It is just like any other addiction. Characteristics of sex addiction can include compulsive sexual acts. In fact, these thoughts progress into something negative.
She is a certified sex addiction therapist in Los Angeles. She is also the author of Erotic Intelligence – Igniting Hot Healthy Sex After Recovery from Sex Addiction
Sex Addiction is Real
Some therapists refer to sex addiction simply as Hypersexuality. However, sex can be an addiction of cyclical nature. This is when a person is very obsessed with sexual thoughts and actions. It it to the point that interferes with their daily lives. It include their ability to have meaningful relationships or work properly. Sometimes, suffering from withdrawal symptoms when going without sex for ‘’too long’’.
Understanding the Cycle
There is a book, Out of the Shadows, written by Licensed Clinical Social Worker Rob Weiss. He breaks down the cycle of sex addiction into six stages, namely:
Shame, blame, and guilt. Emotional and physical discomfort are both ‘’pain agents’’ that act as triggers. Negative triggers include loneliness, stress, depression, anxiety, boredom. In fact, these are all things that will cause someone to try and avoid, escape and disassociate.
Strangely enough, positive triggers could also occur. For instance, wanting to celebrate something by acting out sexually.
After a trigger, a sex addict will repeatedly turn to their key coping mechanism. In this case, it is a sexual fantasy. This includes memories of how much they had enjoyed sexual encounters in the past. In addition, they will anticipate how enjoyable future sexual encounters will be.
At this point in the cycle, they view every person that the sex addict encounters as a sexual object.
Ritualization happens when fantasy heads toward reality. In Defining and Understanding the Cycle of Sexual Addiction, Weiss explains this. In addiction terms, this stage is traditionally known as the bubble. This is when the addicts get lost in planning and preparation of his or her next encounter.
This stage includes watching porn excessively. Actually, they might plan a trip where they can act out without restraint. Otherwise, they may drive to a popular place where sex workers assemble. This is all preparation, not acting out.
Release (acting out)
This is the physical, sexual act, whether it be solo or with another person/people. This is also the stage where orgasm is not, like in normal circumstances, a good thing. It’s the point where they toss the addict back into the real world.
The release is where the ‘’high’’ ends. Of course, this is why sex addicts would typically try to stretch out the ritualization stage. Also, they will do this for as long as possible.
After acting out, a sex addict will attempt to distance him- or herself emotionally. In addition, they will try to justify their behavior. This is the stage where denial sets in, as a protective measure against stage six.
Despair – shame, blame or guilt
Sometimes, a sex addict will realize how their behavior negatively affected themselves. This realization may include the lives of those around them. After, they are flung back into reality. This is with all the discomforts that triggered the process in the first place. As a result, they will usually feel a form of shame or guilt.
Symptoms of Sex Addiction
- Becoming involved with people easily;
- Staying in unhealthy relationships just for sex;
- Jumping between relationships;
- Sexualizing other feelings such as loneliness, guilt or fear
- Feeling unable to move due to sexual obsessions;
- Repeated, compulsive seeking for sexual activity;
- Participating in dangerous sexual activity, which can be harmful to yourself and others;
- Withdrawal when going without sex for too long;
- Tolerance to sex, needing more sex to feel satisfied
Dangers of Sex Addiction
Sexual Transmitted Diseases or Infections
Sexual health is a primary fear when it comes to dealing with sex addiction. The risk of contracting STDs or STIs are much higher with risky sexual behavior. For instance, it can be unsafe sex with a large number of different people.
Self-worth and Self Esteem
Many sex addicts have reported reduced feelings of self-worth and self-respect. Eventually, this leads to a complete loss of self-esteem.
Lack of Intimacy
Sex addicts are often unable to form and sustain relationships and close friendships. Actually, this is due to their lack of self-esteem and feeling of guilt and shame. In many cases, sex addicts report to being afraid that they will face judgement or rejection. This is if someone were to find out who they are.
Inability to Nurture Healthy Relationships
Many respondents admitted to feeling lonely. This is according to Patrick Carnes breakthrough study on sex addiction. In most cases, they were unable to foster healthy relationships. For this reason, they feel that they are lying to friends about living two separate lives. One of which they feel they must hide from the outside world.
Of course, not all sexual behavior is natural and consensual. 58% of people with a sex addiction have participated in illegal sexual behavior. This is according to a National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity study.
More than 80% of sex addicts have simultaneous addictions to either substance, gambling, or eating disorders.
Sex Addiction and the Brain
There was a study that observed the brain activity of 19 men. They were having compulsive sexual behavior. All of it was while they were watching either non-sexual or sexually explicit videos. At this time, it indicated that it activated certain areas of the brain. In fact, it was more than in men of similar age without the disorder.
The study showed similarities of the brain activity of someone with a drug addiction. This is according to the researchers from the University of Cambridge. However, these comparisons were theoretical. Therefore, they weren’t weighed up against one another directly during the study.
Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
As previously mentioned, 83% of sex addicts also suffer from another addiction. Usually, it can be substance abuse, an eating disorder, or a gambling addiction. During treatment, they will treat sex addiction and substance abuse concurrently. It’s because both addictions often come from the same set of acts and underlying issues.
There could be many reasons for this. One of them is that someone with a sex addiction might need to be drunk of high. This is for them to even want to engage in some of their compulsive sexual behavior. Normally, this might be uncharacteristic for them. One addiction could also be a mechanism to cope with the other. Therefore, it might mask the shame, guilt, or pain of the other addiction.
Addictions often feed into one another. This is because addicts would sometimes use one addiction to dismiss or hide the other. For instance, denying a sex addiction or saying that the behavior only takes place when drunk.
On the other hand, addictions can also intensify each other. For instance, if a person only takes part in sexually addictive behavior when high or drunk.
Dealing with Sex Addiction
Three personal competencies should be properly developed by the sex addict. This will have to include his or her loved ones to overcome a sex addiction.
It is imperative to be open and honest about your sex addiction. In fact, you must do it for both your partner and yourself. Furthermore, do not lie about your sexual activities. First, don’t rationalize your addictive behavior. Second, don’t lie about where you are and what you are doing. Third, don’t lie about whether or not you’ve had sex with someone.
For one, you need to accept the fact that you have a sex addiction in order to deal with it. Above all, don’t lie to your partner about your sexual activity. It could could place them in danger of contracting a STD or Infection or worse, HIV or AIDS.
To overcome a sex addiction, one must place effort into the exercise. Are you someone helping a loved one overcome sex addiction? In your case, approaches based on scare, shame or guilt will not help you. In fact, it will just make them back up even more.
Most sex addicts are already dealing with feelings of guilt and shame. Therefore, humiliating them will have the opposite effect from your goals. As a result, you may need to adopt another approach.
Telling someone with sex addiction to ‘’just stop your behavior’’, is like telling someone with depression to stop being sad. A sex addiction can’t be ‘treated’ by simple repression. Therefore, they need proper guidance and advice from a professional to be overcome.
Choosing the Right Rehab
Sometimes, sex addiction is likely to be concurrent with other addictions. Therefore, it is important to do proper research about rehabilitation centers. Also find out the method they apply when it comes to sex addiction treatment.
Look for a center that offers gender-specific treatments. Also, top it off with gender-separate treatment and inpatient living environments. The rehab center must also have facilities to treat co-occurring substance abuse. In addition, they should have a staff equipped to treat the following:
- Intimacy Disorders
- Serial infidelity
- Compulsive masturbation
- Pornography addiction
- Cyberporn abuse
- Love addiction (yes, it’s real)
- Anonymous sex
- Problems with sexual boundaries
Therapists must be ready to deal with the deeper underlying issues. That way, we may find out what have caused the sex addiction in the first place. Also, we can discover the embarrassing sexual secrets. And we can unblock the shame associated with them. In addition, we can heal the harm caused to a family and wounded relationships.
In some cases, sexually addictive behavior spirals beyond hours of sex acts. These include pornography phone sex, compulsive masturbation and online sex services. This does not mean all sex addicts become sex offenders. In this case, they may not take part in illegal activities. These include voyeurism, obscene phone calls, molestation, exhibitionism or rape.
It is also important to remember this. Just because someone has a high libido, doesn’t mean that they are a sex addict.
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