In yesterday’s blog, we explored the subject of sexual addiction and ways to identify this behavior in ourselves or our loved ones so that we might seek out help. In today’s blog, we will examine some of the possible causes of sex addiction, specifically the deeper emotional and spiritual wounds what are ultimately seeking healing.
Causes of Sexual Addiction
As is the case with other addictions, there are no cut and dried formulas in their cause. There are, however, some reported similarities between sex addicts which warrant examination:
- Sex addicts often come from dysfunctional families
- Many report a past history of having been physically, verbally or emotionally abused
- 82% of sex addicts reported having been sexually abused as children
- 80% reported substance abuse as present within their family of origin
- Many report parents as distant, uncaring and rigid
- It is theorized that abnormalities in brain chemistry may predispose a person to addictive behaviors, including sex addiction
(Source: Herkov, M. (extracted 2013). What causes sexual addiction? www.psychcentral.com.)
As discussed in yesterday’s blog, sex addiction is recognized in compulsive, uncontrollable behaviors most often driven by anxiety. Addiction language speaks of this anxiety as the “emotional trigger.” Learning effective methods for dealing with this anxiety or confronting the specific emotional trigger goes a long way in supporting recovery and healing in sex addicts and allows the addict to create new and healthier ways of responding to these triggers. It has been my experience, however, that in many (if not most) cases, the addictive behavior ultimately has nothing to do with the behavior itself (ie: fantasizing, masturbation, use of pornography, etc.), and simple behavior modification, while necessary, is not enough to facilitate long-term recovery, and more importantly, does not help the addict learn how to cultivate and enjoy healthy, loving, intimacy. For as long as they are indulging their addiction, sex addicts are incapable of experiencing or participating in true intimacy.
Sex Addiction and Need
Instead, sex addiction has much more to do with deeper, unhealed spiritual and emotional wounds that are seeking to be made known so that they may be healed. Sex addiction, contrary to the belief of many addicts (and their partners), is not about love or intimacy. Sex addiction isn’t even really about sex. Sex addiction is about seeking the remedy to a deep, inner, often unnamed pain. As mentioned above, many sex addicts report having been emotionally, mentally, verbally, physically and even sexually abused as children. For sex addicts, sexual behaviors (including fantasizing) allowed them to disassociate from the on-going trauma and provided temporary relief from the pain. In order to facilitate enduring recovery, the addict needs to acknowledge this pain and identify the needs that were left unmet in their childhood. Some of these needs might include:
- The need to feel safe and that their needs for food, clothing, and shelter were being met
- The need to feel of value and as if they had something significant to contribute
- The need to feel supported in being and living as their most authentic self
- The need to feel unconditionally loved
- The need to feel free to express their needs and their truth
- The need to know their truth and their path
- The need to feel as if they were not alone
As the addict works on healing these deeper unmet needs and unacknowledged childhood wounds, learns strategies for getting these needs met and tending to themselves in adulthood, while developing healthy interventions for managing anxiety, the addictive behaviors become less and less necessary. Addressing these deeper wounds then provides the foundation upon which the addict can begin to cultivate what they have been missing all along – healthy, loving intimacy.
If you believe that you or your partner is suffering from sex addiction, please seek help and support through counseling, psychotherapy or 12-step recovery groups tailored to the needs of sex addicts.
To learn more about sex addiction, check out Out of the Shadowsby Patrick J. Carnes, PhD.