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Sex Addiction 101

01-Apr-10

By: Anna Brix Thomsen

What is Sex Addiction?

‘Why are you drinking?' the little prince asked.
'In order to forget,' replied the drunkard.
'To forget what?' enquired the little prince, who was already feeling sorry for him.
'To forget that I am ashamed,' the drunkard confessed, hanging his head.
'Ashamed of what?' asked the little prince who wanted to help him.
'Ashamed of drinking!' concluded the drunkard, withdrawing into total silence.’

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery – ‘The Little Prince’

The Definitions of Sex Addiction

The term "addiction" has become a popular metaphor to describe any form of self-destructive behavior that one is unable to stop despite known and predictable adverse consequences. For some people, sexual behavior fits that description.

Sexual addiction refers to the phenomenon in which individuals report being unable to manage their sexual behavior. There are no clinical definition or diagnosis for the term 'sexual addiction' although it has been defined commonly as either: 

a "sexual addiction" and offer definitions based on substance addictions;
a "sexual compulsivity" and offer definitions based on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); etc.

Skeptics believe that it is a myth that the phenomenon exists as a disease or disorder at all and is instead a by-product of cultural and other influences.
Commonly sexual addiction is defined as: a condition in which some form of sexual behavior is employed in a pattern that is characterized at least by two key features:
recurrent failure to control the behavior
continuation of the behavior despite harmful consequences

Sexual addiction is not defined by sexual desire. Sexual addiction is defined not by the type of sexual act performed or even by the frequency of sexual activity. Instead, it is defined by an addict's compulsive use of sex to address non-sexual emotional needs. It is frequently indicated by the willingness of an addict to suffer enormous consequences for engaging in sex. As such sexual addiction has very little to do with sex, and a lot to do with why we have sex to begin with.
Sex may be used to feel powerful or desirable
It is thought that sex is used by the addict as an escape, a means of avoiding stress, emotional strain, boredom, anxiety, and the pursuant shame and isolation that results from their compulsive behavior.

The Origin and Cycles of Addiction

How Sex becomes a Drug -
One might ask how sex can be an addiction when it is doing what comes naturally and does not involve abuse of a psychoactive substance like drugs or alcohol.
The scientific argument for addiction is based, in part, on recent advances in neurochemistry that suggest we carry within us our own source of addictive chemicals.
When pleasure centers in the human brain are stimulated, chemicals called endorphins are released into the blood stream. Endorphins are believed to be associated with the mood changes that follow sexual release.
Any chemical that causes mood changes can be addictive, with repeated exposure altering brain chemistry to the point that more of the chemical is "required" in order to feel "normal."

The Cycle Begins -
It has been argued by that when children are growing up, they develop “core beliefs” through the way that their family functions and treats them. A child brought up in a family that takes proper care of them has good chances of growing up well, having faith in other people, and having self worth.
On the other hand, a child who grows up in a family that neglects them will develop unhealthy and negative core beliefs. They grow up to believe that people in the world do not care about them.
Later in life, the person has trouble keeping stable relationships and feels isolated. Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile human beings
The Sex Addict cope with these feelings of isolation and weakness by engaging in excessive sex
"Core Beliefs" -
• "I am a bad, unworthy person."
• "No one would love me as I am."
• "Sex is my most important need."
• "My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others."

These beliefs are the triggers that can drive the addiction on its progressive and destructive course

The Cycle of Sex Addiction -
• Pain agent — First a pain agent is triggered / emotional discomfort (e.g. shame, anger, unresolved conflict). A sex addict is not able to take care of the pain agent in a healthy way.
• Dissociation — Prior to acting out sexually, the sex addict goes through a period of mental preoccupation or obsession. Sex addict begins to dissociate (moves away from his or her feelings). A separation begins to take place between his or her mind and his or her emotional self.
• Altered state of consciousness / a trance state / bubble of euphoric fantasized experience — The Sex addict is emotionally disconnected and is pre-occupied with acting out behaviours. The reality becomes blocked out/distorted.
• Preoccupation or "sexual pressure" — This involves obsessing about being sexual or romantic. Fantasy is an obsession that serves in some way to avoid life. The addict's thoughts focus on reaching a mood-altering high without actually acting-out sexually. They think about sex to produce a trance-like state of arousal to eliminate the pain of reality. Thinking about sex and planning out how to reach orgasm can continue for minutes or hours before they move to the next stage of the cycle.
• Ritualization or "acting out." — These obsessions are intensified by ritualization or acting out. A sex addict first cruises, then goes to a strip show to heighten arousal until they are beyond the point of saying no. Ritualization helps distance reality from sexual obsession. Rituals induce trance and further separate the addict from reality. Once the addict begins the ritual, the chances of stopping that cycle diminish greatly.
• Sexual compulsivity — The next phase of the cycle is sexual compulsivity or "sex act". The tensions the addict feels are reduced by acting on their sexual feelings. They feel better for the moment, thanks to the release that occurs. Compulsivity simply means that addicts regularly get to the point where sex becomes inevitable, no matter what the circumstances or the consequences. The compulsive act, which normally ends in orgasm, is perhaps the starkest reminder of the degradation involved in the addiction as the person realizes they are a slave to the addiction.
• Despair — Almost immediately reality sets in, and the addict begins to feel ashamed. This point of the cycle is a painful place where the Addict has been many, many times. The last time the Addict was at this low point, they probably promised to never do it again. Yet once again, they act out and that leads to despair. They may feel they have betrayed spiritual beliefs, possibly a partner, and his or her own sense of integrity. At a superficial level, the addict hopes that this is the last battle.
for many addicts, this dark emotion brings on depression and feelings of hopelessness. One easy way to cure feelings of despair is to start obsessing all over again.
The cycle then perpetuates itself.

The Symptoms of Sex Addiction

The sex addict uses sex as a quick fix, or as a form of medication for anxiety, pain, loneliness, stress, or sleep. Sex addicts often refer to sex as their "pain reliever" or "tension reliever." In a popular novel, the heroine describes sex as "the thinking women's Valium."
Sexual addiction is often accompanied by other addictions, such as an addiction to work or chemicals. The addict displays increasingly secretive behavior, deception, and withdrawal from those closest to him.
• Recurrent failure (pattern) to resist impulses to engage in extreme acts of lewd sex.
• Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended.
• Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control those behaviors.
• Inordinate amount of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experience.
• Preoccupation with the behavior or preparatory activities.
• Frequently engaging in violent sexual behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic, or social obligations.
• Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, academic, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior.
• Need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk of behaviors to achieve the desired effect, or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number, or risk.
• Giving up or limiting social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior.
• Resorting to distress, anxiety, restlessness, or violence if unable to engage in the behavior at times relating to SRD (Sexual Rage Disorder).

• tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
• a need for markedly increased amount or intensity of the behavior to achieve the desired effect
• markedly diminished effect with continued involvement in the behavior at the same level or intensity
• withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
• characteristic psycho physiological withdrawal syndrome of physiologically described changes and/or psychologically described changes upon discontinuation of the behavior
• the same (or a closely related) behavior is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
• there is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the behavior
• the behavior continues despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the behavior
• repeatedly and compulsively attempting to escape emotional or physical discomfort by using ritualized, sexualized behaviors such as masturbation, pornography, including obsessive thoughts.
Some individuals try to connect with others through highly impersonal intimate behaviors: empty affairs, frequent visits to prostitutes, voyeurism, exhibitionism, frotteurism, cybersex, Zoophilia, and the like.

TEST YOURSELF – ARE YOU A SEX ADDICT?

a. Do you keep secrets about your sexual or romantic activities from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
b. Have your needs driven you to have sex in places or situations or with people you would not normally choose?
c. Do you find yourself looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media?
d. Do you find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are preventing you from facing problems?
e. Do you frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
f. Do you feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid touching your body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual feelings, that you are asexual?
g. Does each new relationship continue to have the same destructive patterns which prompted you to leave the last relationship?
h. Is it taking more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief?
i. Have you ever been arrested or are you in danger of being arrested because of your practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent phone calls, etc.?
j. Does your pursuit of sex or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs or development?
k. Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?
l. Has your sexual or romantic behavior ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?
Since There are no Clinical Diagnosis of Sex Addiction -it is in most cases up to the individual for him or herself To determine whether or not they are Addicted to Sex

(added by Bernard Poolman:)

some more

1 do you belief that you can lead some one to enlightenment/self realization through sex --or that you having sex with some one will help you self realize

2 Do you look at woman in shops or in malls an imagine what panties they wear or imagine how they will be in bed --thus fantasies about sex dominate your world in the secrecy of your mind

3 Do you fantasize about your friends wife or girlfriend or mother

4 do you masturbate to the fantasies of some one you have seen or met or know without them knowing about it

5 do secretive fantasies cause you to subtly flirt and test how far a person is willing to go to find out if they share the same fantasies to allow you an outlet

6 do you visit clubs or parties exclusively to see of you can pick up a fantasy and make it real

7 do you send sexually suggestive messages to people on facebook or twitter or in chatrooms that entail and forms the basis of fishing to find out if they are sexually promiscuos

8 do you know what language are used by sexually promiscuous people and are you willing to act on such messages

(added by Anna Brix Thomsen:)

21. Do you experience an automatic electrical arousal or erection towards specific images or thoughts that are not necessarily related to sex or fantasies?

22. Do you experience emptiness, regret or self-hate after or during sex or masturbation?

23. Do you have beliefs/ideas/fears about not being able to function normally without having frequent sex/masturbation?

24. Do you experience an increase in other addictions/compulsions if you are not engaging in sexual activity?

Sources:

http://www.medicinenet.com/sexual_addiction/article.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_addiction
http://www.estronaut.com/a/sex_addiction_what_is.htm
http://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/ ... enu-id-54/