What Is Sex Addiction? Sexual addiction is defined as an unhealthy/pathological relationship with a mood altering behavior. It is primarily a repression mechanism for unresolved grief, suffering, and losss. Underlying sex addiction are attachment injuries and an intimacy disorder that usually begins in early childhood. Sexual addiction has many of the characteristics of other addictions, such as alcoholism or drugs, such as:
- There have been unsuccessful attempts to stop the behavior.
- The addict needs more and more of the behavior to feel the same way.
- There have been significant negative consequences for the behavior.
- The behavior progressively gets worse over time.
Sex addiction, like all other addictions, is a brain disease. This means the chemistry of the brain has been altered over time as a result of repeating the behavior. The concept of a “hijacked brain” is helpful – the addicted person sets out to do behavior A, but finds himself doing behavior B. If behavior B is done compulsively, than it is considered an addiction. Most of the behavior is done outside of conscious awareness.
This hijacking creates a paradox for those affected by the behavior. Although unconscious, the addict is still responsible for their behavior and the harm and pain they have caused in their lives. Sex addiction is not an excuse for bad behavior. It is a clinical label to define a compulsive, intractable, brain disease.
“Like an alcoholic unable to stop drinking, sexual addicts are unable to stop their self-destructive sexual behavior. Family breakups, financial disaster, loss of jobs, and risk to life are the painful themes of their stories.
Sex addicts come from all walks of life – they may be ministers, physicians, homemakers, factory workers, salespersons, secretaries, clerks, accountants, therapists, dentists, politicians, or executives, to name just a few examples.
Most were abused as children – sexually, physically, and/or emotionally. The majority grew up in families in which addiction already flourished, including alcoholism, compulsive eating, and compulsive gambling. Most grapple with other addictions as well, but they find sex addiction the most difficult to stop.
Much hope nevertheless exists for these addicts and their families. Sex addicts have shown an ability to transform a life of self-destruction into a life of self-care, a life in chaos and despair into one of confidence and peace.”
– Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D. Author of Out of the Shadows
Treating sex addiction requires having a trained professional who is certified to treat sex addiction and who has experience with this population. The average length of treatment is 3 years with 5 years being common. The sex addict should attend weekly therapy sessions, seek management of the coexisting issues of depression and anxiety, attend a 12 step program, and be part of a therapist-led sex addiction group.
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“If we have not peace within ourselves, it is in vain to seek it from outward sources.”