The topic of sexual addiction is not commonly discussed when compared to chemical addictions (to drugs or alcohol) or other process addictions like gambling or television. Nonetheless, the various forms of sexual addiction can be just as debilitating to a person’s well being as any other type of addiction.

Here are a couple of the reasons that sexual addiction is not discussed as often as more commonly cited addictions:

 

  • Many people struggling with addictions to sex or love don’t realize that they have an addiction. Since addicts of all forms are generally trying to cover up some sort of emotional problem, they don’t always know that their actions are developing into an addiction. Drug addicts, conversely, can tell that they’re addicted by the emergence of physical withdrawals.
  • Many sexual addicts are simply acting out an extension of their naturally developed sexual habits. If they don’t have a reason to suspect that they are developing an addiction or a problem, why would they?
  • There is a taboo surrounding sex in general, and this taboo is much more severe for people who are considered to be sexual deviants. While this label is not helpful and in most cases far from the truth, this bias makes it difficult for people who know that they have sexual addictions to reach out for professional help or to even speak with their friends about it.
  • The issues that spur a sexual addiction are sometimes sexual in nature (i.e. someone was abused sexually as a child, leading them to develop an addiction later in life). These difficult emotional problems can make it even more difficult to address these problems in person with others.

 

The causes of sexual addiction

There can be many causes of sexual addiction. No matter what the cause is, there is no way to ‘measure’ a sexual addiction as being more or less serious than any others. If someone is seeking help for a sexual addiction, then they have a problem that is serious enough to dedicate help to.

One of the most common causes of sexual addiction is past sexual trauma.

  • This can be a traumatic experience that occurred during childhood – most often from a parent or another adult influence or a sibling. The specifics of this sexual abuse often have a huge impact on the type of sexual addiction that develops.
    • Addictions to love can emerge as a result of young children being abandoned, or being made to feel abandoned, during their upbringing. Love addictions can also arise from a series of serious breakups or breaches of trust at an early age.
    • Traumatic experiences can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a very difficult condition that leads to serious anxiety and stress, and people suffering from this condition might be more likely to develop sexual addictions.
  • Sexual addictions can emerge as a result of sexual deprivation. If someone isn’t allowed to explore their sexual desires (for example, people who attend religious schools where sexuality is heavily discouraged, or those who live in families who use extreme measures to limit the sexuality of their children) may develop sexual desires.
    • Since the person is not able to develop sexually at a healthy rate, when they are finally able to explore their sexuality, they may be over or underwhelmed. This could lead them to continually seek sexual gratification at a level that can cause them, or the people around them, problems.

There is often some emotional factor in sexual addiction, as well.

  • The most common emotion that can lead to a sexual addiction is shame. Shame is often a residual factor of the situations described above.
    • People deprived of their sexuality are made to believe that they are wrong or faulty for having these thoughts and feelings.
    • People who are abused as children tend to develop shameful feelings regarding these experiences.

 

Difficulties in treating sexual addiction

Sexual addiction isn’t always as easy to treat as other types of addictions, which can be difficult enough on its own. One of the main difficulties in treating sexual addiction is the amount of trouble that it can be for someone to actually realize that they need help for a sexual addiction.

People who habitually seek to cover up past emotional scars with sex – or with anything, really – are not using a healthy coping mechanism. In fact, doing this tends to compound the original problem, making it worse. This is especially true in the case of sexual addictions. Consider this:

  1. Someone is using a sexual addiction to cover up feelings of shame, or to seek emotional gratification that they never received during childhood.
  2. The sexual acts that they choose to perform will temporarily free them from negative feelings, or will give them a feeling of temporary love or acceptance that they once needed.
  3. The feelings, which still remain unaddressed, will cause the person to seek out sexual activity to respond to these feelings.

This is a fairly typical pattern of behavior for someone suffering from a sexual addiction or a love addiction – any addiction, really, if you replace love and sex with drugs, gambling, or food.

However, with each repeat of this behavior, the sexual addict solidifies their self-image, either subconsciously or consciously. They will start to feel that they are inadequate, and judge themselves further for their ineffective coping mechanisms.

Sexual addicts often grow distant from friends, family, and even themselves or their lovers, because they are unhappy with what they’re doing on some level. This can also seriously compound the feelings of shame that come with this condition. Some sex addicts develop a second persona that they use when they’re courting their lovers, and knowing that they have an alter-ego does serious damage to their sense of self.

 

Treating sexual addiction

The most significant part of recovering from a sex addiction is admitting that there is a problem. This is also often the hardest part for people suffering from sexual addictions.

Once someone has acknowledged the problem, they must next get ready to take steps to rehabilitate themselves from the problem. This could include seeking a consultant, therapy, and even rehab – whatever is necessary for the person to feel comfortable with themselves and their actions.

Some holistic addiction services and consultants offer alternative treatments in addition to more traditional therapeutic methods like the 12-step program. Holistic consulting programs don’t detract from the overall rehab experience, and may help you find a treatment method that a standard facility might not offer.

Either way, it couldn’t hurt to talk to a holistic consultant about your feelings – even if you don’t have a sexual addiction!

Call my office at (805) 644-0461 to schedule an appointment now, either in person or virtually. Let me help you get started on the road to recovery!

Sexual Dependency – Addiction to Sex, Romance, and Love
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