried. It’s a touchy subject for the church and it is not addressed unfortunately. I know one thing is that their is a battlefield in our mind and it is apart of the Christian battle to fight. I know and believe one day things will get better for me and I hope for you as well.

    • says

      You can identify the fact that you are completely destroyed, because others will see you as worthless. Jesus was “made like you in EVERY way…tempted like you in ALL points…” (Heb. 2:17-18, 4:15), and He took on all your shame, all your sin, all your sense of worthlessness to death on the cross. Then He rose again to RELEASE the negative messages you have received about yourself, giving you a negative identity that haunts you, so HE could REPLACE those negative thoughts and the negative identity with your truest, deepest identity as HIS daughter, receiving HIS PURITY, (the opposite of the impurity you experience through your different experiences with pornography etc.), HIS VICTORY, HIS PEACE, and HIS FORGIVENESS for everything you DID know and everything you DID NOT know (Luke 23:34)…. I would be glad to share some sample prayers helping you to pray Jesus’ story into your story, prayers we want you to adapt and make your own, prayers focused on releasing the shame and guilt that come from the negative thoughts. Negative thoughts or lies from the ‘father of lies’ produce negative feelings. Negative feelings produce negative behavior in our efforts to numb our pain and shame, and/or comfort ourselves. And we have Jesus hanging on the cross, in His deepest, darkest moment, being tempted to numb His pain with wine. But it’s not the wine, its the temptation to numb His pain. Because He went through that fierce temptation, trusting in HIS Father, He can offer us HIS victory over our addictions. It is a PROCESS…and you can see/experience progress along the way…. With prayers that God is releasing the negative thoughts creating the negative feelings and negative behaviors, giving you HIS peace, so you are resting in HIS love.

    • margie says


      Again, I aplaud for the sharing… Im reading all these stories and its like reading myself… and before I always thought I was so sick I could relate to anyone…

  11. says

    My addiction and masturbation has ruined my life. I am now a victim of demons because of this. A spirit of lust/perversion – this is what it is and now it has come to a point where EVERY NIGHT, I get visited by strange things(figures) that rape me repeatedly, I feel everything but I cannot see them and evryday after that I wake up with a pain in my lower parts….and my vigina. these are demons and I don’t know what to do – I am ashamed, i can’t speak to my pastor – I just joined a new church but now I need deliverance.


    • says

      While I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, the greatest power on earth is the power of prayer, because it connects us to Christ the Wonderful Counselor. After 10,000+ hours of clinical and pastoral counseling, working with a lot of sexual addiction (and sexual abuse), I have seen the Lord set a lot of people free from the addiction, from the guilt, shame, regret, bondage and sense of hopelessness that comes with the addiction….because we deal with the roots of the addiction, not just the behavior itself. Focusing on overcoming the behavior often leads to thinking about the behavior, which increases bondage to the behavior….so while we do not ignore the behavior, we focus on more than the behavior itself…and how Christ has already overcome all addictions and temptations to addictions.

  12. says

    This is a great article! Holistic, well-balanced and transparent, offering different aspects along with the dynamics of abuse, addiction and the recovery process.

    As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often encourage people to join support groups in addition to counseling. And the kind of praying I do involves asking the Lord to reveal Satan’s lies he places in our hearts in the midst of the abuse, speaking in “first person” language: I’m bad; I’m a whore, I’m no good, I’m worthless, I’m alone etc.” Then I share how Jesus suffered when He fulfilled prophecy as part of His plan of salvation in addition to dying for our sins (see Isaiah 53; Luke 9:22; 22:15; 24:24-26; Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16 etc.).

    When someone has been sexually abused we walk with Jesus from Gethsemane to Calvary, where He fulfilled prophecy when He was left alone and abandoned (like Marnie’s story), betrayed for the price of a slave, (like so many who are betrayed into sexual slavery and abuse), stripped naked, physically violated, shamed and humiliated, verbally and mentally abused by men in position of power over Him who should have been protecting Him. Then He was tempted to numb His pain on the cross in His deepest, darkest moment when He felt like His own Father had forsaken Him.

    This is a “Rubber meets the Road Savior” who has been there before us – who can understand stand us… a Savior who can be trusted with our pain and shame, our sins and our wounds. He is a Savior who went through all of this so we would know that He knows what we’ve gone through, earning the right to earn our trust and “rise again with healing in His wings,” (Malachi 4:2).

    As we move from information ABOUT Jesus’ gospel, to application OF Jesus’ gospel through prayer, to transformation BY Jesus’ gospel as we spend time week after week praying, looking at patterns of self-protection, negative thoughts, fears, shame and addictions, taking “every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), we see a consistent pattern of healing and freedom in Christ who is the “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6), who is our Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30).

    We can pray a prayer like this sample prayer:
    Dear Lord Jesus, Thank You for choosing to fulfill prophecy, being alone, abandoned, betrayed, stripped naked, physically violated, shamed and humiliated, verbally and mentally abused, tempted to numb Your pain in Your deepest, darkest moment when You felt forsaken by Your Father so You could be tempted to believe all the lies and negative messages I have received…that You were not good enough, You were bad, It was Your fault, You are to blame, You deserved it etc…. so You could suffer in Your soul (Isaiah 53:10-11), taking to death on the cross all of my negative messages, all my pain and shame, sin and guilt.

    Thank You for rising again, breaking all sexual bonds connecting me to my abuser, so I can receive my truest, deepest identity as Your daughter (or son), with Your resurrection power and Your purity bonding my body, mind and soul to Your heart, mind and soul. In Your name Jesus, Amen.

    Praying these kinds of prayers, while we are continually asking the Lord to reveal any of the negative messages she has received, any of the negative patterns of thinking or behaving, any of the fears and shame etc. keeping her from receiving the fullness of Jesus forgiveness – we find more and more healing and freedom taking place.

    It is not easy. There is no quick-fix. And we do have a powerful Savior when we can pray these kinds of prayers, combining the best of support groups with Christ the “Wonderful Counselor.”

    I have one story in my book “The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours” of a lady who was raped by at least 5 different men by the time she was 7 years old. She lived with nightmares, depression, oppression etc. along with two marriages and two divorces. She has not only experienced a lot of healing and freedom, but she is now praying with other women. Like the woman at the well (John 4), she has moved into ministry with a testimony in the context of Christ-centered community).

    • Kimberly says

      I appreciated reading what you wrote about Jesus and His suffering, and how He can be a source of healing for those of us who have been abused. I am glad you recognize that there are no quick fixes.
      I know. I wish my abuser would have been a stranger, but she was not. I can’t begin to put into words what suffering abuse from a parent does to a child, and to the person that child becomes. Most of my life has been filled with depression, isolation, emotional pain, suicide attempts, numbing out, flashbacks, and flooding. I still dissociate. I am nearing the end of almost five yeas of psychotherapy with a very dear psychotherapist who is a recoveing alcoholic. He has been the father I never had. I came into therapy in a severe depression, which slowly lifted, and then word by word, from the depths of my inside came my story.
      I am grateful that I have recovered from the abuse as much as I have. I have felt the love of God in therapy in such a palpable way. I’m not a sex addict, but have struggled with emotional pain and regulation, acting out, driving fast, numbing with oxycotin and wine. I wish that churches were more open to people, more nonjudgemental, more loving in a safe way, and more welcoming to those of us who are not so sure that we trust church. My struggle is not over yet, and I doubt if any of us truly recovers from all of the residual damage from abuse that really destroys the sense of who we are. Thanks for sharing about Jesus and being honest about there being no quick fixes. I guess I value honesty, especially from Christians. Many times I have noticed hypocrisy, not honesty. I have seen alot of sexual abuse in the church especially with children. I have found that a devastating experience on several occasions. I still hear my mother’s voice, and I am in my 60’s. It has been a difficult struggle. I am grateful that God led me to my therapist, that he is in recovery, he is so real, his tears show, he cares, and he knows and has experienced first hand the devastating effects of abuse on a child. I believe if he wouldn’t have shared his story with me I would not have had the trust to share mine which was so filled with shame. One of the most powerful recollections for me is that Jesus bore my shame, and I am not alone in it anymore. I am nearing the end of therapy, and for me becasue of the significance of this therapeutic relationship, this will be the hardest thing I have ever had to walk through. The little girl inside loves the therapist, and leaving is very, very hard.

      • says

        Thank you for sharing more about your journey…and yes, healing is a process, with NO short cuts, NO quick fixes, NO Christian cliches or platitudes. I grew up in a violent home, experiencing a lot of physical abuse, starting at an early age in life….having to walk through fear, shame, anger, bitterness, (and as I grew older – addictions to alcohol, cocaine etc.).

        I’m so thankful you have a therapist who can identify with you…there is great power in our ability to identify with each other, which is why there is great power in Christ’s suffering, choosing to identify with all our shame and all our abuse, with all the fears and ways we try to medicate our pain and loss of safety, loss of protection/being violated by the very people who should have been our protectors.

        The losses are many, with many layers so I’m thankful we have other Christians who are willing to be honest, and we have Jesus, who is a “Man of grief and sorrows” – WHO knows about grief and loss, WHO knows about our need for other safe people on the journey, WHO knows that the fullness of His freedom will come when we are in HIS presence, even as we can experience a lot of healing in the here-and-now.

        If our churches had small groups of people who were safe, who could listen WITHOUT needing to fix us, who were willing to also share their stories, our churches would have much more power from God. As I travel and train around the country and different countries, the greatest need I see is for Christ-centered community, yet it is so, so rare because so many Christians are unable and/or unwilling to risk being honest, being open being human. And the result is that everyone loses…the person in pain has to mask his or her pain, often settling for religion instead of a relationship with God, resulting in not-so-good-fruit that impacts their marriages, their families and their churches, to say nothing of their witness to the community.

        Some Christians will tell people to just have more faith…which is really telling us “that if you just had what you do not have…then you would have it..” I’d rather invite people to come to Jesus with the prayer, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief, my inability to believe. Lord I’m coming to You just as I am, knowing You love to meet me where I am, so You can increase my faith as I receive more of Your healing love.

        This allows the person to be open, honest and authentic, like Job…. if, like Job, we are angry at God, we can be totally honest with God about that as well, just as Job did, Jeremiah did, Jonah did etc…. God can handle our honest prayers, filled with doubt, fear and anger much better than the sterilized, sanitized prayers to God that are trying to tell God what we think God wants to hear. Job’s prayers are some of the most intimate in the whole Bible, because they are so honest, so authentic and he is so open about the rawness of his pain and anguish and lack of understanding. The “try harder – do more” approach will never work because it is the opposite of resting in Jesus, allowing Jesus to minister to the wounded places in our hearts that we are unable to heal on our own.

        I will be praying for the next phase of your journey, where you are close to leaving therapy, which is definitely a positive sign of growth, even as it also means you are losing a place of safety and support with someone who understands you without judging you, and has walked with you through the dark, painful places of your heart.

        I pray that you can find one other person to continue sharing your journey with, based on 1 Thess. 2:8, where the apostle Paul said “We love you so much we shared with you NOT ONLY the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

        The great New Testament evangelistic never shared the gospel without sharing his own life with others, just as Jesus never shared HIS gospel without sharing HIS life with those around HIM. Without the relational component, where we are investing our lives into the lives of others with openness, honesty and authenticity, we are not really sharing the gospel, we are not really experiencing the gospel.

        No two stories are the same….even as there are similarities in abuse, brokenness and addictions. You’ve already come a long way and God has provided a wonderful therapist for you, so I’m offering her story as one option, while honoring where you are in your journey, knowing that Jesus is walking with you, with me and with all of us, one step at a time while we are waiting to see Him face to face :-).

  13. Tina says

    The people on here that are talking about masturbating i think are lucky.I have to have sex or i get very moody, my private area starts throbbing and i go crazy. I try thinking of other things and that don’t work.

  14. Tina says

    I am a sex addict. I am also addicted to drugs. As a child i was abused in every way possible. Then I got married and my husband at the time also abused me. Now I have three children that where not planned. I love them but and not prepared to take care of them. He now has full custody and is in mexico abusing them. I Need help but refuse to go back to therapy. I now have a seizure disorder from all the abuse and I need some advise on these addiction problems. I have no to get to therapy and have no way to get to groups. I can’t i drive. I live with my boyfriend but he never has time for me unless we watch t.v. together. What do i do? I love and care for the man i live with but have been sleeping with another man because a couple months ago we had a pregnancy scare and now he won’t even touch me. PLEASE CONTACT ME WITH THE ADVICE.

    • David says

      I am definitely a sex addict, and I so agree with the writer that the sex addiction was rooted in sex abuse and abandonment. My mother put me on top of here on night when I was about 9 or 10. More than 40 years have passed since that fateful night, but I still remember ever second of that 5 minutes period. I always blame myself for what happened since I felt that I seemed to like it and perhaps it was me who started it!

  15. says

    First off I would like to say great blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.

    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing.
    I’ve had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Appreciate it!

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