Sex Addiction And Childhood Trauma :
We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma are at higher than average risk of developing an addiction to sex in adulthood (for example, see my post entitled: ‘Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Hypersexuality‘).
Blotting Out Emotional Pain :
One reason why those who have suffered childhood trauma may become addicted to sex is that the act of sex helps them to ‘blot out’, or make themselves feel ‘numb to’, or ‘dissociate‘ from unbearable emotional pain connected to their early life experiences (for example, those who have suffered severe childhood trauma may go on to develop borderline personality disorder and a major symptom of this condition is a propensity to develop addictions – including sex addiction).
Sex Addiction As A Result Of Childhood Trauma And Attachment Disorder:
One theory of addiction is that it is linked to attachment disorder and that those who suffer from insecure attachment are unconsciously driven to use others (in a similar way to how a person might use opioids, for example) to ameliorate mental pain and emotionally regulate themselves. The theory purports that due to failure to bond in a healthy way in early life with their primary carer sex addicts are unable to derive emotional comfort from partners so relate to them, instead, through sex. Furthermore, the sexual partners they choose tend to be similarly emotionally damaged. According to Flores (2003), in order to overcome their addiction, it is necessary for the sex addict to resolve his/her damaged attachment style. Flores (2003) also argued that the sex addict’s brain development is damaged during their early life due to their dysfunctional relationship with their primary carer and that this organic, neurological damage leads to ‘reward deficiency syndrome’ which, in turn, leads to sex addiction (and/or other addictions).
Katehakis, too, in her seminal book Sex Addiction As Affect Dysregulation, A Neurobiological Informed Holistic Treatment, states that early life relational trauma (that may involve abuse, neglect, or humiliation) and resultant insecure or disorganized attachment styles fundamentally underpins sex addiction (and that such addiction can be exacerbated by the predominating culture, e.g. easy access to pornography on the internet, dating sites, etc). Such trauma, she suggests, can lead to neuropsychobiological immaturity and dysfunctional brain systems, namely the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and higher cortical systems leading to out-of-control, perpetual, and ultimately unfulfilling novelty-, thrill- and sensation seeking and the dopamine high it creates in the brain. Indeed, he states that it is the ‘thrill of the chase’ that most so-called sex addicts derive the most pleasure from and that the sexual act itself is usually a disappointment. Katehakis further expresses the view that sex addiction is unconsciously motivated by a desperate attempt to resolve early traumatic experiences but is doomed to repeated failure.
Related Addictions And Psychological Conditions :
Indeed, because most people who suffer from sex addiction are generally unwilling to discuss their problem with others, the fact that they are suffering from it only becomes apparent when they develop a trusting relationship with a therapist who they initially went to see for help with other addictions such as alcoholism or drug abuse. Alternatively, they may have initially gone to see their therapist in order to seek treatment for depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem (all of which are also more common in those with a history of childhood trauma).
Currently, sexual addiction is regarded as being similar in nature to addiction to chemical substances because the act of sex seems to have a similar ‘numbing’ effect (see above) on feelings of mental anguish (however, it should be noted that, as a discrete condition, ‘sex addiction is not yet (at the time of writing) included in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders.
How Does Sex Addiction Manifest Itself?
Sexual addiction can manifest itself in a number of ways, including :
- Internet Pornography
- Compulsive use of prostitutes
High Sex Drive :
In fact, sexual addiction is NOT the same as simply having a high sex drive (indeed, a high sex drive can be a sign of good psychological health) but involves a compulsive quality that brings about negative results (for the sufferer, those s/he comes into contact with or both).
Negative Consequences :
Sexual addiction can seriously, adversely impact the individual’s quality of life. For example, it may :
- cause financial problems
- result in the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases
- lead to legal problems
- impair relationships
Sex Addiction Therapy :
Once a person suffering from sex addiction recognizes that s/he has a problem that is significantly spoiling his/her quality of life, seeking help from a therapist can be very helpful. Confiding in a trusted, accepting, empathetic therapist can help to reduce feelings of shame related to the addiction and the therapist can provide advice about how to avoid triggers and how to develop healthier and more functional coping mechanisms to deal with negative feelings.
Therapies used to treat sex addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy (the latter may be more appropriate when the problem is clearly related to childhood issues).
EBOOK / PRINTED BOOK:
Sex Addiction As Affect Dysregulation, A Neurobiological Informed Holistic Treatment
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).