I had lunch with M one day to talk business, and I got on with him well. We were both excited about the projects we were working on, but soon got to more personal things. I told him about the depression I kept fighting and about treatment to keep it in check. He went into a lot of things about his life I didn’t know, then paused before opening a big door into a troubled past.
He talked about his separation from his wife – how they had put everything on the table – and now were doing great again. His big problem was that he was an addict – to fantasy and sexuality. I listened hard to what he was saying, staring intently into a part of my own life I didn’t want to see.
He described what he went through each time he faced something that could trigger him, like an alcoholic staring at a drink. It was essential for him to think about what he was doing in deciding whether or not to see a sexy movie, or pick up the playboy at the barbershop or carry a conversation with a woman beyond a certain point. At these moments he could change into a different person: his arms got prickly, his heart started racing, he couldn’t think of anything else but the powerful fantasy that was starting to consume him. Interest turned rapidly to obsession, he felt a compulsive drive building, and his critical mind shut down. For a while, he would sink into his urge, spending an insatiable night at a strip club or pouring over porn or getting into a strange woman’s bed. He felt driven, his mind a hungry torrent. Thoughts, such as they were, pushed him farther along at first: What harm could there be? He couldn’t see anything wrong in what he was doing, he just needed the fantasy and the sex from time to time. But the feeling would turn more desperate as the balance tipped and he could no longer take it lightly, and lost his confidence that he could turn this on or off at will.
In his case, he said, it was a clear addiction. Self hate and depression followed each binge, and he would be disgusted with himself, push what he had done far out of his mind, sure he would never do that again – until the next time the urge was upon him. – But, he said, after one last crisis with his wife, he had been able to turn himself around. It had happened through a twelve step program, and I could see the power of his frank talk as a way of reminding himself of the basic boundaries he had to live with.
I tried hard to believe that his description had never applied to me – but I was kidding myself. Though I hadn’t done the same things and might not choose the same words, there I had been for a long period, obsessed with fantasies of escaping into a life with other women, pushing every friendship to a point where it could become an affair, though saved from total disaster by a knack for picking women friends who simply would not cross that line. The fantasy was much more about seeking the high of feeling in love – but with that the more primal urge to have power over someone. It was like needing a drug fix but one achieved through an obsession of mind and feeling, even more than physical satisfaction. The woman in the fantasy could change often – she didn’t really matter. This was not about forming a relationship, it was about satisfying powerful drives that I did not even try to control.
I gave no thought to the destructive things that might happen to my wife and family or the women I knew. There was no thinking, only finding the excitement of the emotional high I needed. Yet, like my friend, as soon as the craziness of the fantasy became apparent, I would be consumed with guilt, or more than that, a kind of self-loathing. A deep depression would take hold, and I would scarcely be able to look at myself in a mirror. And also like M, it took a crisis with my wife to finally get me to scrape bottom and see the fantasies for what they were. That was horribly painful – there was a long day crying, a deep shame and the inner pain of facing something about myself that I had never wanted to see. But it was finally liberating too. Deep down I knew that this was what recovering life was all about. I began to find a calmer center that would enable me to move on.
Have you had that feeling of a powerful drive taking over and of your own reckless consent to give way, as you imagine how harmless it would be to indulge yourself – just this once?
I have just recently found this website while looking for information and support ideas. My husband of 30 years became very depressed after the death of his father – I’m thinking he was already mildly depressed before – and for the past 6 months life has been complicated, with his own depression resulting in many other things coming up including problems in our relationship. I have been reading every blog post in here and found many interesting and helpful things.
There is one thing that I have been looking for and haven’t exactly found here but it seems to me that it might be experienced by many depressed men. I am looking for experiences and ideas on how to break the cycle : depression –> erectile dysfunction –> more depression
Alongside with his depression and result of a very common link between depression and sexual problems including lack of interest in sex etc, my husband started having erectile problems really early in his depression. WE did check with the doctor that after tests stated she believes the problem is not as much physical but psychological – related to the depression – but I haven’t noticed much effort or information on her part as how to break the cycle. I understand that she is thinking in terms of treat the depression the erectile problems will disappear. But surely there can be other approaches. My husband is still at the stage that he doesn’t want to believe he is depressed. He is also very reluctant to try counseling to address the depression he doesn’t believe he has.He’s been trying to solve the problems by himself – yeah, I know. complicated – but one thing I have noticed is that the more down he is the more trouble he has sexually, which in turn gets him even more depressed, which will lead to more trouble with ed, taking him to a deeper depression state that…. You get the idea. It’s an awful cycle and I have been trying to find different options like for example the opposite approach, meaning help with ed – prescription wise if needed – to take away a big chunk of worry , anxiety and lower self esteem created by the ed, in hopes that with that part somewhat solved and working it might be easier for him to concentrate on the depression side of the equation and hopefully find it easier to accept not only that he is depressed but also be receptive for help. I understand that everyone is different and reacts differently to things but I believe that sexuality being such an important aspect of their lives – evidently also for women, but I find it even more so for men – self worth and confidence, does create a huge hurdle when it fails in any case but specially with depression. However I have not been able to see my husband’s doctor focus on that part. Any ideas or suggestions? Do you believe it might be a worth approach?
ANNE: Wow…do we share the same husband?! This is EXACTLY the cycle that started early in my marriage with my husband. He had ED, fell in to a depressive cycle, and even tried to blame me for his ED. He actually tried to break it off with me several times; his reasoning was that we we’re not “sexually compatible.”
(JOHN: I am new around here-I see most comments are from a year ago, so I hope this blog is still active!)
I also have a very sneaky suspicion that my husband might be a covert sex addict. I’ve never been able to find any concrete proof–other than a suspicious charge to an 800 number on our phone bill and a very suspicious text–which of course he very convincingly denied having anything to do with.
I actually had a lucid dream one morning, where I was sitting at the computer. A voice told me to that I needed to look into a chat session he was having with another woman, and showed me the chat on the computer screen. When I woke up, I found his phone–which he’d apparently left behind–and that is when I found the suspicious text: it said, “let’s talk dirty sometime.”
After finding the text, I decided to look at the cache on the computer (he doesn’t understand computers as well as I do!) and found reams and reams of porn cached on the computer for a period of about a year.
Contrary to what one might think–though my husband is tall dark and handsome, he is NOT a flirt. i have literally never been suspicious of his behavior toward other women. He is more of an introvert. He does not act inappropriately around other woman; in fact, he seems disinterested in them. In fact, I thought he was even disinterested in me when we met! I invited him to come out to a casual get together and he didn’t show up. I had pretty much given up on him when he finally asked me out!
I have a very, very uneasy feeling that he occasionally seeks out anonymous sexual encounters–whether they go beyond phone sex or to what extent, I don’t know.
Honestly, I’m not sure I want to know! O.K…I know I should want to know. I know it would be best to get it out into the open–painful but necessary.
I am not sure if I’m asking a question here or simply relating a story; either way I think I’m starting to see a pattern emerge reading the posts on your site, that my husband seems to fit–and I’m wondering if sexual addiction is the last piece of the puzzle.
Cheers, thanks for this blog!
This type of addiction is curious to me. I have had my addictions for sure – drugs (narcotics) etc. as well as obsessions but not sex although I sort of wish it were since depression and social anxiety have kept me from experiencing intimacy. I’m 55 now but used to be quite good looking. I had been approached numerous times throughout my life but I could never reciprocate. I attempted suicide a few years back from the profound loneliness.
thank you John. can’t wait for another informative posting. With the best of luck!
This blog is very helpful for those people who are in the stage of this kind of problem, they really serve as an eye opener. thanks!
Hello, Eva –
Thank you – your site looks like a fine resource on this same problem.