Sex and love addiction
My latest blog is about the curious subject of sex and love addiction. Does it exist? Is it just an excuse for bad behaviour, or simply about having a high sex drive?
There are a few things about sex addiction that might surprise you. Here are just a few….
It is not fun, despite people saying they would love to have that addiction.
It is not about sex or having a high sex drive, even though you could be forgiven for thinking it is.
Women can be sex addicts, this is not solely a male condition
It is on the increase.
There are some people out there in the world of therapy and psychiatry who do not think that sex addiction exists. This idea has been reinforced by the fact that sex and love addiction does not appear in the DSM 5, the bible of psychiatric conditions. The justification for this is that there is not enough research evidence to support its entry into the newest edition.
However, that has not been my experience. What has been my experience is seeing men and women who are distressed by their sexual behaviour. I see men and women who want to stop spending hundreds of pounds on sex workers or going on line to find someone to have sex with that night, even though they have promised their partners and themselves that they are never going to do it again. I see people who are experiencing considerable consequences of their sexual behaviour, such as being arrested, financial problems, problems at work and relationship/family breakdown. As a sex therapist I’m really keen on helping clients to feel comfortable and happy about masturbation; it’s a really healthy, rewarding thing to do. However, for a sex addict, it is possible that they will be masturbating until their genitals are red raw, or are late for work or missing important appointments because they can’t get out of the house. This is not fun! They are distressed because they really mean the promises they make it at the time, yet they still find themselves in the same position, almost without any idea how they got there. What transpires after someone has acted out and experienced that release is a deep sense of guilt and shame (although for some addicts, they are in so much denial that they do not feel anything at all until further in therapy) and often for the addict, the most logical way to deal with those awful feelings is to act out again. And so the cycle continues. Someone simply with a high sex drive would never find themselves experiencing those types of damaging consequences for the sake of sexual relief.
This desire to avoid pain is the crux of addiction. Often sex addicts have suffered from difficult childhoods where one or both parents have not been available emotionally, for whatever reason. People have often suffered from trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse, or simply the trauma of not having adequate love and parenting. These events can then result in people not being able to process distressing feelings appropriately, which leads to finding ways of blocking feelings out instead. Sex and love relationships are superb for blocking out pain. If you imagine what it feels like when you fall in love, how powerful that emotion is, how the world just seems like a brighter, shinier place. Sex and love addicts want more than anything to be in that place, where the world no longer feels scary and hostile. Someone with a high sex drive does not want to avoid the world, they simply like sex and lots of it!
Another factor that is important in the increase in sex addiction is opportunity. We have never been in such a position before where everything we could desire (almost), is at our finger tips. The internet, SMART phones and other personal devices has revolutionised the way we have sex. I’m certainly not about to say this is a bad thing, although the consequences of this cannot be ignored. Pornographic imagery has been around for as long as man has been able to draw (think of the ancient Greeks, they loved it) but we have never been able to access it with such ease. Curious children no longer have to sneak about to find their dads or older brothers porn stash. They can simply look on their phones or tablets and view just about anything they want. This certainly doesn’t mean that everyone who views porn is going to become addicted to it, just as not everyone who has a drink or has taken a drug will become an alcoholic or drug addict. The point here is that although we have had access to opium for centuries, we didn’t have a substantial problem with opiate addiction in the UK until heroin arrived in great quantities. We now find ourselves in a similar situation with porn…………..
It is not all doom and gloom however, people can and do recover from sex and love addiction, just like people can recover from any other type of addiction. There is also help available for partners (partners of sex addicts will be the topic of my next blog).
If you think that maybe you or you partner is experiencing some form of sex addiction, I have appointments available at my Sunderland or Whitley Bay office. I would love to hear from you.