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).
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 then 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 the 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 :
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 upon 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
Sex Addiction Therapy :
Once a person suffering from sex addiction recognizes that s/he has a problem which 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).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
When I was a young child I remember that one of my mother’s methods of making sure my behavior met her exactingly high standards was through the use of shame. In particular, if I was out with her in public and did something to upset her she would shout : ‘If you don’t do as I say immediately I will pull your trousers and pants down right now in public and spank your bare backside until it’s red raw. Red raw!’ (she had a penchant for repeating particular phrases at the end of sentences for dramatic effect), seemingly oblivious to what others in the shop (or wherever we happened to be) thought of her.
She would then grab my hand and drag me on my way (without, to my memory, her ever carrying out her threat, at least not to its fullest extent, which would, presumably, have led to her arrest, even in the 1970s). I say ‘drag’ because it was usually at a volicity with which my little legs, whirring around in a blur like a cartoon character’s, struggled desperately to keep up (I only have memories of my mother holding my hand in this controlling, even punitive way, via exertion of excessive, vice-like pressure ; never tenderly or affectionately). Anyway, suffice to say this left me mute and compliant for the rest of my maternally-imposed excursion, if not the rest of the day.
When, as children, our parents consistently rely, due to their own inadequacies, on shaming us in order to control us or simply to demean us to make them feel powerful, the long-term effects can be severe indeed, especially in the absence of effective therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy).
THE SHAME LOOP :
Scheff (1990) proposes that in response to a childhood in which we were persistently shamed to a significant degree we can become trapped in a SHAME LOOP in which :
(Stage one) shame becomes internalized and cannot be discharged which, in turn, leads to :
(Stage two) feeling shame for feeling ashamed, which results in :
(Stage three) the feelings of shame intensifying ; this builds up even greater feelings of shames being fed back into the shame loop so that :
Stage one is reactivated with still greater destructive energy and the cycle, in the absence of effective therapeutic intervention, is reinvigorated.
RELUCTANCE TO SEEK TREATMENT :
And, as you might guess, because individuals feel shame for feeling ashamed, they find it very hard indeed to confide in others about what they perceive as their ‘dark secret’, thus failing to seek professional help and compounding their problems.
CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, SHAME AND SELF-HATRED :
Sadly, intense feelings of shame and self-hatred are very common in adult survivors of chronic and significant childhood trauma which is why I have included a whole category of articles devoted to the topic within this site which you can access immediately by clicking here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).