Q. I can’t get enough of women. I have to look at every woman who walks by. I watch porn, I flirt, I keep in touch with past girlfriends, I make new ones, I browse for women online. I get up to 30 e-mails a day from women. Once I have seduced them online, they are dying to meet me and usually sleep with me on the first date. Then I find the simplest flaw and use that against them to break it off. They are devastated. They feel I have used them sexually, and they are right.
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The kicker is that I am married. My wife is great, beautiful, intelligent and we have a good sex life. I am 41. We have been together for 25 years. I, however, still have a constant rotation of new women. I just can’t stop seducing other women and having sex with them. Nor do I want to, because I am having the time of my life.
This is affecting my job, but only because it is so time-consuming. Typically, it takes three hours a day to write to women. Then I make phone calls to those higher on the rotation. Then I e-mail again for another three hours after my wife goes to bed. Then I do a few hours of research for new women.
I have slept with an untold number of women. I would not call it an addiction because I like it so much and it makes me happy to meet them, seduce them, sleep with them and, yes, even break up with them. This week I will hit my all-time record of sleeping with 13 different women. They are all beautiful, intelligent and successful, and they all think we will live happily ever after. They have no idea that I am sleeping with so many other women, let alone married. I know hurting them emotionally is bad. I just can’t stop. To me it is all fair game as long as it is consensual.
For me, it is not simply the sex, it is the seduction, and the mental games and pleasure I receive from this. To seduce a women to the point where she really wants to have sex with me is very stimulating to me. It is like I have scored a touchdown in the last few seconds of the Superbowl. I have gotten so good at the aftergame as well that I make only one call or e-mail. You are not what I was looking for, please don’t write me anymore. I never hear from them again. I find myself so manipulative it scares me sometimes.
Part of the game, too, is being so manipulative with my wife that it feels like directing an orchestra. Move her here, date the wife, sleep with the girlfriend, get a new girlfriend, slot her in for Tuesday.
Can you please give me some insight into what is going on?
A. I think you are a sex addict and a sociopath.
What you describe is sexual addiction. Like any addict, you have a feedback loop that provides you with positive reinforcement every time you make a conquest — hence your comparison to a winning touchdown in the big game. This gives you a dopamine high (dopamine being the neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and reward). It is also involved in sexual activity and addictive behaviors like compulsive gambling.
What is so very disturbing is your complete lack of guilt, remorse or empathy for the other parties involved. You know intellectually that this is bad behavior, because you are aware you are betraying your spouse and hurting all the other woman you deal with. Yet it seems that you understand this only on a purely observational level.
It sounds as though you have no capacity for emotion. You lack any ability to hold yourself morally accountable for your dishonest and harmful actions. You are easily able to rationalize hurting and mistreating others, whether they are strangers or relatives. In fact, you take pleasure in it.
Hence, I also think you are a sociopath, with an utter lack of concern and regard for others. I suspect there are additional areas of your life where you repeatedly break the rules or injure others with no concern for the consequences. You might well destroy your marriage and your job. You are leaving a wake of destruction.
For your own sake and for the sake of everyone else unfortunate enough to have their lives intersect with yours, you need help. If you don’t stop this behavior, you will likely contract a disease, get yourself arrested or enrage someone so much that you are harmed. If you want to try living a normal life — something beyond a life governed by sexual addiction — you need treatment, either individual treatment or group treatment.
To my readers: People like this are often charming and charismatic. As you can see, this man has no trouble duping people and racking up innumerable conquests. If you encounter somebody like this, I suggest you get away as quickly as possible.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: A sociopathic sex addict behaves in ways that violate social norms.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie.” She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.
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