Many Christians struggle with the idea that sex addiction is a mental health issue, not a character flaw, and that you can heal from it. Others worry about their faith because they think sex addiction is a sin, and they can’t be Christian if they have an addiction. But God wants you to be whole again, and you always deserve His love.
Understanding the Sex Addiction Cycle
Sex addiction is a preoccupation with sexual thoughts or actions that are difficult to control and negatively affect your life. Unresolved trauma is linked with sex addiction, although other factors may be involved. A person usually figures out that they have an addiction or something is seriously wrong when they try to stop their behaviors and can’t. They’re stuck in the cycle of sex addiction.
Act to Cope with Adverse Emotions
People who feel stressed or anxious or have other negative emotions, often surrounding unresolved trauma, use sex to cope with these emotions. This adverse coping could be anything from watching pornography to having a one-night stand. Often they feel better initially, but the feeling doesn’t last.
Feel Guilt and Shame
Christians with sex addiction often feel extreme guilt and shame about their behavior. They know what they’re doing is wrong and don’t want to hurt anyone around them, but they can’t stop, even when they try. This part of the cycle leads to feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Rededicate to God
For Christians with sex addiction, the addiction cycle often involves a rededication to God. The person will decide to quit their addictive behavior, often asking God for help or recommitting to their faith by promising to do better.
Experience Stress or Adversity
After the person decides to stop the addictive behavior and rededicates themselves to God, they experience negative feelings again. They aren’t sure how to cope with them, so they return to the addictive behavior for relief.
Repeat the Cycle
The sex addiction cycle is a repeating pattern of behavior — using sex for relief from negative emotions, feeling shame and guilt, the negative emotions return, and the cycle repeats. Once an addiction forms, it can seem impossible to stop.
How Sex Addiction Shakes Christians’ Faith
Sex addiction may make Christians fear punishment from God or being ostracized from their church community. They also may feel disconnected from their faith and unsure how to re-engage with that vital aspect of their life while their behavior is sinful. And because of the fear of punishment, Christians may be less likely to seek help or confide in those closest to them.
Being a Christian makes some aspects of sex addiction even more difficult, said T.C. Ryan, author of Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction and pastoral consultant at Boulder Recovery.
“In following Jesus, what we do with our life matters. What we do with our body matters,” he said.
He continued, “It’s clear to Christians with sex addictions that it’s neither appropriate nor acceptable. And the guilt and shame of knowing that something you’re doing is wrong is extremely isolating.”
And the negative impact isn’t just on the person with the addiction. It affects their family too. Christian families, especially partners, often feel like their church community turns away from them when they need them the most, T.C. said.
“They’re in a horrible bind,” he said.
The Path to Restoration
Restoring one’s relationship with God and others is critical to resolving how sex addiction shakes Christians’ faith. The healing journey of restoration includes some essential steps.
To heal from sex addiction, you must:
- Understand the Cause. Seek help from a mental health professional to understand the root cause of the addiction. Unresolved trauma often results in sex addiction. You’ll likely relapse if you try to treat the behaviors but not the cause.
- Learn Healthy Coping. A mental health professional also can help you identify healthy coping skills for triggers.
- Dedicate Time to Your Faith. As you heal your mental and physical health, you also can work to restore your faith and strengthen your relationship with God.
- Rely on Your Support System. How much you tell people about your addiction is your decision. However, you need to be honest with yourself and your partner. You also would benefit from the support of those closest to you, perhaps including your church community, as you work through this issue.
“The Church has to learn to become more emotionally healthy by better understanding addiction and coming at it from a place of grace,” T.C. stated. “The Church needs to reach beyond itself and find those who can coach and guide it through the situation. Sometimes removing the person is necessary, but it shouldn’t be the automatic or assumed approach.”
Get Help at Boulder Recovery
As Christians, you’re called to be in a relationship with God. But sex addiction can make you feel far from your faith. If you have a sex addiction, you’re not alone. Resources are available to help you through this difficult time and bring you closer to God again.
Contact Boulder Recovery to determine the best path to recovery and restoration of your faith.