WHAT IS SEX ADDICTION?
For something to be an addiction, it has to have a desperate, compulsive, out of control component – not necessarily constant obsession – which takes over other areas of one’s life, even though they don’t want it to. Addictions are often cyclic, where a temporary high is followed by a low and sense of shame, back to seeking the high again, at all costs, despite adverse consequences – people have a hard time stopping, even when they want to. This is made worse by a state of dissociation, where the individual feels like everything’s happening in an alternative reality – their focus is on the pathological sexual act, which obviates awareness of all else. Of course the addict doesn’t recognize this and is therefore generally in denial. But they continue to look for their next fix, at a significant cost to their psyche and relationship, since they’re craving something which can never satisfy – imagine a thirst that can never be quenched and only grows with time. The addict thus becomes both the hurricane and the house it destroys. Some say that an addictive personality may have a genetic component, be secondary to a slight brain transformation in children of alcoholic parents and/or kids with ADDH, or be a result of a body memory fighting back the emotional damage that the mind has blocked out. Addictions are strongest during stressful times and transitions, so the addict often feels justified in turning to their way of “self-soothing”.
If you are wondering could this be you, please check the below list of criteria. FYI, one doesn’t need to meet all the criteria, to be diagnosed with the addiction – even a handful will do.
- You spend a fair bit of time seeking out sexual gratification.
- You have feelings of euphoria when seeking out harmful sexual activities.
- You tend to lead a fearful double life.
- Because of your addictions, you violate ethical standards, principles and promises.
- As part of the addictive cycle, your mood shifts from euphoria to depression.
- You use sexual activity to make yourself feel better, or to numb your negative feelings.
- You find sexual experiences to be disappointing and meaningless.
- You find ways to engage in your sexual activities, with little regard for much else.
- You’re controlled by your sexual drive/desires.
- You can’t get rid of certain sexual thoughts, no matter how hard you try.
- You make yourself sexually available to others, even though you’re in a committed relationship.
- You tend to jeopardize your own health or safety (and that of your partner’s) by not taking reasonable
- precautions to protect yourself during sex – you lie to yourself about possible risk factors, in order to normalize the act.
CAN A SEX ADDICTION BE TREATED?
Sex addictions are treatable, via 12 step programs and/or specific forms of individual psychotherapy. Either way, the addict must accept three facets:
- Need for a “higher power” in road to recovery.
- Recognition that one must look outside themselves for the resources of recovery, versus minimizing issues and trying to self-diagnose and self-heal.
- Recognition that the disease is never cured and requires perpetual vigilance and/or treatment, since it can easily come back – and desire must thus be only focussed on partner and never be tempted outside. Addicts rarely realize that despite past consequences, they simply don’t have what it takes to avoid slipping back into old patterns, with the slightest bit of provocation.
Beyond the treatment, it’s important to maintain strong connections to friends, family and community, and to heal from past trauma. But the key is, the addict must acknowledge their problem and willingly seek out help and support. For the longest time it was believed that the addict had no choice, but since addicts can and do turn things around once they hit rock bottom, it shows they have some control, even though they may struggle with a lack of impulse control – the off button that puts the breaks on destructive behaviour doesn’t seem to be working too well. The good news: a specialized therapist can help with all that and rebuilding a healthy life with healthy coping mechanisms – without ever judging or shaming you. So the sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be – why hit rock bottom when you can turn things around right now?
- Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession and Shame, by George Collins.
- A Couple’s Guide to Sex Addiction: A Step-by-Step Plan to Rebuild Trust and Restore Intimacy, by George Collins.
- Untangling the Web – Sex, Porn and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age. A Compassionate Guide for Anyone Struggling with Devastating Effects of Porn on Intimacy, Relationships, Family, Career, Health and Self-Respect, by Robert Weiss.
- The Sex Addiction Workbook: Proven Strategies To Help You Regain Control of Your Life, by Drs. Sbraga and O’Donohue.
- Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, by Robert Weiss.
Psychotherapist, Relationship & Sexuality Therapist