DEFINITION AND CHARACTERISTICS OF SEXUAL ADDICTION
Sex addiction is a fully treatable disorder of the brain, and must not be confused with moral deficiency or failure. Sexual behaviour disorders, such as acting out compulsive sex, compulsive pornography viewing, and love addiction are not gender-specific, but can occur in men and women of any cultural and socio-economic background.
Untreated sex addiction is characterised by impaired impulse control, escalations of sexual acts, sexual thoughts, and sexual cravings, and by the addict’s inability to stop their behaviour, despite their awareness of negative consequences.
SEXUAL ADDICTION DISORDER CAN BE STOPPED
Sexual and pornography addiction disorder can be stopped if treatment from a sex addiction specialist, or clinical sex therapist and professional counsellor is sought.
Sexual addiction is the most hidden, least understood, and most intrusive of all addictions. Sexual addiction threatens relationships, marriages and families, personal development, sexual health, workplace performance and productivity, and, in severe cases, may lead to legal prosecution.
It is difficult to know, if sex and pornography addiction is actually increasing, or if sex addiction is more visible, simply because sex addicts have become more comfortable with seeking professional help. In fact, counsellors report a sharp increase in people seeking treatment for sexual addiction in recent years.
MENTAL HEALTH AND SEX ADDICTION DISORDER
Sex addicts depend on using sex like a drug to manage their lives. Acting out sex, preoccupying with sex, consuming pornography, masturbation, and experiencing sexual arousal and orgasm, sharply increases levels of endorphins (promoting a state of feeling great, elated, mildly euphoric), oxytocin (promotes feelings of love, cosiness, bond), adrenaline (promotes up-surges of alertness, ‘aliveness’, anxiety, pleasure enhancing), and serotonin (promotes feelings of being emotionally calm/stable).
Due to impaired neurochemical self-regulation, sex addicts depend on triggering increased levels of these brain chemicals by means of acting out their sexual behaviours. In doing so, sex addicts are coping with mood swings, emotional distress, and emotional pain.
Sex addicts are not consciously aware of the nature or origin of their mood states, they rather describe their feelings as ‘blur’ or ‘being in a ‘bubble’. Negative mood states may include a lack of motivation, boredom, overwhelm, feelings of rejection, sadness, failure, emotional isolation, fear, anxiety, irritability, agitation, ‘falling apart’, feelings of emptiness, meaninglessness, confusion, anger and frustration.
Physical symptoms experienced by sex addicts, such as headaches, blurred vision, feeling bloated, tiredness, muscle pains, and a general sense of malaise are also ‘self-medicated’ by acting out sex.
Sex addicts depend on using sex like a drug to trigger brain-highs from using sex. They self-report an almost immediate sense of improved wellness after acting out sex. Such brain highs are soon followed by a low and triggering mood swings including anger, regret, dissatisfaction, shame, guilt, a sense of failure and hopelessness of having lost control, and more cravings. To remedy such lows, the addict must act out more sex.
HOW COMMON IS SEX ADDICTION?
Conservative research figures estimate about 6-8% of adult men, and 2–3% of adult women being affected by sexual addiction. Sex addiction may affect over three million people in Australia, and an estimated thirty million people in the USA.
POSSIBLE CAUSES OF SEXUAL ADDICTION
Brain based research focuses on the neurobiology of addiction and suggests that addiction is influenced by two predominant factors; inherited predisposition involving a number of genes, and environmental stimuli.
- Genetically predisposed individuals may be at a greater risk to experience difficulty with emotion regulation when triggered by stress, emotional distress, overwhelm, or boredom and may struggle with contentment, wellness, motivation, and finding meaning.
- Individuals with such predisposition are at an increased risk to addict when participating in conducive environments and activities that make them feel better; e.g. diverse sexual activities, compulsive sexual avoidance (sexual anorexia), pornography over-consumption, gambling, alcohol, sugar, over-eating, self-starving (eating disorders), drugs, alcohol, and adrenaline enhancing activities (high risk-taking behaviours).
There is no biological evidence of abnormal high sex-drives in sexual addicts. In fact, most sex addicts are able to return to fully functional intimacy after successful recovery from their sexual addiction with the help of a qualified clinical sex therapist and professional counsellor.
CONTRIBUTORS TO SEX ADDICTION DEVELOPMENT
Addiction can be seen as a substitute for affect dysregulation, which may have its origin in early childhood where a child-parent attachment bond had become faulty. An infant’s survival and sound development depends on the quality of their bond with their parent(s), or primary carer(s). An absence, or disruption of such safe and life essential lifeline may consequently be substituted with other feel good survival mechanisms.
Later, and in adult life, such substituted self-regulation might be achieved with sex, masturbation, orgasm, pornography, and any number of ‘feel good’ behaviours, substances, and acts.
THE DEVELOPING BRAIN AND SEX ADDICTION
The developing brain of a child is not yet capable to adequately accommodating adult sexual concepts. Brain development in humans is said to reach full maturity around the age of 25 years.
The mature executive part of the brain, the frontal lobe, puts ‘brakes’ on impulses, estimates situations, and assesses a rational response to emotional situations. These systems are underdeveloped in a child.
Children’s brains, that have been prematurely exposed to pornography, or to other aspects of adult sexuality, are unable to size up the situation correctly, and therefore cannot assess a rational emotional response.
As a result of repeated premature exposure to adult sexual concepts and pornography, children are vulnerable to suffer severe negative consequences to their emotional and psychological development. Common manifestations in adulthood include expressions of inadequate sexual behaviours, and difficulty with empathy, love, and intimate relationships.
COUNSELLING FOR SEX AND PORN ADDICTION BY OUR SEXUAL THERAPIST
Sexual addictions are fully treatable disorders. For further information on sexual addictions treatments, sex addiction tests, or for booking a confidential appointment with our Sexual Health Therapist Heide in Sydney & Nationally Online, please contact Sex Addiction Australia during AEST office hours. You can also call Heide at (+61) 02 9380 4486 or email firstname.lastname@example.org