What is Sex and Love Addiction Or Sexual Compulsivity?
Sex and Love addiction is defined as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. There are several types of sex addiction which include internet addiction, porn addiction, chat room addiction, voyeurism, pain exchange and more. Sexual addiction has been called sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity. By any name, it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addict’s lives. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.
Is Sex Addiction Real? Whether it is or not, if you’re struggling, get help from a Trained Professional Sex addiction is not about sex. Howard Shaffer, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School, said, “The idea of addictive drugs makes no sense, it’s magical thinking to imagine that drugs have this power. We don’t talk about addictive dice.” (cited in Lambert, 2000). However, we do know that for some individuals their relationship to dice can become pathological. The focus needs to shift away from the dice back to the individual holding them. It is the relationship between the person and the object of addiction that matters, not the object.
The denial of the existence of addiction is not new. Compulsive behaviors have historically been attributed to a person’s moral deficiencies, weakness in character and negative personality traits.
No single behavior pattern defines sexual addiction. These behaviors, when they have taken control of addicts’ lives and become unmanageable, include: compulsive masturbation, compulsive relationships, pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, child molesting, incest, rape and violence. Even the healthiest forms of human sexual expression can turn into self-defeating behaviors. While an actual diagnosis for sexual addiction should be carried out by a mental health professional, the following behavior patterns can indicate the presence of sexual addiction. Individuals, who see any of these patterns in their own life, or in the life of someone they care about, should seek professional help.
- Acting out: a pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior.
- Experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior, and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences.
- Persistent pursuit of self-destructive behavior.
- Ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior.
- Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy.
- Regularly increasing the amount of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficiently satisfying.
- Severe mood changes related to sexual activity.
- Inordinate amounts of time spent obtaining sex, being sexual, and recovering from sexual experiences.
- Neglect of important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of sexual behavior.
As more and more of addicts’ energy becomes focused on relationships which have sexual potential, other relationships and activities—family, friends, work, talents and values—suffer and atrophy from neglect. Long-term relationships are stormy and often unsuccessful. Because of sexual over-extension and intimacy avoidance, short-term relationships become the norm. Sometimes, however, the desire to preserve an important long-term relationship with spouse or children, for instance, can act as the catalyst for addicts to admit their problem and seek help.
The Avoidance of Normal Intimate Relationships
In sex and love addiction, a parallel situation exists. Sex – like food, drugs or gambling—provides the “high” and addicts become dependent on this sexual high to feel normal. They substitute unhealthy relationships for healthy ones. They opt for temporary pleasure rather than the deeper qualities of “normal” intimate relationships.
Sex and love addicts struggle to control their behaviors, and experience despair over their constant failure to do so. Their loss of self-esteem grows, fueling the need to escape even further into their addictive behaviors. A sense of powerlessness pervades the lives of addicts.
Sex and love addicts feel tremendous guilt and shame about their out-of-control behavior, and they live in constant fear of discovery. Yet addicts will often act out sexually in an attempt to block out the very pain of their addiction. This is part of what drives the addictive cycle. Like other forms of addiction, sex addicts are out of control and unable to stop their behaviors despite their self-destructive nature and potentially devastating consequences.
The Key to Understanding Sex and Love Addiction
The key to understanding the loss of control in addicts is the concept of the “hijacked brain.” Addicts essentially have rewired their brains so that they do behaviors (drinking, drug use, eating, gambling, and sex) even when they are intending to do something quite different. The triggers to these maladaptive responses are usually stress, emotional pain, loneliness, abandonment or specific childhood scenarios of sexual abuse or sexual trauma. Breakthrough science in examining brain function is helping us to understand the biology of this disease.
When you suspect you or a loved one has an issue with sexual compulsivity or sex and love addiction:
- Take the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) at www.SexHelp.com.
- Contact a Certified Sex Addition Therapist (CSAT) for help. 901-248-6001
- Attend Twelve-step programs like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous at http://slaa-memphis.org.
- Visit www.GentlePath.com to browse the online catalog for books and tapes which will help you understand sex addiction.
The first step in seeking help is to admit to the problem. Though marital, professional, and societal consequences may follow, admission of the problems must come, no matter the cost. Fear of these consequences unfortunately keeps many sexual addicts from seeking help.
Many sources of help are available to provide information, support, and assistance for sexual addicts trying to regain control of their lives. These include inpatient and outpatient treatment, professional associations, self-help groups, and aftercare support groups.
Allan has a good knowledge base for treating addictive disorders and codependency. He has a personal and professional understanding that brings an important combination to his work.” Kent Fisher, LPC, CSAT-S, Experiential Healing Center, Memphis, TN
ARE YOU READY TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND HAVE MORE FREEDOM FROM THE SLAVERY OF ADDICTION?
When you need expert advice on whether you may have an issue with sexual compulsivity and what specifically to do about it in order to recover, I can provide you with the assessment you need and the explanations that show what negative responses may be responsible for your behavior. As a certified Sex Addiction Counselor I will assist you in developing healthy coping skills and new ways to build healthy intimacy into your relationships.
“Allan is a great coach who is experienced, caring, and intuitive. Alan is also very empathetic, teachable, and concerned about the clients he works with.” George Comeaux, LCSW
For more information or to set up an initial phone or in person consultation, call 901-248-6001