Digital Devices, Sexual Addiction, and the Workplace

Posted on June 9th, 2014

A surprisingly large percentage of sex addicts, porn addicts, and love addicts enter treatment after they are caught misusing work-issued computers, smartphones, and other digital devices. Usually, during work hours or against specific company regulations, they’ve been looking at porn, flirting and planning hookups via “adult friend finder” apps, sexting, having webcam sex, or whatever. Frankly, the list of ways in which company-issued digital devices are misused by sex, porn, and love addicts is endless (and constantly expanding as new “abusable” technologies hit the market almost daily).

A lot of the people who misuse company devices are “found out” by their employer’s I.T. Department, usually during routine checks for digital viruses, worms, and the like. In many cases, hundreds or even thousands of pornography images and/or videos are found, along with sexualized texts and emails that rather thoroughly document the person’s misbehavior. Despite this evidence, these individuals nearly always attempt to minimize the problematic nature of their behavior. Sometimes they get angry that their privacy has been invaded – this despite clear, written guidelines from their employer stating that company devices are company property, and anything that occurs on those devices is company business and therefore subject to scrutiny.

Usually, by the time an employee is actually referred to love, porn, or sex addiction treatment, he or she has been warned and reprimanded at least once and often multiple times. Of course, if such a person is truly sexually addicted, a reprimand (verbal or written) is unlikely to curtail the problematic behavior. Sometimes the individual will move his or her sexual acting out to privately owned devices, trying to hide what he or she is doing; other times the activity continues on company devices unabated. Either way, without therapeutic intervention the activity typically continues, including during work hours, inevitably resulting in further employment-related issues such as poor performance reviews, complaints from coworkers, and the addict being caught misusing company-owned equipment again.

Often when these individuals enter treatment they do so unwillingly, only agreeing to counseling in a last-ditch effort to save their job. They arrive in treatment feeling put-upon and angry, convinced that their behavior is perfectly normal and they haven’t done anything wrong. Even people who’ve signed a contract stating they will stop misusing company devices – with that contract outlining the exact consequences they will face should they fail – struggle to understand why their employer is “coming after them.” They argue:

  • I only look at porn during my lunch hour and on coffee breaks.
  • Everybody else does this. Why are they picking on me?
  • I get my work done. Why do they care what I do in my downtime?
  • I travel almost constantly for work. What else am I supposed to do when I’m sitting in a hotel room all alone?
  • I’m not bothering coworkers or clients, so who cares?

For the most part, these folks are neck-deep in denial about what they’ve been doing and its effects on them and the people around them. As such, they typically enter treatment unwilling to admit they have a problem. Some do not return to therapy after their first session. Sometimes they come back several months or even years later, wishing they’d accepted help when it was first offered. Others do show up, week after week, but only physically and only because they are hoping to manage the consequences they are facing. Often these individuals slowly come to recognize that they do indeed have a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Individuals who decide that they do want help with their sexual issues should be prepared to openly and honestly answer questions about their sexual and romantic behavior – masturbation, porn use, sexting, hookups, affairs, prostitutes, etc. This is not because a sex addiction therapist automatically assumes that every client is a sex addict; instead, it allows the therapist to assess whether the individual is or is not addicted. If sex, porn, or love addiction is uncovered, the therapist will likely recommend a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and 12-step “S” meetings (SAA, SCA, SA, and/or SLAA). If the client struggles to establish sexual sobriety, the therapist may recommend intensive outpatient or inpatient sex addiction treatment as a way to jump-start the process.

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