Culprits of sexual addiction

  • By Sahana Rajan

One of the common misconceptions about sexual addiction is to not recognize it as an addiction because there are no chemicals involved. However, sexual intercourse is marked with the production of hormones and neurotransmitters which give the same form of 'kick' or 'psych high' as the drugs and alcohol do. Even though they wish to stop themselves, sexual addicts are unable to do so.

Most of the sexual addicts have a past laced with abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional) and come from families where many members suffer from different kinds of addictions. Due to the social stigma concerning sexual behavior, it has been challenging for those suffering from the addiction to reach out and seen treatment. However, since 1983 when this issue was addressed, more avenues for coming out and seeking help for sexual addictions are available.

The prime mark of sexual addiction is the tendency to seek sexual activity in order to get a high. Apart from the habit of watching pornography and showing interest in sexual fetishes, sexual addicts also tend to have a sexual life unshared with their spouses. You might find yourself undergoing low productivity periods at workplace and lack of interest at home.

The most common pattern of behaviors associated with sexual addiction are unsafe sexual activity, promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, consideration of partner as solely a physical object demanding sex intermittently, virtual sex, prostitution, frequent visit to massage parlors, adult book-stores and strip clubs, successive affairs without any emotional associations and sexual paraphernalia (requirement for uncommon sexual stimulation).

Often caused by the misdirection of anger and emotions of intimacy, sexually compulsive behavior is often rooted in the sexual ignominy of the family. The three main culprits of sexual addiction are biochemical issues, history of abuse, and family history. Sexual compulsion can arise from existence of double standards, incest, and sexual addiction of parent as well as sexual secrecy. The lack of sex education can increase the propensity to such compulsion.

Most of sexual addicts would often justify their behavior by appealing to causes such as stress, and emotional pain. As a biochemical process, sex addiction is accompanied by a reward system of the brain which could make the subject believe that it is critical to engage in such behavior or his/her survival could be threatened. Since the sexual activity brings pleasure to the brain, it continues to find justifications to involve in it. Moreover, most of the relationships it engages in would be physical in nature and sex could be used as a substitute for emotional intimacy with people.

The treatment for sexual addiction can involve either one of these or different combinations depending on the intensity of sexual addiction: individual counseling, marital counseling and group therapy. The prime aim of the recovery includes making the subject acknowledge her/his position, understanding the addiction process and establishment of soberness. Since sexual activity is not intended to be completely wiped off, the patient is walked towards recognizing the emotions which she/he might have repressed over time due to abuse or family situation.

The subject has to recognize the factors which led to such a state, allowing space for development of emotional intimacy - which would then keep away the need to substitute for it with sexual behavior. The action plan is established along with the family and immediate companions. Group therapy would also help the patient to be in touch with a sponsor who will walk the 12-steps of recovery. Along with the group therapy, couples counseling will allow for the subject to grow a healthy emotional relationship with her/his spouse.