Recognizing a Sex Addict @ Work by Michael Leahy.
A few years ago, I ran into an old friend I used to work with at a software company in Atlanta.
After exchanging pleasantries, he started telling me a story about an employee of theirs who recently got fired after being caught and reprimanded twice in less than a month for using porn at work.
“I just don’t understand it,” he continued. “I mean the guy gets caught by someone who sees him looking at porn in his office. So the IT department checks his computer and discovers he got a bunch of porn loaded on his hard drive. He basically almost loses his job over it.”
Then my friend got a confused look on his face. “But here’s what I really don’t get. Less than a month later, they catch the guy looking at porn again. But this time, he’s used another employee’s computer and logged on with their user name and password. Of course they found out it was him and fired him for it on the spot. What an idiot! I mean he had to know that he’d get caught. Right? How stupid can you be!?!”
Good question. And I’m sure to most people it’s a logical one to ask.
But as a recovering sex addict, I realize what my friend’s really saying is that he doesn’t understand the mind of a sex addict at work.
It’s a common reprise that I hear over and over again from my friends in management and human resources, many of whom have never even heard of porn or sex addiction and have no idea what it looks like or just how prevalent it really is in the workplace.
But consider these statistics:
Of 61 million unique U.S. visitors logged into pornographic web sites in March of 2006, every fifth visitor was from a office work station. – Comscore Media Matrix internet tracking firm, SavannahNow.com article “Pornography in the workplace” 4/23/2006
70% of all online porn access occurs during the 9-5 workday. - Message Labs monthly report March 2004
Two-thirds of 474 human resources professionals said in a survey they’ve discovered pornography on employee computers. Nearly half of those, 43 percent, said they had found such material more than once. – Justin Bachman, AP Wire, 10/23/2003, re- study conducted by Business & Legal Reports, Old Saybrook, Conn.
A 2004 study of 350 companies in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia found that one-third of workers admitted passing along porn at some time – and half of all workers said they’d been exposed to sexually explicit material by co-workers. – MSNBC, Sept. 6, 2004, on study conducted by Queen’s University in Belfast
Half of the Fortune 500 companies have dealt with at least one incident related to computer porn over a 12 month period, offenders were fired in 44% of the incidents and disciplined in a further 41% of cases. – Computerworld Vol. 11, Issue 17, 14 July 2005
In 2003 employees at the UK Dept of Work and Pensions downloaded some two million pages of pornographic content. Of these two million some eighteen hundred contained child pornography. – Friday in Focus UK article “Workplace Porn, Alive and Well”
Indicators of Sexual Addiction
So how do you know if someone you work with suffers from a sex or porn addiction? While a conclusive diagnosis for sexual addiction should only be carried out by a mental health professional, the following behavior patterns compiled by Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in the field, can indicate its presence in any environment.(see footnote below)
1. Acting out: a pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior
2. Experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior, and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences
3. Persistent pursuit of self-destructive behavior
4. Ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior
5. Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy
6. Regularly increasing the amount of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficiently satisfying
7. Severe mood changes related to sexual activity
8. Inordinate amounts of time spent obtaining sex, being sexual, and recovering from sexual experiences
9. Neglect of important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of sexual behavior But what are the telltale signs of what this looks like in the workplace?
Here are just a few of the most likely behavioral clues:
- Hiding Internet use or secretive behaviors
- Declining work performance
- Withdrawing from others
- Increased irritability
- Losing sleep and declining health
- Declining interpersonal skills
- Inappropriate sharing of sexual beliefs with others
In my own life, I displayed every one of these behavior patterns while at work at one time or another, and all of them simultaneously while I was fully addicted.
Even though I made conscious efforts to hide these behaviors, I was still in denial that any of them were all that serious.
But as my disorder progressively got worse, the symptomatic behaviors and their related consequences became more obvious to family, friends and coworkers.
As such, the presence of four or more of these showing signs within a six month period of time is a strong indicator that this individual may have a serious problem and require some help or intervention.