Like in any addiction, be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex, an addict engages in his addiction in a compulsive, unhealthy and painful way, often with very severe consequences to himself and those close to him.
Sexual addiction is a pattern of out of control, compulsive sexual fantasies and behaviors. Usually the addict has made repeated attempts to stop (or at least to limit) his or her sexual behaviors, without success. Over time, sexual addiction tends to escalate and take over the person’s life, resulting in any number of negative consequences such as loss of a marriage, problems at work, financial troubles, even sexual difficulties in their primary relationship.
Fundamentally, all addictions are intimacy disorders, sex addiction is no different. The primary relationship for a sex addict is the relationship with sex. The rest of life is organized around protecting and fostering this relationship. As a result, the addict is not really available for the relationship with their partner, spouse , friends and family, or in a limited way, as long as it does not interfere with their compulsive sexual behavior. In fact many addicts are love avoidant in their primary relationships.
Sex addiction is often symptomatic of a deeper underlying issue or issues that need to be identified and addressed in order to truly recover from sex addiction. A sex addict usually acts out sexually to manage his or her stress levels or escape from difficult and unmanageable feelings. Craving comfort and relief, more and more time becomes devoted to seeking a sexual high, which eventually becomes the main focus of the sex addict.
This loss of control disrupts lives and leads to secrecy and feelings of shame. Although many addicts hate their behavior, they are hookes on this compulsive cycle for temporary comfort. Lies follow, with emotional withdrawal from those close to him/her. Eventually a double life develops.
An essential aspect of sex addiction treatment often involves learning to face and experience feelings and emotional states that previously were avoided by acting out. The person struggling with addiction is mostly unaware of these underlying feelings because the acting out serves as their defense. An example would be feeling sad. Rather then escape into the sexual compulsion as soon as the sadness arises, one needs to learn how to sit with the sadness (without getting overwhelmed). Other examples are learning to experience loneliness, feel capable of loving and receiving love, learning to trust or learning to feel vulnerable. As the addict develops this capacity they experience a sense of empowerment and being in control of their life, which increases his or her ability to stay present and connected.
Additional aspects of treatment involve learning to idenify triggers, focus on risk recognition, and developing a personal treatment plan.
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