WHAT EXACTLY IS SEX ADDICTION?
What exactly is sex addiction? It’s not what most people think of, and quite simply it is the use of sex or pornography to address non-sexual emotional needs. It can be best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Numerous people from many different cultures struggle with this condition which not only has a negative impact on the addict but also on family members which only increases as the disorder progresses. Over time, the addict usually has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results. If the following situation sounds familiar to you or someone close to you then you are not alone:
Constant preoccupation with sexual fantasies which interferes with daily routine.
Your desire or drive to have sex, view pornography on the Internet or buy porn videos and magazines is so strong that you find yourself willing to relinquish your prime responsibilities and obligations.
As a result, you may be in financial debt and maybe out of a job and yet, you still continue to engage in sexual behavior that you know is risky.
- A dependence on sexually explicit material in order to become aroused and/or to reach orgasm.
- Experiencing intense mood shifts due to shame and despair.
- Excessive and compulsive masturbation (3-25 times per day or week).
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M ADDICTED TO SEX OR PORNOGRAPHY?
A basic approach in recognizing any addictive behavior is to assess whether it is creating overwhelming trouble in your life and yet you still choose to return to it despite the problem.
If your sexual behavior is draining your time and energy and it causes you to compromise the values and beliefs that you hold dear then there is likely a problem. If you are acting out sexually and your behavior has resulted in psychological and/or physical complications, job loss and financial problems, relationships being strained or broken or more severe consequences such as being involved in litigations over inappropriate and illegal behaviors then you are most likely a sex addict.
A common misconception among sex addicts is that the problem will go away on its own and they will often say to themselves, “This is my only opportunity… I will never get a chance like this again…this is the last time that I am going to…” but experience and research shows that they will return to the same sexual situations, in spite of previous promises to change if they do not seek professional help.
WHY IS A PERSON ADDICTED TO SEX?
One way to understand why a person is addicted to sex is to look at other types of addiction such as drugs and alcohol. Someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs uses these substances to change his/her moods; in other words, the addict tries to numb emotional pain. The addiction becomes more important than family, friends and work.
Eventually, the individuals reach a point where, in order to feel normal, they must have the drug or alcohol. Sex addiction is very similar to the above dynamic in that addicts use sexual behaviors to “medicate” or numb their feelings (such as fear, anxiety or anger) to the degree that their sexual acting out becomes their primary way of coping with emotional stress.
FEELING POWERLESS IS THE ESSENCE
The essence of all addictions is the addicts feelings of powerlessness over a compulsive behavior which results in their lives becoming unmanageable. The addict is out of control and experiences tremendous shame, pain and self-loathing. One of the traits of sex addiction is that it is progressive in nature. These habitual behaviors increase in frequency and variety which can result in extreme consequences.
The sex addict does not necessarily need to have sex with an individual in order to be addicted. Pornography or cyber-sex addictions are types of sexual addiction in which the individual, more often than not, masturbates to pornographic images or videos on the Internet. This compulsive behavior leads to investing an increasing amount of time in downloading images, creating files and exchanging sexual information with others via chat rooms and creates a fantasy world in which the sex addict spends most of his time.
The Internet provides exactly what an addict seeks: material to fuel his insatiable sexual desires and secretly feed his fantasy in an isolated environment with an endless variety that is available not only at a touch of a button but also at any time of the day. As a result, the individual’s emotional pain and stress are numbed by these fantasies and rituals dozens, if not, hundreds of times before having true intimacy (and/or sex) with a real person.
The sex addicts who use the Internet experience a fast progression of their addiction. An excessive amount of time is spent in front of the computer which leads to greater risks, increasing one’s chances of getting caught. This is the reason why porn addiction has been appropriately deemed the “crack cocaine” of sex addiction.