Punishing Yourself Doesn’t Help You End Sexual Addiction

Man struggling with Opioid Addiction

Self-control and discipline are esteemed in our culture. They are seen as vital mechanisms for success and growth.

Indeed these qualities can be important aspects of a healthy self-motivational approach, yet, when it comes to sexual addiction, these qualities can produce bi-products that become binding forces that perpetuate a sexual addiction.

If you are intrigued or outraged at this proposal, then you have likely espoused self-control and self-discipline as a means to growth. Hold on and let’s explore the harmful bi-products that mentioned.

Sunspire Health



What is a bi-product? In this case, bi-product is the response we enact, believe, or experience due to the imposing of self-control or self-discipline onto ourselves.

When we speak words to ourselves such as “get it together,” or “you just need to do……, then you wouldn’t get stuck here”, we inevitably react. Most of us experience a sense of shame, but there is more to it.

The suggestion is that we recognize how damaging simply imposing “just stopping” or “being better” through self-control and discipline is to our sexual addiction recovery efforts.

To be clear: This is not advocating you don’t try to recover or stop caring about making healthy choices. Quite the opposite; the objective is to help you consider the healthiest options and choices you could possibly make for your overall mental health!

Man struggling with addictionRestriction

First, when we impose self-control and discipline upon ourselves in dogmatic and punitive ways, we become restricted in the choices we make. Internally fear and self-recrimination grow, which limits our ability to think creatively, adaptively and make new healthy choices.

We end up simply taking-away sexual addictions and leave a void. We need to allow exploration and healthy dreaming so that we can focus away from the addiction and onto living.

Tunnel Vision

Similarly to restriction, self-control and discipline hamper our ability to see outside of our struggle. All of life can quickly seem embroiled and trapped in the recovery process, and our failure or success. This is a quick step towards depression as we lose the ability to attend to our experiences, needs, emotions and other people.


When we don’t succeed, and we fail in our striving we experience some measure of shame. Sadly, the more we experience shame in sexual addiction, both from the act itself, and then from not being able to stop, the more shame grows.

It becomes a nasty self-perpetuating cycle as our discipline fails and our self-concept shrivels. What do we then return to in hopes of numbing our pain? We turn to the addiction!

The self-perpetuating cycle is a vicious consequence of self-control and discipline in the face of addiction. You have to break the cycle another way. (We will get to that in a moment.)


Many people pay penance after they act out by being a better spouse, or more attentive to their kids, or more diligent at work. This initially seems positive, but it is really an unsustainable attempt to perform your way out of emotional distress.

It doesn’t work. The penance is a discipline that you can only sustain for a moment, and like shame will spike again as soon as you feel overwhelmed.


When we push and strive to perform unsuccessful self-control and discipline, we end up hating the fight!

The hope of moving towards life again becomes a painful and frustrating experience, and resentment starts to keep us locked into addiction and hopelessness.

You will hate self-control and discipline that is imposed because you aren’t doing enough.

The Healthy Alternative

Woman looking out at the water

Self-control and self-discipline are not qualities to simply work on and install; rather they are a natural outworking of a satisfied and healthy self-perception.

When we know we are valuable, enjoyed, can dream, build, make, change, partake, move, live and commune; our sense of self is dramatically enhanced.

However, this enhancement isn’t a self-created, performance-based endeavor. Rather, the enhancement of self-worth is a response to being enjoyed, seen, known and found appreciated.

There is a freedom here to try and fail, to seek and loose, to walk and trip up that doesn’t rock the core of our identity.

Character or self-control and self-discipline then protrude as vital regulating capacities in response to this more satisfying self-knowledge—not that we can’t learn these tools, but we should do it out of a desire to continue flourishing, rather than to impose progress. This is something we can learn.

This is a self-knowledge where you can move, and not always fear the gaze of another.

Learn more about this healthy alternative. Meet with a counselor, reach out with questions. Don’t stop here and return to “I should just do better.”

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of Stop Sexual Addiction where you can find his guide, or contact him.


[1]: Cusick, M. J. (2012). Surfing for God: discovering divine desire beneath sexual struggle. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[2]: Thompson, C. (2015). The soul of shame: retelling the stories we believe about ourselves. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[3]: Real, T. (1997). I don’t want to talk about it: overcoming the secret legacy of male depression. New York, NY: Scribner.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 27, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 27, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.