Sexual Addiction – Meaning, Causes, Signs and how to Overcome
In modern times, sexuality has become more socially acceptable. It has become part of our everyday lives, as reflected through the explicit coverage of sexual behaviors in the media, movies, newspapers, and magazines. Manufacturers of various products suddenly decided that no advertisement was complete without graphic and explicit sexual content. From suggestive phrases to nude pictures, sex has become the highest seller of any kind of product whether household items or fashion and accessories. Sexual expression has become a form of accepted entertainment and this has pushed pornography to become a billion-dollar industry, stretching the limits of the imagination. Sadly, these cultural changes have increased the acceptability and availability of sexual rewards. With this increase has come the discovery that majority of the population who are flooded with these desires are not able to control sexual impulses thus resulting in sexual addiction.
What is sex/sexual addiction?
Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors. The inability to control sexual impulses resulting in continued engagement in these behaviors despite the negative consequences goes to show just how controlling these impulses can be. This means that a sex addict will continue to engage in certain sexual behaviors despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships or even arrest. It is important to note that the sexual experience for an addict is not about intimacy. Addicts use sexual activity to seek pleasure, avoid unpleasant feelings or respond to seemingly difficult situations at work or home. Over a period of time, they usually have to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same satisfaction.
Causes of sexual addiction
Studies indicate that sexual interests share a common pathway within our brains’ survival and reward systems. This pathway leads into the area of the brain responsible for our higher thinking, rational thought and judgment. The brain tells the sex addict that having illicit sex is good and must be achieved by all means. Therefore an addict receives more pleasure and satisfaction when they engage in sex than what non-addicts reportedly feel. Research has also shown that a high percentage of addicts come from dysfunctional homes where there was some sort of substance addiction by family members, evidence of child abuse, or where the parents where unnecessarily rigid and unwavering in concepts of rewards and punishments. This is supported by theories that when a person suffers from trauma, abuse, or neglect, it is likely that person will have a hard time trusting others on an emotional level. In cases like these, sexual addiction is more likely to be manifested because the actions involved are emotionally detached, thereby giving the representation of being emotionally “safe” for one who does not trust others.
Signs and symptoms of sexual addiction
Early on, the signs of sex addiction may not be extremely easy to see but as time goes on, the signs will typically become obvious. This is because sex addiction tends to progress rapidly and move from small discreet actions to major, noticeable behaviors. There is no hard and fast rule for detecting sexual addiction, but an exhibition of one or more of these behaviours may be an indicator. These behaviours include but are not limited to:
- Frequently engaging in sex with more partners than intended despite an unsuccessful attempt to limit sexual activity.
- Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex to the detriment of other activities.
- Spending considerable time in activities related to sex, such as seeking out partners or spending hours visiting pornographic web sites.
- Voyeurism or watching others have sex
- Neglecting obligations such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex.
- Continually engaging in the sexual activity despite negative consequences.
- Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve the desired effect, such as more sex partners or more acts of masturbation over a period of time.
- Feeling irritable when unable to engage in sex
- The escalation of such irritation into acts of violence against intended sexual partners or otherwise.
How to overcome sexual addiction
In order to overcome sexual addiction, a sex addict must first realize that there is a problem. This can be achieved by asking yourself these questions; Do you promise yourself you won’t do it again and yet you do it again and again? Are you unable to control your behavior when it comes to sex? Do you suffer repeated negative consequences because of your sexual behavior but you find yourself not being able to disengage from sex?
At that point of realization comes a strong desire not to engage in further illicit sexual acts. Then the addict must identify and avoid triggers, these are acts or words that cause the behaviours for example watching porn, having unhealthy conversations etc. It is also necessary to seek outside help in form of counselling by qualified professionals especially if the addict had previously tried to stop the addiction alone and failed. There are also some other options to explore in addition to these steps and they include: Psychotherapy, support groups and medication. It is important to note that the approach taken depends on individual needs.
How to live free of sexual addiction for ex-addicts
Once a sex addict has made a commitment to begin the process of rehabilitation, things do not immediately change overnight. It is a gradual process that requires commitment and determination. Where that determination has paid off and the individual is no longer plagued with addictive impulses, care must be taken so that the ex-addict doesn’t slip back into those destructive tendencies. The individual must identify and keep up with the reasons for positive change and keep asking these questions, Why do I want to change – what will keep me focused on that goal? The ex-addict must also learn to cope with urges, Dealing with urges and cravings is part of recovery. Counseling usually teaches tools designed to help cope with urges and cravings.
The individual must learn to manage thoughts, feelings and behaviors, people frequently turn to addictive behaviors either to escape from or to avoid addressing problems. Ex-addicts must learn problem-solving skills to help them manage challenges along the way as they return to normal life. The individual also has to learn to live a balanced life. The discovery that things that were fun are no longer interesting may throw the individual off balance so he or she needs to build skills to balance both short and long-term goals. It helps to also discover new hobbies and habits to replace those pleasures and needs that have been lost along the way.
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