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Ambivalent Exhibitionist

Question:

I’m simply reaching out for help to a problem that has spanned a couple decades now. I am 41 and have been married 14 years to a good hearted – hard working woman who is very loving. We have no children. Since as far back as high school I have had this emotional urge to be an exhibitionist, I would put my self in positions where I could expose myself (always to the opposite sex) to a various cross section of women. Twice in the long time I have been fighting this I was charged and put on probation. Once I was ordered by the court to seek Psychiatric care which solved nothing! Since the internet, I have stopped exposing myself in public and began leading a life of deception and a virtual cyber-exhibitionist lifestyle in chat rooms, on-line. I often pose as many different people, teen, male, female, single, gay, etc….All with one purpose in mind to engage in talk of sex and get gratification from this. Sometimes I spend 6 hours a night on-line chatting and viewing photos of people, and making contacts. Some of these contacts lead to phone calls, or inter-net video activity. Once I made an actual in person meeting, but played a charade as to who I really was. I’m tired of this. I want to break this compulsion to go on-line and find pleasure this way. To me it is more exciting and intriguing than having sexual relations with my wife. She hates all the time I spend on-line but though I manage to explain it off, her rope is wearing thin. Basically I’m still struggling with the same issues that got me in trouble before except that the inter-net has me off the street and in my den but it has connected me to a much larger and seemingly co-cooperative group that feeds my compulsion. I know I need therapy. But my HMO does not cover it. I can’t afford $100-$150 an hour, that would compound problems and add the stress of financial hardship to my life which will slip me into deeper isolation and make me retreat to what brings me satisfaction. I am too ashamed to list most of my activities in a public forum. But would be happy to tell you in private e-mail or some other way. How can I solve this problem and get back to devoting my time to my wife, so she can be happy again and not worried about me on-line half the night?

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Answer:

Considering your statements above it seems to me that you are ambivalent about whether or not you are really ready to give up your lifelong sexual habits. You state that you are ‘tired’ of your exhibitionism, but in the same paragraph you also state that you derive more satisfaction from your exhibitionism than from relations with your wife. I get the sense that you find your exhibitionism and internet sexual activity to be compelling, and are not 100% behind wanting to quit. This is okay and probably normal. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t sincere in wanting to quit; rather it suggests that (like any addict) you may be of two minds about giving up this important, if self-destructive, activity. If you want to quit, then stop making excuses for why it is difficult for you to begin the process. Case in point: If you need therapy (and I would agree that quitting will be much easier with professional support and guidance behind you), then don’t make excuses for why you can’t afford therapy. Instead, find ways to fund therapy, thinking about it as an investment in the quality of your life. First, know that there are therapists out there who will work for considerably less money per hour than $150. I’ve seen quality therapy be offered at rates in the $70 per hour range near major cities. Second, find ways to come up with the necessary money, possibly by giving up some subscription services that you don’t really need (like cable television, a cell phone, an expensive car loan, etc.) With some creativity, you can find ways to come up with the cash if you are motivated to do so. After all – you probably never have trouble coming up with money when you need it to feed your exhibitionism. Third, recognize that therapy is a temporary expenditure – it doesn’t have to go on for years to be helpful. In fact, most modern forms of therapy that are designed to help addicts and impulsives (exhibitionism would fit in here somewhere) are short-term, lasting months in duration, rather than years. There are other steps you might take as well. One of the strategies that financial counselors sometimes take when working with people who have massive credit card debt is to advise them to cut up their credit cards, so as to stop them from containing to use them (and getting further into debt). It’s a radical solution, but an effective one for a motivated person. In your case, a solution might be to ‘out’ yourself to your wife, asking for her help in monitoring your compulsions, and then get rid of home internet access. You can’t get on line if you don’t have access. Again – this doesn’t have to be permanent – even a temporary extended break of several months may help you to interrupt your habits and give you the space to develop new ones. Heck, you can put the money you save on internet costs towards therapy. It takes most addicts several tries at recovery before they get it right and are able to maintain sobriety for any extended period of time. The thing that separates recovering addicts from active addicts seems to be persistence in the face of difficulty. Don’t expect that you will necessarily fail in early attempts at quitting your exhibitionist ways, but don’t beat yourself up if you fail at first either. Re-channeling a lifelong sexual habit is a very difficult thing to do. You get better at managing it with practice, expert professional coaching, and an attitude that doesn’t let shame get the best of you. If you do fall down, cry for a while and then get back up. Good luck.

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    try NALP worked for my husband so far

  • paul

    I have suffered from compulsive exhibitionism for about 20 years, and I know what you are going through. The good news is that you state that you are 41 years old, and statistics say that the number of arrests for exhibitionism decreases for those aged 40 and up. I believe in psychiatric solutions as a last resort. There are wonderful psychotropic medications that help with your urges. Exhibitionism is an extremely isolative disease. I can tell you that the more you are open about the specifics of your acting out, the better perspective you will get on your condition. Sometimes it's helpful to see yourself through the eyes of your peers, especially those who have experienced the same thing as you. I would suggest support groups targeted at sexual addiction, but in my own experience, I find that many of them are ineffective due to the fact that subjects are often more intent on proving they have successfully recovered, rather than being honest and open about their thoughts and feelings. It is very refreshing to hear someone else describe their experiences while going through an exhibitionism episode, including the build-up stage that always preceeds the act. Good luck.

    Paul

  • Anonymous-2

    http://www.sexaa.org/

    http://www.sa.org/

  • Michelle

    Glad I found this forum. I knew my husband was like this but I didn't know how severe it was. Intervening only works so well. He said he would stop and didn't and now he I found his tapes of him taping himself (again). I will not get them back this time. He said he can stop because he quit smoking.

    I am waiting for him to let me know when he made an appointment to get help. Here in this country you can get help easily, thank goodness. It's not only painful and humiliating he does this in our back yard and he is viewable. I pray to god nobody has seen this because we have a 4 year old son and I don't want him to suffer for this.

    I have finally found the strength to really break up if he doesn't stop this. I must not let my son suffer for this and I have a future to behold a normal life and now I realize it.

    However, he is a victim of a bad childhood. He didn't get beatings, but from what I read what causes this his mother's treatment is a clue to his healing if he can talk about it. Most of his siblings are mentally disturbed from their childhood.

  • Rachael

    Hi to anyone out there,

    I am so glad l found this site l have been searching non stop to find some help, someone who really understands.

    I have just seperated from my partner of 6 years because of this distructive diease. He is only 24 so is still very young but the whole situation worries me. I still love him deep down but l don't want my son to be tampered with to be given the same program of thinking. That is why l have had to make such a hard decision for the well being of my son. I think l have done the right thing... l hope. I really dont see him changing because he confessed to doing it at the age of 10 and his parents knew about it and ignored it!!!

    He used to hide porn from me, steal my underware, take everything valuable in a sneaky way to sell for cash, was an occasional marijuana smoker, and would never hold a job. We struggled for years and years because l gave him the benefit of the doubt and trusted in him. He would work for 2 wks here 1 mth there. The longest he held a job was 6 mths. He is an obsessive compulsive person to the point where he would sometimes clean the car and mow the grass 2 times a week. Now l know it was because he needed to have control of something because he didn't have control of himself.

    I would do everthing for him l treated him as my King but that was not enough, he became very selfish and abusive mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically.

    He is now in prison and will be for a total of 6 mths for 6 seperate offences in a public place. In one of the brief it described him being at a local river, sitting in the car and getting out of the car with no clothes on only to walk to the passanger side of the vehicle and stare at the people in the next car while masterbating, he really needs help. His mother is an extreme alcoholic in denial and his father is a possessive aggressive man who is not happy unless things (even in other people lives) are done his way, he was a prison warden for many years and then suspisiously was fired for something not even his wife knows about. Whats the strangest thing is is that they say they are the most normal family out. With all the manipulation that goes on with his parents it was enough to make be weak at the knees and with extreme postnatal depression after the birth of my son. They made me feel powerless and at their mercy.

    Anyhow l believe that his parents have alot to do with turning him into what he is so submerged in. He can't remember any of his childhood except for sitting underneath the house when he was 4.

    Is this normal not to remember your childhood bar one depressing point? Am l seeing things correctly? Could his parents been involved in his behaviour? Is it likely that he was abused in some way as a child? Would it be an issue that he would hurt or show our child something that will scar him mentally as he grows? As you can see l need some advice.

    Thankyou for reading my complicated story. Any advice is good advice from anyone whether you are the person who has the problem, is the wife or even the child of someone who has the problem. Look forward to hearing from anyone soon.

  • Michael

    Like the other male commentators I am in my forties, and likewise my problematic behaviour started occurring more than 20 years ago.

    As with any other psychological problem, a lot of it originates in childhood.

    So what happened and how did it happen? I showed my genitals to some unassuming woman, most often in a seemingly unprovoking manner.

    My marriage may have given me some stability but the underlying disorder hasn't gone away. I did tell my wife about it. She strongly disapproved, and made me promise never do do anything like that again. We never discussed the matter at length. She obviously does not want to get involved with this pathological side of me. Our lives are quite busy and several years have passed without me visually offending any women, but the volcano somehow rumbles on, and at the most unsuspected moments I can suddenly fall into a really compulsive pattern of behaviour. It is true that only in a tiny fraction of the occurrences somebody is offended. In most cases I turn away from confrontation so nobody ends up being offended except me, left behind with shame and frustraton.

    It seems professional help is available, but in my case I haven't found what I'm looking for yet. I did see a psychologist who was able to help me control my temper in my domestic life, but I never told him about the exhibitionism. Ideally, I think, the psychologist or therapist treating male exhibitionism should be a woman. As an embodiement of the women who were disturbed and shocked by the offender, she would be able to accept and consolidate his sincere apologies better than any man could.

    To every woman who reads my text, I would like to ofer you my apologies.

  • Philip

    Rachael says > and I sympathise with her. I think, Rachael, that you will find solutions to your difficult situation. My wife's first marriage ended shortly after the birth of their child because she found her husband also had some kind of compulsive behaviour which he didn't do anything to get rid of. My wife decided to divorce him, and she hasn't been sorry for a minute. Her son is now a happy man.

    ! Michelle's story is also deeply compelling, and it makes one wonder who needs to be helped most - the victim or the offender.

  • LifeLong Exposer

    Doesn't seem like there is a lot of activity on this thread, but wanted to share my experience. 43 yrs old and problems with exposing since I was 12 (30 yrs for God's sake). What I can tell you is that if you're like me, with a long history of exposing, is that you can forget about "curing" it. It's not going to happen. This is an extremely compulsive behavior that doesn't go away. Your strategy has to change to "manage the problem." This means many things, but mainly, your significant other needs to understand that you will never be cured, that you will continue to have urges to expose, and that this is not a negative. Alternatively, the urges to expose need to become a source of conversation. You need to talk about it, get the elephant in the room out into the open. Talking about the problem (with anyone who will listen) is the only thing that I have found that is effective in curbing the problem. Specific support groups exist for sexual offenders like exposers. Forget SA - too broad -and they don't like being associated with sexual "deviants" LOL. This problem is incredibly common. Contact me at inasimilarboat@yahoo.com if you'd like to chat.

  • david

    I have been in recovery for 6 years from chronic sexual acting out behaviour, including exhibitionism and all sorts of other 'acting out' behaviour. Most of what drove my acting out is not sexual -though from a young age i would sexualise everything - anger, fear, stress, anxiety - my way of coping was to go into preoccupation, rituals, compulsively act out and then remorse, shame depression, swearing it would change etc etc.

    I would then repeat the behaviour but needing more intense stimulation over time to get the same 'high' (temporary relief). This is a common pattern for all addictions, your husband/partner is not alone, and you are not alone.

    I found enormous help and releif speaking to others that have similar patterns and that have come through a withdrawal/recovery process to heal the underlying causes of the addiction. this is not a slow or easy process (trust me!) and needs lots of support both for the addict and for those around them. In my view no-one could possibly recover from these issues without some guidance from those that have also suffered from it (and from qualified therapists therapy can be hit-and-miss unless the therapist is very very well trained specifically in sexual addictions).

    Your husband can find help at www.slaafws.org a free support group for sex addicts. You may find Patrick Carnes books helpful he is a leading researcher on sec addiction. You may find alanon helpful for you too as the partner/friend of an addict trying to help.

    wishing you peace and the happiness we all deserve

    David

  • Karen

    I will try to keep this short although it is complicated. I had an idea that my boyfriend was an exhibitionist before we started dating, although to be honest until now I was not familiar with the term. We were good friends first, he felt comfortable telling me about this even though he had never told anyone. I knew it sounded like a serious problem, but I kept my composure bc I realized it was difficult for him to tell me. Stupidly, I tried to put this in the back of my mind and we began dating seriously within months. It's been over a year now, and I began to express my disapproval soon after we started dating. Not understanding it, I thought it was more of a single activity that would end w the onset of a relationship. It was met w a big fight, I told him if he could at least stop doing in my presence. He is into "accidentals" leaving his fly down and letting it pop out, or masturbating in the car. I would catch these accidentals around my friends and become very upset, he promised not to flash my friends anymore. It didn't last long 2 days ago my worst nightmare came true while my best friend was in town. We were all drinking, and according to her, he flashed her somewhere between 10-30 times that night. He says he doesn't remember this at all. Which leads me to believe he has almost no control over it. Aside from this problem, our relationship has been perfect, he's a great guy, and no one has ever made me happier. We had plans to get engaged, but reading some of the spouses posts, they confirm my worst fears for our future. Advice welcome

  • bobbyc51

    thank god for the internet. now i can expose myself to others of like mind. i love that many people can see and comment on my naked pics. it's very sexually arousing for me. now i don't have to worry.

  • Anonymous-3

    I think nudest camps is a good place for everone to show off there equipment. It takes the mystry out of it. We make such a big deal about nudity, when we should be acceptable of our nakeness. Maybe when God got Adam and Eve out of the garden and put cloths on them....was not a good idea. Seems like men and women are always looking to take off their cloths.

    There are inappropriate behavor in regards behavors that affect others, without their permission. Anything we do that affects someone else without their permission is crossing the line.

    I do believe much of this comes from childhood experiences, and maybe considering hypnotherapy, that could bring the person back to the original moment, of where sex and fear got together. If a person is an exobitionists, there is the fear of being caught. Sex and fear I believe got fused together somehow as a child.

    Doing research an d finding this sight, I realized that my former husband loved to walk around with a shirt and no underwear or pants....He liked nudest camps and didn't like cloths. So was he an exobitionists or was he more free than the rest of us, who hide our body with shame? When our dauther was 2 I told him to put on the rest of his cloths and he did.

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