Sexual Addiction

DEFINITION CHARACTERISTICS DEVELOPMENT AND CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL ADDICTION

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Sexual Addiction or Hypersexual Disorder is a fully treatable brain disorder of mistaken sexual desire and arousal, and must not be confused with moral deficiency or failure. Sexual addiction does not discriminate, and can affect men and women of any age, marital status, culture, religion, or socio-economic background.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SEX ADDICTION

  • Impaired impulse control.
  • Escalations of sexually motivated fantasies, desires, intensity of sexual arousals and urges, and enacted sexual behaviours including pornographic behaviours.
  • Severe sexual cravings and mood swings when sex/pornography is not attainable.
  • Inability to limit or to give up sexual compulsive behaviours, despite a sincere desire to stop.
  • Awareness of maladapted responses and adverse consequences to personal, social, and relationship wellness.

SEXUAL ADDICTION DISORDER CAN BE STOPPED

Hypersexual disorder and pornography addiction can be stopped if treatment from a qualified sex addiction specialist is sought.

The impact of untreated sexual addiction disorder may have severely damaging consequences on relationships, marriages and families, personal development, sexual health, workplace performance and productivity, and, in severe cases, 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 sex addict behaviour of obsessional sexual fantasy and sexual enactments as a way to self-soothe emotional discomfort brought on by life-stressors, 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 underlying trauma. They describe their mood states as ‘fine’ or ‘blur’ or ‘fogg’ or ‘being in a ‘bubble’. Addicts often report lacking motivation, crippling boredom or overwhelm, feelings of rejection, not being good enough, sadness, feelings of being a failure, emotional or social isolation, anxiety, agitation, frustration, anger, and meaninglessness.

In addiction, when not acting out sex, addicts may experience physical 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 after acting out sex. However, sex induced brain highs are short lived and soon followed by low status and moderate to significant mood swings, dissatisfaction, and more cravings. To remedy low mood states and cravings, sex addicts 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 stimuli and struggle with finding emotional balance, release, contentment, motivation, or meaning.
  • Individuals, with such predisposition, are at a greater risk to addict when participating in conducive environments and activities that make them feel better; e.g. diverse sexual activities, pornography, romance, attraction, love, gambling, sugar and fat consumption, drugs, alcohol, and diverse adrenaline enhancing activities such as any high-risk-taking behaviours including high  finances, risky sports, flamboyancy.
  • 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 save 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 easy to understand that the immature brain of a child is not capable to process adult sexual concepts without negative consequences to their development.

The mature executive part of the brain, the frontal lobes, put ‘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 pornography, children are vulnerable to suffer damaging consequences to their emotional, psychological, and social development. Common manifestations in adulthood are evident 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, love addiction, love avoidance, sex addiction.

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