Despite society’s stereotyping of sex addicts, someone with a sex addiction is essentially struggling with similar underlying problems as an alcoholic or drug addict. Low self esteem, difficulties with feeling and expressing emotions, unresolved trauma, dysfunctional childhood, and having been sexually abused or neglected as a child are some of the common problems which in part can lead to a full blown sex addiction. The acting out behaviors and some of the consequences may be different than those present in an alcohol or drug addiction and these differences will require appropriate treatment, but in terms of the underlying root problem, they are one and the same. Jack’s drug of choice is cocaine and Sally’s drug of choice is sex, but they are both just trying to escape from the reality of their lives. Often, sex addicts will have an alcohol and or drug addiction as well.
Contrary to what many people think, sex addicts don’t necessarily enjoy sex more than other people. In all reality, the sex addict is compelled to act out sexually. Patrick Carnes, one of the leaders in the sex addiction field writes, “contrary to enjoying sex as a self affirming source of physical pleasure, the addict has learned to rely on sex for comfort from pain, for nurturing or relief from stress”. Sex addiction is sometimes called an “intimacy disorder” which refers to the addict’s inability to truly engage in an intimate relationship. This problem is often a result of the individual’s lack of attachment to his or her caregivers as a child and the addiction becomes a way for the addict to make up for this important component in life which he or she is missing.
Although treatment is now required for the actual addiction, the sex addiction is not the original problem. It is the wrong solution to a pre-existing problem. The sex addict now has two problems for which he or she needs to get help. He needs to deal with the underlying causes which in part led to the addiction and he also needs to deal with the addictive behaviors themselves.
Individuals with sexual addictions are unable to control their lustful impulses, leading them to compulsively pursue prostitution, affairs, liaisons, pornography, or fantasies, among other unhealthy behaviors. Someone with a sexual addiction usually operates in secret, keeping the problem tucked away deep inside a dark closet. The individual may be completely obsessed by harmful impulses, feeling unable to control them. Someone with a sexual addiction may also live in denial of the problem, and once discovered, it can wreak utter destruction on the individual’s relationships. The pursuit of sex becomes more important than family, career, personal health and safety.
Because a person with a sexual addiction is generally living a double life, he or she is often an unstable person. Symptoms include sexual harassment, habitual use of pornography, and blaming the innocent spouse for any problems relating to the addiction. Living a double life also leads to increased isolation and feelings of loneliness which is part of what makes sex addiction a viscous cycle of acting out, feeling shamed and lonely, and therefore acting out again.
Although the feeling that you are the only one with an addiction problem is prevalent with all addictions, it is especially common with sex addicts. Most sex addicts feel very ashamed of their addiction and will therefore not discuss it with others so they will not know how many of their family, friends and coworkers may be struggling with a similar issue. In addition, most of the addictive behaviors take place in private, which makes it less likely that they will see others engaging in similar acts of acting out. It is for these reasons that sex addicts tend to feel lots of despair, often wondering why they are the only ones unable to control their sexual impulses. The real truth is that sex addiction is one of the fastest growing addictions and is one of the common reasons that clients are seeking therapy in today’s day of age.
Families of sex addicts face unique challenges in addition to the regular issues that families of all addicts need to deal with. There is a greater element of shame, possibilities of sexually transmitted diseases, disclosure issues, and the spouse or partner feeling cheated and neglected. Most sex addicts do not know how to achieve genuine intimacy, forming no attachment to their sexual partners. Seeking a qualified sex addiction professional to help navigate these difficult situations can help restore a sense of wholeness to the family.
While many may think of sex addicts as men, this is not always the case. As much as 30 percent of people who seek treatment for sex addiction are women.
In addition to individual therapy, group therapy and task oriented activities have been proven to be extremely helpful in combating this debilitating addiction. Contact me today to discuss your situation so that we can work out a treatment plan which will be best suited for you.