Understanding sexual addition

POSTED February 28, 2013  

Some many be surprised to learn that sex addiction is not a behavioral problem, but rather an attachment disorder. Just like an alcoholic reaching for a drink, sex addicts use sex to numb feelings and escape from the painful parts of their lives which have resulted from their inability to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships (attachments) with others. Sick, misguided attempts at relationships are traded for healthy ones, and the sexual experience becomes mood altering to the point that, in time, it becomes the central part of the addict’s life. That is why a few sessions of “talk” therapy don’t work.

Perhaps not surprising, trauma is often part of an addict’s background. An original long-term study by sex addition expert Dr. Patrick Carnes showed that 81% of addicts reported being sexually abused. Research has also shown that when family systems are examined more closely, sex addicts often come from families that were rigid and disengaged. Basically that means that rules were in concrete and usually decided by one person, and there was little opportunity for healthy closeness. It seems to make sense that addicts seek what feels good from unhealthy sources because they didn’t learn and had little practice at making healthy connections.

One of the dynamics of sex addiction is that addicts search for “intrigue.” Addicts dissociate from reality (often because of their lack of healthy attachments) and seek something more exciting.

Another interesting piece is related to how an addict’s brain changes when viewing pornography, especially moving pornography. Some studies have indicated that it is not uncommon for children as young as 4 to 8 years old to view these kinds of images for the first time, and the impact on their brains is similar to that of crack cocaine. This leads us to embrace addiction as a brain (as well as an attachment) disorder.

I work at Family Solutions Counseling.  My colleague, Josh Nichols, and I are both Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Candidates and welcome new clients.  We have an ongoing sex addictions therapy group and more are planned for the future.  Contact me or Josh and we will be glad to provide more information or get you enrolled.

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