DEFINITION CHARACTERISTICS DEVELOPMENT AND CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL ADDICTION
Sexual Addiction, or Hypersexual Disorder, has nothing to do with enjoying too much sex. Sex addiction is a fully treatable disorder influenced by underlying trauma or dysphoria, abuse, traumatic sexualisation, (often, but not exclusively in early childhood) and mistaken sexual desires and arousals. Sex addiction must not be confused with moral deficiency or failure.
Sexual addiction does not discriminate, it can affect men and women of any age and culture, religion, or socio-economic background.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SEX ADDICTION/SIDE EFFECTS
- Impaired impulse control.
- Escalations of sexually motivated fantasies and desires.
- Intense or uncontrollable sexual arousals and urges.
- Compulsive desires to enact pornographic sexual behaviours motivated by pornography consumption.
- Severe sexual cravings and mood swings.
- Frustration or anger attacks when sex, pornography, new relationship, or a sex partner is not attainable.
- Inability to limit, or to give up, sexual compulsive behaviours despite sincere attempts to stopping oneself.
- Maladaptive responses to making sound lifestyle decisions, including failure to prioritising safer sex practice, sexual health, and financial spending.
- Difficulty with negotiating intimacy and relationship attachment.
- Progressive intimacy erosion, commitment-to-partner impairment, relationship upheaval.
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SEXUAL ADDICTION DISORDER CAN BE STOPPED
CONSEQUENCES OF UNTREATED SEXUAL ADDICTION
The impact of untreated sexual addiction disorder may have severely damaging consequences on the lives of the sex addicts themselves, their loved ones, and their friends.
Consequences of untreated sexual addiction include threats to sexual and mental health and safety, relationship welfare, family function, financial and workplace productivity, and stagnation in personal and vocational development. In severe cases untreated sexual addiction may lead to legal prosecution.
MENTAL HEALTH AND SEX ADDICTION DISORDER
Sex addicts depend on using sex as a coping mechanism. Acting out sex and pornography significantly increases neurotransmitter activity, namely dopamine (feeling motivated), 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).
Early research by American Psychiatrist Dr Martin Paul Kafka suggests that not only sex addiction exists, but also talks about obsessional sexual fantasy and sexual enactments as a way of self-soothing emotional discomfort brought on by life-stressors, including unresloved early-life trauma and/or the dysphoria associated with anxiety and depression.
Hypersexual disorder, or sex addiction, can be associated with vulnerability to dysphoric affects, such as unease or dissatisfaction with life, and acting out sex as a response to sooth dysphoric affects.
Sex addicts are typically not aware of how underlying trauma and dysphoria may impact on their sexual behaviour. They describe their mood states rather as ‘feeling scrambled’ or ‘frustrated’ or ‘irritated’ or ’empty’ or ‘blur’ or ‘fogg’ or ‘being in a ‘bubble’. Addicts often report lacking motivation, being riddled with crippling boredom or overwhelm, feelings of not being good enough and fear of rejection, sadness, depression, feelings of being a failure or ‘some sort of outcast’, anxious, agitated, angry, and meaningless.
When not acting out sex, addicts may experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, feeling bloated, tiredness, muscle pains, and a general sense of malaise.
Sexual addicts self-report an almost immediate sense of improved physical and emotional wellness when acting out sex. However, sex induced brain highs are short lived and soon followed by mood swings, dissatisfaction and more cravings. The addict’s remedy is to 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
- External environmental stimuli.
- Genetically predisposed individuals may be at a greater risk to experience difficulty with emotion regulation when triggered by stress stimuli.
- Predisposition means to the addict a significantly harder struggle with finding meaning and emotional balance, as compared to the general population.
- Individuals with such predisposition are at a greater risk to addict when exposed to conducive environments that make them feel better; e.g. sexual activity, pornography, new relationships, grooming and dating (online/offline), gambling, eating, drugs, smoking, alcohol, and diverse adrenaline enhancing activities such as ‘living on the edge’, risky finances, risky sports, flamboyancy, etc…..
- There is no biological evidence of abnormal high sex-drive 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 understood as a substitute for affect and emotion regulation. Emotional dysregulation may begin in early childhood with a development of insecure child-parent attachment bonds. An infant’s survival and sound development depends on secure love and safe attachment to their parents, or primary carers. Absence, or disruption of secure love and nurture may be substituted with other ‘feel good’ survival mechanisms in later life.
THE DEVELOPING BRAIN AND SEX ADDICTION
Brain development in humans is said to reach full maturity around the age of 25 years. (Research Prof Jay Giedd, National Institute Of Mental Health NIMH, USA). It is quite easy to understand that the immature brain of a child is unable to process adult sexual concepts without negative consequences to their development.
The mature executive part of the brain, the frontal lobes, ‘puts brakes’ on impulses, ‘estimates situations’, and ‘assesses a rational response’ to emotional stimuli. These systems are immature in childhood.
Children, who are exposed to pornography and/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 either, a single event, or repeated and continued exposure to adult sexual concepts, including exposure to pornography, children are vulnerable to suffer damaging consequences to their emotional, psychological, and social development. Common manifestations in adulthood are evidenced in a lack of impulse control, expressions of inadequate sexual or social behaviours, low self esteem, difficulty trusting others, over-or-under attachment, or avoidance of intimate relationships.
WHY TREATMENTS BY OUR QUALIFIED CLINICAL SEX THERAPISTS AND PROFESSIONAL COUNSELLORS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Appropriate professional treatment of sexual addictions and underlying life stressors such as unresolved early-life trauma, traumatic sexualisation, impaired attachment, and dysphoria associated with anxiety and depression can make a difference to the life of a sex addict and their partner and family. Problematic sexual behaviours and sexual addictions, as well as love addiction, love avoidance, sexual anorexia, pornography dependency, and most psychosexual dysfunctions can be stopped with our specialised professional sex addiction counselling.
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