Misunderstandings about Sex Addiction
It’s common for those who suffer from process addictions like sex, gambling, shopping, or eating to meet raw skepticism and judgment from others when their affliction is mentioned. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of non-drug related addiction, largely due to the lack of media attention on these issues. Thirty years ago people felt the same way about drug and alcohol addiction, seeing all alcoholics as bums who just refused to “get it together.” But a long series of media attention and celebrity insight has brought a great deal of compassion to the subject in western society. Not so for sex addicts, at least not yet.
When we talk about something like sex addiction, the raised eyebrows are almost expected. “Really?” That’s the common response but yes, it’s really an issue people face. We all love sex and men have especially high drives and libidos but that’s not what we’re talking about when we reference an actual addiction to sexual behavior.
It’s Still an Addiction
Addiction is characterized as something that harms the self or others despite attempts to control it. A sex addict is not simply a juvenile who can’t control his urges. It’s a chronic behavioral compulsion that overrides the normal brain functions and causes someone to take risky actions they later regret. Compulsive cheating or risky sexual activity, especially if the addict has tried to curb this behavior and been overpowered by the urges, constitutes a sex addiction problem.
Rober Weiss, found of The Sexual Recovery Institute of Los Angeles, says this is really an issue of “an underlying intimacy disorder.” Sex is connected to our deepest and most vulnerable sense of self and connection to other human beings and when we don’t develop a healthy relationship to our own bodies and our own sexuality, or if we have trouble connecting to others on a vulnerable or emotional level, we tend to express these repressed aspects of ourselves in extreme or excessive sexual activity.
As with many other addictive behaviors, sex addiction is fueled by anxiety, depression, stress, and other deeply embedded vulnerabilities. 80-90% of patients have experienced some form of abuse in their lives that expresses itself through unchecked sexuality. Treating this addiction means identifying and coming to terms with this trauma. Whether the behavior is expressed as excessive masturbation, voyeurism, promiscuity (especially unsafe or risky encounters), or the outright victimization of another person, a sex addiction is a way for a patient to engage in excess “surface-level” human connection in order to avoid true intimacy on a deep, emotional level.
Love is Treatment
Dr. Weiss says sex addicted patients are looking for “controllable sources of getting themselves fed emotionally” and the best modes of treatment involve repairing broken or strained relationships with trusted loved ones and, of course, a period of conscious abstinence.
If you’re struggling with your sexuality and feel you may have developed some unhealthy or addictive behaviors, look into a local recovery center for advice and treatment options to help you build a healthier, more satisfying life of love, passion, and intimate connection with others.