Addiction to Sex
by Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC
Addiction to sex is like any other addiction. Addictions share many characteristics in common. Each individual activity can be quite pleasurable. Each individual activity has been engaged in by all cultures throughout history. All of these cultures have set rules to govern the use of these pleasurable things, even though these rules are different from culture to culture and from time to time. This is at least in part because of the tendency for each of these normal human functions to spiral out of control with some people.
Addiction is a complex concept and there are many ways to define it. One commonly accepted definition is "any behavior that becomes a preoccupation, seems out of control, in which a person often cannot predict when they will start or stop, and that continues despite harmful consequences." This definition of addiction includes not only substances as in drug addiction or alcohol addiction, but behavior addictions such as sex addiction and love addiction. Any behavior that is not done in a moderate fashion where a person remains in balance and homeostasis would be included under this definition. Interestingly enough, non-substance addictions such as sex addiction actually shows all of the components of traditional chemical or drug addiction. This includes a gross preoccupation with the behavior, a chemical high, which include an increase of neurotransmitters in the body (brain chemicals), and actual withdrawal symptoms, which is when the neurotransmitters decrease dramatically. This decrease of neurotransmitters causes craving for the activity or drug.
As with drug addiction, sex addiction destroys an individual and often causes irreparable harm to relationships. In the hunt for the intensity of the sexual high, the natural intimacy of sex in a truly loving relationship is lost. Sexual addiction can take many forms. Often it shows itself in excessive pornography, with or without excessive masturbation. With other people the sexual addiction shows itself in prostitution or more traditional affairs. Whatever the form the main dynamics of the addiction are present. The causes of sexual addiction are numerous and complex, but often are caused by an overly strict household where sex was looked at as sinful or dirty. When we attempt to banish natural human emotions they become warped and strange in their expression. Sexual addiction also is very often the result of some past sexual abuse in a sufferers' life. If someone is overly stimulated at an inappropriate age they often fixate on the experience and magnify it. Later in life they tend to act it out compulsively to try and resolve it. This of course is futile.
No matter what type of trauma occurred or what type of addiction is present, addiction treatment is very effective now and anyone who works on these issues can recover. Several books on different kinds of addictions can be found at your local book store or library for your convenience. Our entire etherapy staff is well versed in the treatment of addictions and is here to help.
Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC.
If you are looking for more detailed information you might consider purchasing one of the educational videos or books (also available on e-book format) by Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC about Love and Sex Addiction.