The issues are deep, and they can be addressed.
Could it be that almost everything we think we know about sex addiction is wrong?
Articles in the media have "documented" that sex addiction can be caused by things such as the following:
- A genetic predisposition to emotional dysregulation, impulsivity and sensation-seeking behavior.
- Higher levels of sex hormones that lead to a hyperactive libido.
- Exposure to sexual content at an early age.
- Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
While some individuals with these traits may exhibit behaviors that look like what popular culture has labeled sex addiction, there are many more people with these traits who simply don’t.
Not everyone with high levels of sex hormones will seek sex compulsively, nor will every individual who has been exposed to sexual content at an early age. If that were true, we would be in for a population explosion of "sex addicts" in the near future due to the wide spread availability of porn.
And I do not see that happening.
Sex addiction is not a clinically diagnosable according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but yes, people certainly engage in compulsive, sexualized behaviors.
So why do people develop an overwhelming desire for sexual encounters even though they know what they are doing is potentially harmful to themselves and their partner? What is truly driving this behavior?
This may begin in infancy, when a less than secure attachment is formed with the child's primary caregiver, or later on in childhood when one's needs never feel truly met or understood. Such a lack of intimate connection can have a dramatic effect on a person's psyche, even though they may have had what looks like a "good childhood" in the eyes of the world.
We naturally come from a oneness — a connection with the all — and when this is not confirmed in life by those around us in our formative years, we crave this connection and will seek it in other forms, or simply choose to numb ourselves with the myriad avenues of distraction available to us, such as food, the internet, work, shopping, phone, cleaning, drama, etc.
As a way of coping with not feeling met, many times we may choose to shut down to varying degrees and keep others out.
Unfortunately, this only deepens the sense of isolation we feel, and therefore increases our craving for the connection and intimacy we seek.
And there arises the distinction between having sex verses making love.
When we make love we are open, our heart is open, and we let our partner in. We feel connected to the love that we are, and have a desire to share this with another. When your partner is in this same space, making love is an exhilarating and confirming experience. Within it there is a sense of completion and a confirmation of the true connection you both feel outside the bedroom.
Sex on the other hand, is a mechanical act that is void of true connection. It is "I-centric" and all about what they are going to get out of the experience individually. You can be completely shut down to your partner emotionally and still have sex, but due to the lack of connection there will be no confirmation. The orgasm will feel quite empty, and you will be left feeling unfulfilled and wanting more.
Having sex can give you a pseudo sense of connection for a fleeting moment, which then vanishes into thin air. This lays the foundation for a potential sex "addiction."
Through their many liaisons, people with compulsive sexual behavior are craving intimacy and connection, but instead find a sense of exhilaration with the thrill of the chase and the ultimate act, but are then left feeling empty with a lack of connection that drove them to seek having sex in the first place. They are trapped in a vicious cycle that ultimately goes nowhere.
Nowhere that is, until they stop and allow themselves to feel what is truly going on. Seeking out a trained professional can be very supportive. This can help to provide clarity to what is going on for them and with this newfound awareness be able to begin to address their hurts and open up to life once again.
In that, the neediness will subside and true relationships can begin to be formed so they may regain not only a sense of connection with others, but also with themselves.
Kate Chorley is a psychotherapist, life coach & marriage counselor who sees her primary role as assisting her clients to raise their awareness of themselves and the world around them. From this state of being they are more empowered with knowledge and understanding of the choices they can make that will best serve them. She uses a range of therapeutic counseling techniques such as Person Centered, Solution Focused, Gestalt and Narrative Therapy. To learn more, visit her at www.katechorley.com.au.