By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC
References “The Storm of Sex Addiction” by Connie A. Lofgreen
Sex addiction is not like other addictions. It has a different cause and requires different treatment. It helps alcoholics to stay on the straight and narrow if they avoid places with alcohol. It’s not so easy for sex addicts. Attractive people are everywhere. Resolving sexual addiction requires a different approach than that of substance addiction. If you think you or someone close to you may struggle with sexual compulsion, read through the bullets below. Each section details how sexual addiction deviates from common understanding about sexual behavior and addiction.
Sex Addiction is Usually Caused by Unhealthy Lessons about Relationships
Most addictions involve a physiological flaw. Something about the way your brain is wired renders you incapable of doing a particular thing in moderation. You cannot resist “one more.” One more drink. One more throw of the dice. One more purchase. Sexual addiction is different. Rather than being born a certain way, your childhood lessons about relationships mold you into a sex addict.
Almost all sex addicts were emotionally, physically, or sexually abused as children. They internalized the message that all relationships must be sexual. “Sex and relationship addictions are considered severe intimacy disorders because one’s ‘significant other’ is a mood-altering behavior rather than a real person. An addict lacks the skills to develop a close intimate relationship with a person, usually because these skills were not learned in early life.” (8)
Sex Addiction is Misunderstood/Celebrated by Society
Some of the biggest obstacles to combating sex addiction are prevailing misconceptions about what sexuality should look like. Most people do not like to talk about their sexual behavior with others, so we resort to books, movies, and TV to give us an idea of what “normal” sex is. These cultural stereotypes can enable sex addicts to explain away their behavior as a high sex drive or adventurous sexual preferences.
Society uses sexuality as a measure of masculinity. This cultural expectation for men to constantly crave sex provides a strong excuse for some addicts to spend most of their annual salary on prostitutes and other sexually perverse activities.
Sex Addiction Involves an Innate Biological Drive
All addictions operate more or less identically. They stimulate the brain to release dopamine. The point of dopamine is to encourage people to repeat behaviors that support survival of themselves or their genes. This is why sex and eating rich food is pleasurable, so we’ll do it again.
However, where sexual addiction differs from other behavioral or substance addictions is that we have an instinctual craving for intimacy. We come out of the womb longing for companionship. People who have never tried cocaine do not feel as if something is missing in their lives. People without friends feel profoundly lonely. (16)
Sex Addiction cannot be Cured by Abstinence
This is why sex addicts cannot rely on abstinence. You can replace hobbies, friends, and locations that triggered you to drink or gamble, but you cannot get away from human sexuality. It’s everywhere. You cannot detox from your sexual desires. Substance addiction requires you to accept that you cannot use the substance in a healthy way. So you avoid it. But people who wish to recover from sexual addiction have no choice but to learn a healthy approach to the source of their addiction.
Christian Counseling for Sexual Addiction
Think of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The NKJV Bible includes the subhead, “A Samaritan woman meets her messiah.” What a poignant description. This woman was overwhelmed by thirst, but quenching it meant enduring the shame of being seen at the communal well. What a perfect parallel for sex addicts. Sexual stimulation provides only temporary relief for their craving. They must keep returning to a place of humiliation. But, as the Samaritan woman found, there is hope. As he did with the woman at the well, Jesus can provide relief from compulsion and shame.
Because of widespread misunderstanding about “normal” sexual behavior, you might not realize you have an addiction– much like how young adult alcoholism is often regarded as sowing wild oats. They can help you understand your behavior. A professional Christian counselor is not there to condemn your weakness. They will use therapeutic techniques and Biblical principles to leave your addiction for a healthier life.
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