Shame, the Master Emotion, Fuels and Maintains Sex Addiction
March 8, 2016
The role of values in the beginning sex addiction therapy
March 8, 2016

Understanding Shame and Sex Addiction


Shame don’t mean that you will become a sex addict, but it certainly places you at risk. A good sex addiction therapist will understand that sex addiction treatment should include dealing with the root causes of their condition. Shame is often a major contributing factor. A lot of people associate guilt with shame, but they are by no means the same thing.

What is shame?

Shame is not the same as guilt. Shame is a combination of physical responses, unpleasant thoughts and sheer spiritual agony. Shame is the feeling that you are worthless as a person and that nothing you can say or do will ever change that.

How do people react to shame?

Most of all, the shamed person seeks some form of escape. This ‘fight or flight’ reaction results in:

  • Escapist behavior
  • Feelings of paralysis and lack of energy
  • Physical and emotional withdrawal from other people
  • Rage or anger

A deeply shamed person will not feel comfortable with others, so he or she becomes very solitary and private, fearing rejection because of their low sense of self-worth. Many sex addicts exhibit these symptoms of deep-rooted shame.

Sex addiction goes Hand-in-Hand with Shame

While not all people who feel deeply ashamed will become sex addicts, sex or masturbation offers escape from the spiritual pain. It temporarily ends the feelings of emptiness and desperation and somehow seems to provide an ‘answer’.

But being addicted to sex doesn’t offer a permanent solution. The feelings of low self-esteem have not been dealt with, and so, as with other addictions, the victim keeps on returning for a temporary ‘fix’, neglecting other aspects of his or her life.

What’s worse, the addiction itself becomes a source of still more shame, leading to a vicious circle that may seem difficult or impossible to escape. And the shame, in turn, makes addicts reluctant to reach out for help, since this will mean confessing to their ‘shameful’ problems.

What Sex Addicts are so Ashamed About

Shame comes from negative experiences in which we find ourselves believing that there is something fundamentally wrong with who we are. Parents, teachers, employers, family members, peers and spouses, even we ourselves, are able to cause it.

Shame stems from the belief that no action on our part can correct something that is unlovable about us. Sex addicts are ashamed about three broad categories of things:

  • The events that led them to believe that they have no worth
  • The ‘solution’ of using sex to mask their pain
  • The fact that they are addicted

Sex addicts often don’t even realize that being addicted to sex is an illness with a root cause that may lie in self-loathing. But if a person routinely uses sex to rid themselves, however temporarily, of shame they act out sexually to get relief from this unbearable feeling of self loathing, and the acting out produces more shame. It’s the vicious cycle of the addiction cycle. It’s like being a hamster in a cage. There’s no way out – until sex addiction therapy NY.

Shame about Sex itself

The role of shame in sex addiction is most easy to understand when we consider the way in which society regards sex. On the one hand, it is a sought-after commodity that’s used to ‘sell’ everything from celebrities to consumer goods, on the other, it’s a taboo.

Just talking about sex without shame is something we rarely do. We feel embarrassed putting our sex-related thoughts into words. Since childhood, we’ve been conditioned to feel a certain shame about our sexual organs and function.

The reactions of adults from the time we began our early self-explorations to our physical behavior with the opposite sex are important. When adults do not handle these situations with sensitivity, shaming is the go-to strategy. Sometimes an adult can even cause shame just by seeming to be uncomfortable with a situation. But this is only one example of how children can become so ashamed about sex that they are at risk of addiction later in life.

The childhood origins of sexual shame can come from many sources. These include:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual secrecy
  • Emotional abuse relating to sexuality
  • Exposure to pornography
  • Religious shaming
  • Parental shaming

Feeling deeply and unrealistically ashamed of sex and sexuality is not going to keep natural urges away. When a person like this indulges in sex or masturbation, they feel like a ‘bad person’, but may turn to sexual activity to relieve this feeling to the point of becoming addicted to sex.

Using Sex to ‘prove’ Self-Worth

On the other side of the coin, there are sex addicts who use sex to assert their status or to prove to themselves that they are attractive to others. This phenomenon is known as ‘contingent self-worth’.

Here, the source of the shame is different. People who experience this feel the need to ‘perform’ to prove their adequacy since they are sure that they are inadequate in some other way. They can become so analytical about sex that they no longer enjoy it, but still use various strategies to become involved in sexual activity.

The end result is a string affairs, or several affairs at once. A man who is seen as a ‘player’ or a woman who is addicted to sex is viewed as a ‘slut’. What many people fail to realize is that sex addicts are desperately lonely and troubled people who will benefit from help in the form of sex addiction therapy.

Sex Addicts need Treatment, not More Shame

With society all too ready to point a derisive finger at an addict of any kind, let alone a sex addict, people simply don’t know who to approach to help them with sex addiction treatment. And sex addiction is an illness. It is a compulsion rather than a choice. But with sex addiction so recently achieving recognition as a unique disorder, not even doctors are particularly well informed about its treatment. They will refer patients to a general therapist or a specialized sex therapist.

A sex therapist usually focuses on the sexual behavior rather than the addiction or its causes,or a psychotherapist may focus on childhood abuse while ignoring current sexual behavior or addiction, and even a sex addiction therapist might look only at the addiction. To treat sex addiction effectively, all three elements should be addressed, namely:

  • The underlying psychological cause of the addiction
  • The resulting sexual behaviors
  • The addiction that has developed owing to these behaviors and their causes.

Shame is the psychological foundations of all addictions. After all, it’s shameful to not be able to control your behavior.

Therapy for sex addiction must address healing shame by helping the individual to take actions and change attitudes to he can eventually live in relatively peace with himself. Total recovery means learning to move from having a shame-based identity to having a sense of inner self-worth and being worthy to be a contributing member of the human race.

Recommended Reading:

Healing the Shame That Binds You/John Bradshaw

Shame: The Power of Caring/George Kaufman

Dynamics of Power: Fighting Shame and Building Self Esteem/George Kaufman

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.