If you want to understand sex addiction, you have to read Out of the Shadows. Published in 1983, it has become one of the most influential books on the topic. The third edition was published in 2001 and includes an expanded chapter on “Cybersex and Addictive Behavior,” making it still highly relevant.

Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., starts with defining what sex addiction is. He identifies the four negative core beliefs which result in the distorted thinking all addicts share. Carnes continues by explaining in detail the addiction cycle and addiction system, which keeps the addict trapped in his compulsion. Furthermore, he describes three levels of sex addiction that escalate along a continuum.

“The addict substitutes a sick relationship to an event or process for a healthy relationship with others.”

In the second part of Out of the Shadows, he explores the role of the family in an addict’s life. Abuse, neglect, and abandonment in childhood are issues that play an essential role. They are mainly responsible for the development of negative core beliefs. Carnes even dedicates a whole chapter to coaddicts and their struggle. Their co-dependency keeps them stuck in a similar vicious cycle.

Carnes ends the book with a chapter on recovery. The main focus is on healing the four negative core beliefs. He uses the method of twelve steps groups in the tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous. Carnes even advises on how to find and prepare for joining a twelve-step group specific for sex addiction.

Out of the Shadows



Although it’s a bit dated, I consider Out of the Shadows an essential read for everyone struggling with compulsive sexual behavior.


Have you read Out of the Shadows yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.