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Who is a Sex Addict?

A sex addict is a person who misuse sex as means of coping with unwanted feelings and life stressors.

He looks to repetitive, compulsive sexual activities to fill a need for constant validation that shores up a fragile sense of self. If women desire him in reality or through pornography, his masculine identity is consolidated, he is able to “undo” traumatic experiences from childhood. He meets needs for pseudo-connection, he uses sexual fantasy to release pleasure-producing endorphins in his brain, he is able to meet needs for breaking taboos, for novelty, to ward off fear of intimacy, among other functions of the sexual behavior. As you can see, sex addicts use sex to meet needs that can’t be met by sex.

The sex addict is excessively preoccupied with the idea of, pursuit and acting-out of sexual behavior (with self or others), most often accompanied over time by negative relationship, career and health consequences. In truth, most sex addicts spend more time and energy on the hunt, chase and pursuit of their sexual or romantic highs then in the sexual act itself.

The addict repeatedly seeks to lose himself and his life-realities in the emotions and sensations generated by sexual fantasy and behaviors. In “The Erotic Haze”, the addict is finally soothed and comforted in a way that may have been missing from his childhood. Time spent in “The Erotic Haze” is stress-and- anxiety free and meets unmet pressing, narcissistic needs. Sex addiction is a narcissistic behavior because only exclusive concern is about him and his pleasure. In the Erotic Haze, there is perfect control. In it he achieves blissful satisfaction that is unavailable to him in real life.

As sex addiction does not involve the direct ingestion of substances to get high – but rather uses fantasy and behavior to achieve a intense stimulation, sexual addiction is categorized as a process addiction, similar to binge eating, gambling, spending, workaholism and related compulsive disorders.

Over time his desperate search for some kind of connection becomes increasingly driven, compulsive, shameful and secretive, isolating him from the very friends and loved ones who could ultimately bring him the deeper care and affection he truly craves.

The more familiar we become with the brain, its functions, dysfunctions and responses to emotional trauma, the more we’re able to understandable the use of addictive, pleasurable sexual behaviors to release pleasure-producing neurotransmitters and endorphins in the brain. It is these brain chemicals to which the person is really addicted.

Sex addicts, like all addicts, have underlying deficits in self-regulation, self-care and self-efficacy (confidence in one’s ability TO DO). Without these higher coping mechanisms, the addict uses intense fantasy and behavior to compensate for what he experiences as a fragile, shame-ridden sense of self.

Extended involvement in sex addiction may result in sexual fantasies and behaviors as the ONLY coping mechanism available to him. Consequently, his sense of self and his life in general become very small.

Being addicted to sex follows the experience of all addictions:

  • Preoccupation with the desired mood-altering experience
  • Loss of control over the addictive experience
  • Continued use despite adverse consequences

Treating sex addiction ideally should include not only techniques to cease acting out, but treating underlying issues such as shame, low self-esteem, impulse control, learning to find pleasure in life itself rather than in the intensity of erotic excitement, learning to regulate feelings, cravings and urges and to – finally – break out of his self-imposed isolation to once again join the community of supportive people.










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"

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