Sex addiction: how real is it and how to cure a sex addiction.
Sex addiction is a very real form of behavioral addiction. People tend to laugh at news stories such as Tiger Woods’ sex addiction or the erratic behavior of Lindsay Lohan who combines sex addiction with substance addiction, but there is actually nothing funny about sex or porn addiction. It is a very real syndrome that combines physical and psychological addiction, and has a significant negative impact on emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Why Sex Addiction has a Biochemical Element
Our body has its own special ‘rewards’ system’. It also has a system that causes unpleasant sensations when rewards are not in place. Just as drug addicts repeatedly dose themselves with drugs to experience biochemical rewards, the sex addict engages in excessive or deviant sexual activity to trigger the body’s ‘rewards’ system. We can literally become addicted to our own ‘feel good’ hormones and experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as depression when we cease the behavior that was responsible for the addiction.
The Psychology of Sex Addiction
The psychological issues that trigger sex/porn addiction can come from a variety of sources, but usually have their roots in childhood or adolescence. The presence of emotional pain is often the trigger that causes addicts to ‘self-medicate’ using sex to make them feel better. In this respect, sex addiction has much in common with substance addiction. It becomes a coping mechanism for dealing with emotional pain or stress. It is an escape from harsh realities.
Unfortunately, the world into which sex addicts escape is not a friendly place. While acting out to obtain sexual gratification, sex addicts experience feelings of self-loathing. They are emotionally detached from the people they objectify either through online porn addiction. The circumstances in which they are able to experience sexual arousal may become extremely limited so that they are only able to ‘perform’ sexually in specific situations such as watching porn, sexual fetish practicing or sadomasochism, having sex with strangers or indulging in deviant sexual behaviors.
The Consequences of Sex Addiction
As a sex addiction therapist NY specializing in the treatment of sexual deviance, sexual fetish issues, sadomasochism and sex addiction, I know that the consequences of sex addiction are tragic. The patient is unable to experience deeply significant relationships, partly because he or she distances themselves emotionally from others, and partly as a result of the need for secrecy and the feelings of shame they experience.
If sex addicts embark on longer term relationships, these often crumble when the spouses of sex addicts discover their addiction. They feel betrayed, inadequate and emotionally hurt to an even greater extent than the partners of substance abusers. Relationships are torn apart. Families crumble.
Sex addicts are caught in a vicious circle in which they experience emotional turmoil, indulge in deviant sex to escape it, exacerbate their own pain through seeking release, and end up in still more painful situations which they can only cope with in one way – by going through the whole cycle all over again.
Apart from the impact of sex addiction on relationships, compulsive sexual behaviors can, in some cases, result in hours being spent every day pursuing a ‘fix’ in online chatrooms or in search of the ‘right’ kind of porn addiction.As a result sex addiction impacts on work performance, and when sex for pay or paid porn subscriptions form part of the equation, the financial cost of pursuing their habit can ruin sex addicts financially.
We see that sex addiction has a lot in common with substance addiction in that it impacts self-image, relationships, careers and finances, often with devastating effects.
Treating Sex Addiction
Just as sex addiction has many parallels with drug or alcohol addiction, the therapies used to promote recovery are also similar. For example, some sex addicts join Sex Addicts Anonymous. He or she learns not to talk about the problem openly, and doing so in a group of people, even if they share the same problem, can be extremely difficult.
Personally, I have found that people addicted to sex benefit most from a one on one approach that strives to uncover the causes of the addiction before devising strategies to deal with both the symptom (sex addiction) and its causes. To deal with the physical symptoms of withdrawal, particularly depression, a sex addiction therapist NY may recommend that his or her patient obtain a prescription for anti-depressants.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) guides patients towards the resolution of their own problems by promoting positive new thinking habits. It breaks big problems down into smaller, more manageable parts that make a seemingly insurmountable problem resolvable.
We also have to remember that sex addiction is very often a co-morbid condition. In other words, past trauma or psychological disorders other than addiction may be the cause of sex addiction, which then becomes a symptom of a deeper and sometimes less obvious problem. If the cause is not dealt with, the symptom will not go away. The same is true of substance addiction treatment. That is one of the reasons why relapse rates are so high.
Understanding Sex Addicts
Understanding a person addicted to sex can be very difficult for those closest to them, and if the sex addict has a committed partner, he or she will have suffered emotional trauma as a result of the addict’s behavior. Individual therapy sessions as well as session in which the couple is jointly counseled are strongly recommended.
The spouses of sex addicts will have tough decisions to make, and if they decide to remain married to a sex addict, they have a vital role to play in supporting their recovery. As a first step, understanding that sex addiction is an illness just like substance addiction can be helpful.
As a sex addiction therapist in NY, I realize that every person is individual and that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. I respect my clients for taking steps to achieve a normal and happy life, and I do everything in my power to guide them towards implementing their own solutions – the ones they formulate during CBT sessions. Recovery IS possible, and the rewards are life-changing!
Relevant Links: Sex Addiction Programs and Treatment (PsychGuide) http://www.psychguides.com/guides/sex-addiction-treatment-program-options/
An Overview of Sex Addiction (by Dorothy Hayden, LCSW) psychcentral.com/lib/an-overview-of-sex-addiction/