UNTIL he lost his dream job and fell into severe depression, Michael* viewed his insatiable appetite for sex as completely natural.
Now, after spending most of his life feeding his addiction, the Cork man says that he wants to share his story so it can be a cautionary tale for others.
“For me, it was always easy to get distracted at work and focus on answering messages from various women I was hopeful to sleep with, but I didn’t think much of it back then,” he recalls.
“You say to yourself that as a man you’re genetically predisposed to be that way."
Michael is a former Cork architect in his thirties. He says his addiction to sex has robbed him of the chance of developing meaningful relationships, cost him several jobs, and driven him to depression and self-resentment.
He says he used sex as a form of escapism, even in his teenage years.
“It was always something more than a mere physical pleasure, I found comfort in it, and I suppose for me, it was the equivalent of getting high on a drug,” he recalls.
Paul Hunter, a Cork-based sex therapist, says that sex addiction, like any other form of dependency, is a state of “finding it difficult to refrain from indulging in a repetitive behaviour”.
Michael says he has to watch pornographic videos three or four times a day to get the mental release he is desperately seeking.
In the modern social media age, it is even tougher to face down that addiction.
He has spent hours on dating applications such as Tinder and ‘Plenty of Fish’ and has even reached out to random women on the street, in his constant search to find sexual partners.
Michael says he usually used to go on dates with different women on a weekly basis.
“I present a fake image of myself to women at first to lure them into bed,” he confesses. “I promise them long-term relationships so that they will sleep with me.
“They always end up finding out my true intentions because I always cheat.
“I have cheated on everyone I have ever slept with, It is one-hundred percent out of my control,” admits Michael.
Has the constant deception of unsuspecting partners played a part in his depression? Michael believes it has.
“I made up some justification for myself to make me feel better. I know I have hurt many women — including women who were incredibly kind to me — and that takes a toll on my conscience. I can’t live with myself anymore. I don’t want to hurt anyone,” says Michael tearfully.
Mr Hunter says there is a tangible link between sex addiction and depression, depending on the addict’s mindset and attitude.
“It depends on what the person believes about the addiction. If he thinks it is wrong or something to be guilty about, then carrying around those feelings with them can make them feel quite depressed,” says Mr Hunter.
Michael admits that he never felt “real happiness” in his life, even when his parents sent him to Dublin to study Architecture and Design.
He has travelled to many countries and lived abroad for a few years — seeking tranquillity of mind outside the country. However, travelling didn’t help him either.
“Something in the back of my head always told me that I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me, that I was a bad person. I turned to sex, so maybe it would alleviate my pain, but it made it worse,” he says.
Mr Hunter counts the evaluation of the underlying issues that had led to the dependence as vital in treating sex addiction.
“The first step to treating sex addiction would be assessing each person’s background individually.
“Everybody has a different background and life story. So first of all, you have to examine that carefully and figure out what the actual issues are and then working through those problems with them,” says the Cork-based therapist.
“Some people do not find anything morally wrong with this addiction, but their problem might be the fear of being discovered, while others seek treatment because they find it morally wrong and feel shame.”
Mr Hunter offers both consultation and hypnotherapy to his sex addicted patients. The goal of the treatment is “to re-train the brain to derive pleasure from other safer and healthier things in greater measures than the pleasure the addict used to obtain from the dysfunctional behaviour,” he explains.behaviour,” he explains.
Most of his patients are in the age range of 25 to 45.
Michael believes that his porn habits have negatively impacted on his addiction and encouraged him to cheat on his partners.negatively impacted on his addiction and encouraged him to cheat on his partners.
“In porn videos, you see women that are professional pleasure-givers, and if you see that every single day it becomes your level of expectation, so you continually seek that.
“I know that sounds incredibly shallow, but from a sex addict point of view you have to look for the maximum pleasure so that you would feel a little bit better.”
Even though Mr Hunter refers to sex addiction as a “secret addiction” that is mostly kept in private, he thinks it might still have an indirect negative impact on society’s health, in that it may lead to the prevalence of prostitution in society and may contribute to the popularity of online porn.
Results of a recent Newstalk survey revealed that 67% of Irish people view pornographic material, with 35% admitting that they have watched hardcore videos.
The same study also found that 8% have shared naked pictures or pictures of their private parts on the internet.
Michael is hoping to get married and make a family in his home city, once he is free of the chains of his addiction.
“ I want to find a good woman and build my life with her, this time all I’m going to focus on would be family and work,” he says.
“I know it’s going to be a tough time for me, but I’m positive that it is not impossible.”
*Michael’s name has been changed to hide his identity