What’s the “Hook” in Sex Addiction?
May 31, 2016
The Sex Addiction Cycle Revisited
May 31, 2016

Sex Addiction As an Intimacy Disorder

The stated goal of most men and women in life is to find a partner to love, to have companionship and fulfillment in an enduring relationship.  Developing one’s ability to give and receive love is crucial to a person’s sense of well-being; it is a fundamental aspect of our humanity.  Learning to love is a skill that is challenging for the healthiest of people, more so for those who experienced rejection, abuse or abandonment as children.

Research has shown that an overwhelming number of sex addicts come from homes marked by physical, sexual, emotional abuse or by neglect.  As early as infancy, the child is dependent on, and cries out for, mirroring, nurturance and warmth from it’s mother.  If the mother, for reasons of her own, is unable to provide those needs, the infant feels the terror of annihilation.  The child develops a defense mechanism (a survival strategy devised in childhood that limits a person’s life in adulthood.).  The strategy that an emotionally abandoned child uses is to imagine a bond with the mother that doesn’t exist.  They then look to nurture themselves through thumb sucking or early masturbation.  It’s the only way they have to feel soothed and comforted. 

Children who experience pain from negative experiences in early life start to cut off all feelings for themselves and to dissociate from themselves (a sex addict in the “erotic haze” is dissociated).

Once an imagined connection is formed in childhood, people are reluctant to take a chance again on real gratification in an intimate relationship. A lot of people look for a relationship that will satisfy unmet needs from childhood.  But they’re looking for something they’ll NEVER, NEVER going to get because what they’re looking for should have taken place in the distant past and because you can’t get childhood needs met as an adult.  They look at a relationship with a partner to satisfy deep emotional hunger and strong dependency needs.  Over time, when they find those inappropriate needs aren’t met by a flesh-and-blood human being, they’re left feeling empty, disillusioned and dissatisfied. Sex addicts turn to fantasized relationships with other women in hopes that they can still get those needs met in another way. 

To quell the feelings of emptiness and alienation that stem from neglectful relationships with parents and from the inability to get (unreal) needs met with real people, the sex addict turns inward and self-nurtures himself through fantasy enactments.  This illusionary connection with mother and retreat into a fantasy world is effective because it provides a partial alleviation of needs, it reduces anxiety and stress, and, through the experience of sexual euphoria, serves as stark contrast with what he perceives as intolerable negative feelings.  However, the more the sex addict comes to rely on fantasy, the less he will seek or accept gratification from real relationships or other healthy pursuits in life.

Once the belief that “I can take care of myself, I don’t need anyone else” takes hold, the individual becomes withdrawn, has a strong preference for fantasy gratification over real satisfaction, uses addictive substances including sex, tends toward isolation and has negative, cynical viewpoints about himself and others.

The Self-Parenting Process

This turning inward and fantasying that one is completely self-sufficient occurs at a time when the child would, indeed, be in great danger if he were abandoned by his parent.  As an adult, if he takes a chance on another person, he fears that he will undergo the same terror he experienced when he really was helpless and dependent.  As an adult, he avoids the risk of taking a chance on another person.  As the addicted to sex progresses, the more he creates a fantasy life and resists real relationships and real closeness and real feelings toward real people. 

The strategy he adopts is to both nurture and punish himself at the same time.  All addicts do this.  He experiences self-nourishing in the form of impersonal, self-feeding, sexual gratification.  However, following the acting out, he attacks himself with shame, guilt and self-attacking thoughts. 

Sex addiction is an essential part of the fantasy world and represents the addict’s perception that he is being self-nourishing. It signals an essential choice away from relationships.  He rejects real gratification and gives up meaningful goal-directed activities in order to secure the safety of his fantasy world over which he has complete control.
The masturbating porn viewer, the alcoholic, and  the binge-eater are saying the same thing, “I don’t need you.  I can take care of myself”.  In turning away from related, emotional, tender sex with a partner, the sex addict is in a defiant state of turning away from his own needs in relation to others.  The fantasy of the porn addict is that he can meet his own sexual needs.  In a sense, he can “feed” himself.  He turns away from seeking gratification from other people.  He eschews closeness and the expression of real feelings between him and his partner toward relying on sex as a method of self-gratification.  Because of the pain of the early mother/child relationship, he resents dependence on a real person outside of themselves who could gratify them.  A compulsive masturbator sustains the infantile fantasy that he can take care of himself — that he doesn’t need a woman.

 Guilt and Shame

Within the core of every sex addict lies shame.  They’re shame-bound before the sexual acting out because of noxious messages from their family-of-origin, and they’re shame-bound after sexually acting out because they know they’re unable to control their sexual behaviors.  Then there’s a type of guilt that occurs when a person turns his back on his goals and relationships, retreats from life or seeks gratification in fantasy, or for going against one’s own being and values.  Attributes that are part of our essential humanity, such as the ability to feel deeply, have compassion for self and others and the search for meaning rather than just pleasure, are corrupted by sex addiction and lead to a sense of deep existential guilt.


Turning Inward Toward the Self

When a child’s needs are not met, he turns inwards to self-nurture.  What served him as a child wreaks havoc in his adult life.  He retreats into himself, acquires a depersonalized state of mind, has a diminution of feelings toward self and others, relies on chemical substances and compulsive behaviors such as sex as painkillers, and has a defensive posture toward life.  When these traits are predominant, the quality of his interpersonal relationships suffer.  When in this state of mind (the “erotic haze”), one is focused inward, on oneself, rather than towards others.  Interactions are distorted through the lens of self absorption, causing conflict in relationships.  All sex addicts have strong narcissistic traits.


The main characteristics of the hurt child who has turned inward towards himself as an adult are:

·      A tendency toward isolating

·      Seeking gratification through fantasy

·      Withholding patterns

·      Use of substances mood changers

·      Impersonal relating

·      Masturbatory or addictive sexuality·       

Inwardness is an addiction experience because it involves a predilection toward isolation and fantasy gratification that also has strong tension-reducing qualities.  The degree that a person is neurotic is the degree to which he depends upon fantasy for nourishment and psychological survival.

Sex Addiction Therapy

In long-term sex addiction treatment NY, the patient needs to become aware of his ongoing needs and desires, use the therapeutic environment to break his pseudoindependent position, ask directly for what he wants and learns to come to terms with his anger at being frustrated. The therapist needs to help him make the transition from relying on illusions of connection and self-parenting behavior to seek and find satisfaction in personal relationships and career.  The overall aim of therapy is to help the patient take a chance again, to find out and to get his needs met in an honest way, to admit them honestly, to become vulnerable, to be frustrated and to learn that frustration doesn’t kill him.  He is able to become an independent, mature adult and attempt to form new types of relationships or to re-build the one he’s in.  It takes courage to reach out to people once you’ve been hurt.

Sex Addiction treatment helps the person become aware of his defensive posture and not act on it.  He has to learn to honestly ask for what he wants and needs and to take a chance.  He has to sweat it out when he becomes closer to his wife, like an addict who goes cold turkey.  When he does sweat it out, he expands himself and his world.  When he begins to experience real feelings; he develops his capacity to love.  He is more direct and sincere.  He really feels good.  Most importantly, the person must really give up, once and for all, that is is NEVER going to get the love he wanted from his parents.  That loss needs to be grieved.  At the same time, a good clinician must teach the patient to confront and examine the consequences of his behavior. 

My methodology involves identifies negative thoughts and behavior patterns, counteracting them and helping the client develop alternative modes of living.

The ultimate goal of therapy is to challenge the patient to relinquish his inner fantasy world and risk looking for gratification through real relationships and through goal-directed behavior. A good sex addiction therapist NY takes pleasure in observing the unfolding personality of their client as he moves away from dependency and toward self-actualization and autonomy.



Dorothy Hayden, LCSW has 20 years of experience treating sex and porn addicts, love addiction, codependency, fetishes, sadomasochism, "kink friendly", crossdressers and their wives, partners of sex addicts. She has been interviewed on "HBO", "20/20" and Anderson Cooper 360. Ms. Hayden has authored the book "Total Sex Addiction Recovery - A Guide to Therapy"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.