Sexual Addiction - Fact or Fiction?

Heather Haywood wrote an interesting article on sexual addiction.  The text is below, and here's a link to the post: http://heatherhaywoodmfti.wordpress.com/.  Enjoy!


Sexual Addiction–Fact or Fiction?

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The subject of sexual addiction provokes a range of responses, from curiosity to dismissal to contempt. But a common question emerges: what is it—is it even real? What’s the difference between really liking sex and being a sex addict? Where’s the line between healthy sexual behavior and addiction?

These are valuable and important questions; ones we can ask of other addictive behaviors as well. What distinguishes the “social drinker” from the alcoholic? Or the recreational drug user from the addict? How much sex is too much?

The red flags of sexual addiction are not about quantity, but rather quality. That quality is the loss of control. A sex addict is preoccupied with sexual behavior or fantasy and is unable to control these thoughts. This preoccupation leads a person to act out, which takes many forms, including compulsive masturbation, porn use, voyeurism, affairs, prostitution, etc. The sex addict is unable to stop even when his or her behavior produces significant negative consequences (loss of time, financial trouble, arrests, damaged relationships). And underneath it all, the primary struggle of the sex addict is deep shame.

Some have asked me about the origins and affects of sexual addiction. Is it related to something that happened in childhood? When did it start? How does it impact their lives? There is no such thing as an easy answer—addiction is not “one size fits all.” However, sex addiction is fundamentally an intimacy disorder. Those who struggle have great difficulty feeling connected to others (and themselves), asking for and receiving help, and believing that they are lovable as they are. These deep pains lead a person to get their needs for connection met in unhealthy ways, sometimes to the point of addiction.

Addiction is inherently isolating. The more shame one feels, the more one hides; the more one hides, the more alone one feels. Sexual addiction impacts every area of a person’s life. They’re preoccupied with their sexual fantasies, so they can’t focus on their work (and maybe they even watch porn at the office). They squander their paycheck on massage parlors and strip clubs. They lie to their family and friends about why they can’t make that birthday party. They tempt the law by cruising for prostitutes and jeopardize their health with casual, anonymous hook-ups. And when it’s all said and done, they are left again with sadness, despair, and shame. Sex addiction is not enjoyable; it’s debilitating. Acting out isn’t about pleasure; it’s about escaping painful emotions and suspending reality. Those who struggle with sexual addiction need neither giggles nor judgment, but compassion.

My goal in this blog is to provide a forum where I can answer your questions, respond to your thoughts, and provide information on the subject of sexual addiction. Sexual addiction thrives in the dark–let’s bring in the light.



Anna Fels wrote a piece on betrayal in the NY Times a few weeks ago.  I've been too busy to write about it, but since I had a few minutes today I wanted to share it here.  Here's a link to her article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/opinion/sunday/great-betrayals.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

What I found really enlightening about the piece was that she was writing about the impact of betrayal upon relationships.  In working with sex addicts, their partners, and families, betrayal is a word that always surfaces.  It's incredibly damaging to find out about one's partner's hidden sexual behaviors.  The impact can be traumatizing on the partner and on the relationship.  I had to pause and reflect after reading Fels's piece on betrayal.  She writes about betrayal in general: financial, sexual, and other types.  She states that it is the secrecy, lies, and manipulation that carry the most damage to a partner and to a relationship.  This echoes very strongly what I hear from partners all the time: As painful and traumatic as the sexual behaviors are, there is another layer of damage simply in the betrayal through secrecy and deceit.

As professionals and those in recovery, we need to be mindful of this betrayal.  The impact of this betrayal is SIGNIFICANT upon a relationship.  For sex addicts, maintaining sexual sobriety is vitally important.  Yet we must also recognize and address the deeper relational wounds that arise out of holding secrets.  Mending back together the shattered shards of reality takes time, patience, and sensitivity.  We need to honor this process, as it is unique for each partner and relationship. 

I think that as addicts are better able to understand this additional component they will more easily move towards empathy and partners will be more readily validated in their healing journey.  I hear variations on what Fels describes in her piece, but I am curious if this lines up with your experience.  Let me know how you experience the impact of betrayal.


How does online porn affect us?

Is there really any other kind of pornography these days?  Of course print and video-based pornography still exists, but we really have to look no further than our smart phones to access it any time and anywhere. 

Many questions remain: What impact does online porn have on our brains?  On our relationships?  On our views of women, men, and sex?  What do we do if we want to stop engaging in these behaviors?  How do we recover from something that's everywhere with us these days?

People have differences of opinions out there on these and other questions.  I found this article interesting, as it explored the negative impact of pornography upon children: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432591/Porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html.  Daubney, once an editor for a magazine with explicit content, has since changed his views on what impact pornography is having on young people.

I've written about this site before, but I've always found yourbrainonporn.com to be a really helpful site.  Gary explains the neuroscience behind pornography use, and he provides a ton of resources.  There are other great sites, including http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/ and http://fortifyprogram.org/.  Fortify is for young people under the age of 21. 

So what about recovery?  I do think recovery is possible if someone is wanting to stop their compulsive masturbation and/or addictive online porn use.  There are 12-step resources I've written about here that provide support.  And just as the internet can be a place where people get trapped in porn, as you might imagine there are also internet-based support resources.  One site is Your Brain Rebalanced and another site is NoFapProject Know also writes some helpful information about masturbation and online pornography using information from NoFap.

If you have other resources, I'd love to hear about them.  I'm passionate about helping people find healing in their lives, particularly if that healing involves recovering from compulsive sexual behaviors.  I hope this helps give a little more information about online porn and its impact on our brains and relationships.



A call to men

This TED talk from Tony Porter is a few years old, but I think the message remains valuable for us all.  It's time we take a good hard look at what it means to be men and how we relate to women.  Let me know what you think - do you agree with his stance on masculinity?



Introducing Heather Haywood

I am happy to announce that Heather Haywood will be joining my practice.  Heather is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern.  After spending years gaining experiencing working with individuals, couples, and adolescents, she is now working to specialize in the treatment of sex addiction and other sexually related issues. She's passionate about this work, and about bringing healing to those who have experienced sexual brokenness. 

To find out more about Heather, please visit her website, or you can also find out more here.  Welcome on board, Heather!