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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 28 October 2003
This book is truly a revelation - from the very beginning it makes the reader face up to the true nature of sex addiction - and to discover whether or not they are an addict. It not only shows the outward signs of addiction (and their inevitable disastrous results) but goes beneath the surface to show the underlying core beliefs that support and reinforce the addiction.
Using true to life stories (an amalgam of others experiences) it leads the addict through a gentle path of understanding through to ways of moving forward to healing.
In addition to the addict themselves, it casts light on the role of the "co-dependent" - (this can be partner, spouse, parent or any other family member whose life has been bound up to that of the addict) and explains in simple language how this has occurred and what to do about it.
One small complaint about the writing style is that there are some dull clinical parts - the author is, after all a clinician - and it does become a bit repetitive at times.
Having said that, if you feel you might be a sex-addict or in a close bond with one, then this is a great starting point for healing the addiction and the co-dependency.
Thank you for reading this review, I hope you find it helpful and true to the book when you read it for yourself.
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"Out of the Shadows" by Patrick Carnes is one of the best books on sexual addiction. Carnes says sexaholism transcend personality, gender, and socio-economic status. He defines sexual addiction as having a pathological relationship with sex and using it as a mood-altering drug. His descriptions of the symptoms, the three levels of addictions, and the progression through the four-part cycle of preoccupation, ritualization, compulsive sexual behavior and despair are excellent.
Carnes also deals with the sex addicts underlying dynamics such as a faulty self-image, and believing that sex is their most important need. Carnes describes how some addicts appear grandiose and full of exaggerated self-importance to create a front of "normalcy," and hide their addiction and poor self-esteem. He says the addict's family and friends often become angry and frustrated with the addict's "egocentricity" and insensitivity to others. Since guilt and remorse cannot be expressed the addict may become progressively more isolated and unreachable as they close off their vulnerability.
Carnes states that since the addict feels unloved and unlovable they have little confidence in the love of others and become calculating, manipulative and ruthless. They are purposely unclear about their intentions in relationship and are seductive in their behavior. Addicts also have a high need to control all situations in an effort to guarantee their sexual supply and ensure all possible sexual opportunities.
To get help Carnes recommends SA's 12 Step Program. He says the Program helps the addict to, "separate themselves as individuals from their addiction which, as a powerful illness, is destroying their lives. By admitting the addictions power, hope emerges from connecting with others and Higher Power. The fellowship of the Program surrounds participants with people who have suffered in the same way. They no longer feel unique. They trust and are trusted with personal secrets."
Carnes says the Program teaches the addict that they do not need the addiction to survive, but will need the Program because of the addictions power. When the addict recognizes how powerless and unmanageable they are over their addiction, they start to live a life which focuses on human relationships as opposed to sex.
Carnes points out how members of the Program continue to learn about the process through teaching others. He says sex addicts can become responsive and responsible members of the human community.
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on 5 November 2009
This book has been great for me to get a better understanding of what I am going through. But with most therapeutic approaches it focuses more on the problems and not on the solutions. Someone who is looking for hope and recovery should understand that this book is only one single tool in a much greater tool box. But as far as understanding the belief systems and fears i felt that this book was spot on!
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Writing a review for a book like this is very important as this subject is so hidden and shameful which is a shame on its own.
I am proud that I had the courage to read this book and by writing this review I honestly and sincerely hope this will help someone buy the book and help them or their partners in the recovery of this unfortunate addiction.
This has got to be one of the best 12 step recovery books around. Patrick Carnes style of explaining Sexual Addiction is very clear and empathetic to both the Addict and the partner of the addict. I have read the entire book in two days. I plan to go back and re-read it again. I have read various books on this subject (most a big fat waste of my time and money) and this has got to be right up there with the best and most useful and informative books on this sucject that I have read to date. The fact that the author makes clear the huge importance of attending 12 step recovery groups throughout the book was comforting to read. This book is full of hope and practical advice for someone who has the difficult task of picking up the pieces of their lives due to sex addiction and gives hope to those who are struggling with honesty. To sum up the the book in one word I would say HOPE. A large emphasis is on porn addiction but but does cover other sexual behaviour such as visits to escorts, massage parlours and affairs. it also covers a lot on how the addiction could have started with addictive distructive behavious long before realising it was a problem and in doing so helps the addict understand where the routes of this behaviour began. For anyone who is battling with this addiction I can honestly and whole heartedly say this book will help you to understand you are not alone. It really is a manual type book by Hazelden that is helpful to anyone connected to anyone else who is a sex addict or for someone wanting to understand more about sexual addiction. It is a thorough book on the subject and gets 5 stars from me and deserves every star.
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on 21 June 2012
This book is invaluable for the sex addict and their partner. Page after page will resonate but prepare yourself for a journey!! It is a bumpy ride and this book is just a start point.

My only concern is using the alcoholics 12 stage path to recovery for those with sexual addictions. Sexual addictions are often routed far deeper in the psychology of an individual, often from much earlier in their life. I am not saying that giving up sexual addicton is any easier or harder than something like alchohol but we live in a world where sex is freely available everywhere and actively promoted as the way we should all be living our lives (from celebs, to ads, to movies/TV, the Internet, and more). Promiscuity and pushing sexual boundaries are now a badge of honour rather than a taboo.

Expecting a book on its own to change your attitudes with this wealth of stimulus is like sending an alcoholic to the pub with beer vouchers and telling them they can't drink. It is a very very valuable read but be aware it may create as many problems as it resolves!
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on 10 August 2012
This is pretty much recognised as the standard text about sex addiction. It is hugely informative, but brace yourself, it is a grim read. I work with this client group and have regretted recommending it to a client struggling with sex addiction - it describes the addiction but is not a book which focuses on recovery so it can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness for someone who already feels overwhelmed. But for a comprehensive and general review of sex addiction it is very useful. For people in the grip of the addiction, Facing the Shadow, by the same author, is more relevant and hopeful.
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on 1 January 2011

I bought this book thinking it maybe not be able to help fully, as I didn't realise I was an addict beforehand. But I have to say after I read the book, I can't put it down.

I would highly recommend this book to any addict, co-addict or something thinking there's something wrong with them around porn etc but can't pin point.
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on 6 April 2002
I am now divorced from my husband who is still a sex addict. This book has helped me understand the how and why of his behaviour. It does contain quite a bit of jargon, and many of the case studies are extreme, but it fails to address the spouse's feelings and views on the addiction. Patrick covers co-addiction, but not all family members and spouses go through that process. A useful book, if somewhat clinical.
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on 11 September 2015
Excellent book in understanding sexual addiction It gets into the mind set of sexual addiction. It addresses the family codependecy and intergenerational dynamics It differentiates the different levels of addiction and public perception which may be unhealthy
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on 3 January 2011
Until the latter end of the 20th century it was a given among the American psychiatric community that homosexuality was pathological, and that all gays were, in fact, miserable. One therapist began to re-think his position when someone pointed out to him that of course the homosexuals who came to him were unhappy - only unhappy people would come to him.

We have a similar situation today with inter-generational sexual relationships: because most of the people who experience these do so in an abusive context, it is taken as read that all such relationships are abusive.

So when Patrick Carnes writes that the fourteen-year-old boy who has an affair with a thirty-year-old woman is the victim of abuse, even though the boy thinks of it as just another score, the author, in my opinion, is probably wrong.

And that is one problem with this book: its dogmatism. To suggest, for instance, that all or nearly all sex addicts have been victims of childhood abuse is 1. unproven and 2. dangerous. Carnes may have a compassionate understanding of abusers, but, as he is well aware, the media and the general public do not.

Another problem arises when we are into the territory of the Twelve Steps, and God and one's relationship to God suddenly appear as central to the agenda, in a book which up to now has been resolutely secular.

I felt a similar discomfort when an ex-alcoholic described to me the programme for AA. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous latched on to a group of extremely vulnerable people, and said: "We can help you out of your situation, but first you have to accept our theistic point of view."

This, I should have thought, runs counter to everything the psychotherapeutic community believes in.

But there were some stimulating insights in this book, and a range of true-life stories which aroused one's compassion, amazed fascination, and sometimes (sorry Patrick) amusement.
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