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Pornography and Sex Addiction

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Sex Addiction…A Secret Life

“People who grew up in difficult family situations learned not to trust. As adults, they searched for something to trust and rely on to relieve the pervasive unease they felt. Since alcohol, sex, food and risk always do what they promise, at least temporarily, they often became the answer…the sex addict’s relationship is with sex and romance.” -Patrick Carnes

 

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When you distort reality you create a delusion.

The term “sexual addiction” refers to a fascination with or fixation on sex. A preoccupation, as in: it takes over your life. A sex addict can be a man or a woman, and though it is more commonly a man’s addiction, there are plenty of women who suffer as well. The addict will spend a large chunk of the day fantasizing and thinking about sex. He may engage in behaviors that are compulsive, such as masturbation, taking photographs of strangers, answering ads on-line, visiting prostitutes, participating in unsafe sexual acts. He may expose his partner to health risks. Patrick Carnes, the leading researcher and pioneer in this field breaks it down into categories: fantasy sex, voyeurism, exhibitionism, seductive role sex, trading sex, intrusive sex, paying for sex, anonymous sex, pain exchange sex and exploitive sex. The addict will promise himself that he will stop or that the action is justified or that nobody knows so what’s the harm? The behaviors usually escalate to the point where an addict is taking greater risks than he feels uncomfortable about yet continues to do. By the time an addict seeks help, he might be experiencing legal problems, relationship ruptures, and he probably is struggling with depression, anxiety, and multiple addictions like alcohol, gambling, and work addiction.

How is this an intimacy disorder? I spend lots of time with my family.

The addict’s mind is somewhere else even when he is physically present.

If you have a sexual addiction you find it difficult to engage with your partner, family, and friends. You have a tough time managing your work relationships and functioning at work. Your mind is not in the present, it is in a fantasy world. Pornography creates the lie that everyone is out having wild sexual adventures and you are missing out. The truth is we are all wired, from birth, to attach emotionally and physically to one individual at a time. Our brains are hard wired to attach and bond in this way. When we grow up in emotionally unsafe families, attachment styles are anxious, ambivalent or disorganized. It is not safe to trust and have intimate relationships. In fact, true intimacy is dangerous, the addict could get hurt, and so distance must be produced between himself and partners, especially if he loves them.

Clients tell me that once they have healed from sexual addiction they are capable of being truly present with their partners and with their children. Family members notice the difference. During the sex addiction, whether it’s sexting, looking at porn on a phone, flirting on-line, getting massages, visiting prostitutes, writing to women on craigslist, or using one of a myriad of apps – clients just could not be fully present in their relationships. This is why, at its heart, sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder. Being a sex addict necessitates a secret life and that life shuts out real relationships.

If you think you have a sex addiction, it doesn’t mean that you are perverted or hopeless or that your life is over or that you have to live this way. You have a disease that entails obsession and the addictive cycle illustrated above.

Most addicts have the following thoughts:

  • Nothing will help
  • I’ll just try to do my behavior less
  • My problems will go away
  • I’ll be ok if I can be better about not getting caught: more careful with the computer, phone, delete stuff, get special software – nobody will know
  • My husband is overreacting
  • My wife needs to get her own life and stop focusing on me
  • My situation is different
  • Therapy doesn’t work
  • Twelve step groups are not me
  • No one will understand me

The addict is often struck by feelings of guilt, shame and low self-esteem. However, no matter how deep that guilt and shame live, it is not enough to stop the behavior. I work with many sex addicts who truly feel horrible and yet cannot discontinue the behaviors they engage in. Many sex addicts suffer from a particular cognitive style that justifies their actions while at the same time blaming and criticizing others. Unfortunately, this thinking pattern acts as “evidence or proof” that the addict does not have a problem that needs attention and care.

How will therapy help me? What good is talking about it?

We will work together to understand the root of the problem. When did you first learn about sex? What was your first experience? You will understand terms like arousal template, erotic rage and trauma repetition. You will learn about your own brain chemistry and what you can do to heal. What can you control? What behaviors are you okay with or not okay with? What actions lead you down the road to behaviors that are destructive?

Research has shown that addicts who recover follow a specific path to sobriety. There are a set of activities that when engaged in full heartedly, lead to success. This intimacy disorder can be overcome. You can recover from this addiction. One step is to get a sponsor, a person you can rely on who has been through the process and can help you walk through it. Another step is entering therapy.

“Delusion is the deadliest part of this disease.” –Patrick Carnes