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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Surviving Sexual Addictions

Image Courtesy of NYU Couples Lab
When television shows, movies and even commercials have the tendency to promote and sensationalize sexual activity, it may be difficult to identify what sexual addiction actually is. Even mental health professionals  disagree as to whether Sexual Addiction truly exists. 

After ten years of research on the subject, it was estimated that some 15 million people suffer from some type of Sexual Addiction. Some experts believe that Sexual Addiction is simply a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Manic Depression. For these disorders, the symptom is called hypersexuality.

But for those specialists who advocate the existence of Sexual Addiction, the definition seems to require three specific criteria. This involves compulsivity, continuation despite consequences, and obsession. A person who is a sex addict will act out sexual behavior compulsively and seeming without control and without concern for consequences, legal, social or otherwise. They will also appear to be obsessed with sexual thoughts and fantasies to the point that it interferes with work, school or home related obligations.

These actions seem to occur in cycles or some kind of private ritual, usually triggered by emotional pain or stress. After experiencing emotional distress, a sex addict will begin to disassociate themselves or attempt to separate themselves from the pain and consequently separate themselves from reality. At this point, they will then begin to meditate or fantasize with great intensity about some type of sexual activity.

This brings the person relief or escape from their existing emotional pain. But, it will become an obsession for them, beyond their control with their mind being completely preoccupied with this sexual fantasy. Reality is distorted as they “live” inside these fantasies. Sexual pressure will begin to build in the addict and this will require them to act out their fantasy in some way.

The next stage of the sex addict’s cycle is to act compulsively in a sexual manner. This may involve frequent visits to a prostitute, having an empty affair or multiple affairs, exposing themselves in public or watching others have sex. It may even involve rape or molestation. 

This stage only brings temporary relief, because the sex addict may now experience guilt or remorse and then the cycle begins all over again. But the neurochemical changes that take place in the brain during sexual activity is what the sex addict is addicted to. So the cycle will definitely begin again, unless they get treatment.

Treatment for this disorder involves first of all, admitting that there is a problem and then usually professional counseling and/or therapy. 60% of sex addicts were victims of child sexual abuse or some other type of abuse or neglect. Sexual activity becomes a substitute for love and parental care. 

Therapy will include help in working through their painful past as well as learning the skills to cope with present and future painful life situations. This can be done through inpatient and outpatient treatment centers as well as online support groups. Recovery from this disorder may take a long time, even years, but it is possible.

If you or someone you loves suffers from Sexual Addiction, there is help available. Follow these links to find an appropriate support group or information for assistance.

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