I know a woman whose husband has a sex addiction. Being all too familiar with addiction as it is, I was moved to ask some questions. Since addiction is my specialty I wanted to further interview her and understand the reality behind it, from both of their perspectives. I know that was a big buzz word in the 80’s suddenly everyone who seemingly couldn’t control their impulses cried out they have this addiction. It became a national phenomenon to be a sex addict and that was an instant “get out of jail free” card. Evangelists on television, politicians, actresses and actor’s began to appear on Good Morning America and even the Tonight Show bearing their souls to the world that the reason they got caught having an affair was because they were a sex addict. We were wooed into forgiving them…..really? How convenient, I thought, as I began to question my self and the nature of my own sexuality as compared to my other addictions. I thought, how can someone be addicted to sex; was it the act, the thrill of the chase, the fear of being caught, what was so addictive? Sure I love sex and with the right person it can be off the hook but an addict? What exactly makes one a sex addict?
Over all, addiction occurs when a void is not being fulfilled. There is something that the DOC (drug of choice) fills for the person that they don’t normally get elsewhere. It causes euphoria, stimuli, excitement, a rush, some kind of feeling that is unique to that individual. Most of us have something we really like a lot and wish we could do it all the time but have the means to control ourselves. But people with addictive behaviors and tendencies have a different chemical make up, and often outside influences occur such as opportunity, surroundings, and their own self esteem. Scientifically it begins in the Limbic System of the brain. The Limbic System contains the brain’s reward circuit – it links together a number of brain structures that control and regulate our ability to feel pleasure. Feeling pleasure motivates us to repeat behaviors such as eating – actions that are critical to our existence. The limbic system is activated when we perform these activities – and also by drugs of abuse. In addition, the limbic system is responsible for our perception of other emotions, both positive and negative, which explains the mood-altering properties of many drugs. It is a genetic predisposition to a certain feeling that triggers brain cells to respond favorably to that stimuli (1).
There are 2 kinds of addiction: physical and psychological. For instance for people using opiates and heroin it quickly becomes a physical addiction because the pain receptors in the brain become filled with the opiate and it feels so good. Then the brain begins it craves it and that causes severe physical responses such as withdrawals until the body receives the drug. Opiate addiction progresses at a startling rate regardless of whether or not the person wants the drug. Alcohol and other drugs such as benzodiazepine (benzos or xanax) can cause the same type of symptoms. Drugs like marijuana are more psychological; it causes psychological cravings and causes it’s user to think they need it. There really isn’t a physical dependency to it per say.
So then, what causes a person to be addicted to sex? My friend has been married for quite a while and they are in a 12 Step Program for it. She attends the “support” part of it like Alanon or Naranon,and she said the place was packed. Many there had partners that “fell off the wagon” during the holiday season. The pressure of the holidays, expectations, and money causes the sex addict to act just like an other ordinary addict to act. They go to their DOC to fill that void of what ever it is missing for them! Just like I used to do. I happen to volunteer time on a world wide website coaching individuals with any kind of addiction you can think of. They hooked me up with another website with a few members who had this particular issue. Right at the start they were very forthright! Most said it was the rush, the orgasm, that feeling of release, or relief. Sex triggered something in them that causes them to repeat that sensation over and over again, sometimes up to a dozen times a day with multiple partners. I was impressed; 12 times a day?
There was as many men as women; some as young as 18 others in their 60’s. I’d say about 20 percent didn’t have a sexual preference, it was just about the act and nothing more. Some of the women I spoke with were molested as children or sexually assaulted early in life. Some of the men said they didn’t receive any attention as children, they were abused or neglected and sex made them feel special, attractive, and wanted. That was another running undercurrent; the need to feel wanted and loved.
They know I am writing this article and every single one said that it is the most misunderstood of all the addictions and brings the most shame. They are racked with guilt, embarrassment, ridicule, very low self esteem and self worth. Most are single and multiple times divorced. They often have other addictions and disorders to coincide such as bulimia, anorexia, and cutting themselves. They have been casted out of their homes, family has abandoned them. One woman I spoke to said it is very hard to make friends and many doctors don’t buy it, she felt suicidal many times. I admit I was skeptical too but not anymore.
Having and developing normal healthy attitudes about sex are good, and when under the right circumstances it can be an amazing experience. But for some, it turns into a nightmare. If you or anyone you know has these symptoms (this is the general list) there is help available: Sex Addicts Anonymous https://saa-recovery.org/ is a 12 Step Program.
Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction:
- Sex dominates a person’s life
- Being pre-occupied with sexual thoughts and fantasy
- Excessive self-satisfaction
- Multiple partners, buying prostitutes, exchanging favors for sex
- Random, unprotected sex
- Anonymous partners
- Lack of intimacy
- The need to leave right after sex
- Can be narcissistic
- Multiple cell phones, computer user accounts, and bank accounts
- Phone sex, dating websites, cyber sex
- Not all, but some sex addicts can progress to becoming violent, demanding, and turn to criminal activities such as sexual harassment at work, rape, exposing themselves.
There were literally thousands on this site from all over the world: all nationalities, religions, and income levels. Just like with every other addiction no one is more special than the next. In my times of using/drinking I would have to say guilt and shame were my biggest obstacles, I would wake up in the morning just reeling with guilt for being so drunk the night before. I was so ashamed of myself for being a mom and me kids seeing me like that sometimes. For years I suffered with that. I would be so worried about what I said, what I did, was I in inappropriate? I had incredibly dangerous actions, drunk driving being the least, if you can imagine. We really aren’t any different then our fellow addict; be it booze, gambling, or sex. It’s a compulsion we can’t control and need help to get it under control.
There is so much in this world that we don’t know, thank God to those who open up and be honest so we do know!
Thank you, you know who you are!!