What is Sex Addiction?

F7DA989D-28EE-4013-B4BB-3DA8A5EAFDF9When we think of sex addiction, we tend to picture the sexually starved man or woman roaring their way through a plethora of steamy encounters with an ending bliss and satisfaction.  Another perception depicts the after hours stranger lurking in the shadows, taking multiple glimpses of women through voyeurism and exposing the genitals to unknown passersby.  Although these depictions may be considered behavioral traits of sex addiction somewhere along the spectrum, they serve more as general stereotypes that produce more harm than good.  Many sex addicts do not know they are sex addicts because although they have experienced consequences they feel as though they do not fulfill the above or similar descriptions and tend to rationalize their behavior with justifications of sex as a healthy expression, not causing anyone else harm, or satisfying a natural urge where a man obliges to his inclinations and a woman pursues her independence and freedom in a chauvinistic society.  I tend to shy away from such debates as I believe everyone must come to the conclusion of their sexuality through an honest and self-searching appraisal.  Also, such arguments are irrelevant when discussing sex addiction because as you will see, sex addiction is an interpersonal illness.  Whatever the outward behavior is, it stems from an impairment in the area of connecting with others.  Before asking any questions on the topic it is vital to understand what sex addiction is in the first place.

Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder in which the natural sexual instinct is misused obsessively and compulsively to improperly cope with internal and external occurrences that lead to negative consequences.  For example, engaging in sexual acts to relieve or block out feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness, fear, and uncertainty falls into this category. External circumstances in conjunction with these elicited feelings may be used as a way to escape the reality.  Gaining a promotion, getting a demotion, an argument with the significant other, stressors of daily living and responsibility may lead to acting out behaviors.  Addictive behaviors may also be used to numb or suppress painful unresolved memories such as abuse and first hand accounts of trauma.  We all understand that no man is an island and connections are needed for ongoing wellness and healing. When a connection (healthy relationship) is missing, the addict will always attempt to connect with something unnatural–the human mind is resilient in this way.  When ways of coping encompass compulsive masturbation that robs time spent with family or a useful project, when pornography takes the place of intimate conversations and sense of relating, when soliciting sex workers leads to legal, health, marital, financial, and/or spiritual impairment, we must look a little closer at what these behaviors entail and why they are used in replacement of sustaining more fulfilling connections.

 

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