Essay on Sexual Addiction part 2
Thus, sexual addiction in men is manifested in an unusually high demand for conventional sexual intercourse. Sometimes sexual addiction turns into the urge for unusual forms of sex, and may interfere with physical and moral safety of others (Giugliano, 2003; Schaeffer, 2009). For example, it leads to violence, incest, homosexual relationships, compulsive masturbation, etc. In general, male addicts fear most to appear in ridiculous situation, look helpless and weak, and usually use sex to assert themselves.
In turn, sexual addiction in women is most commonly expressed in promiscuity or sex with strangers. Addicted women most often need sex to get away from the real relationship. They get hooked on sex, escaping from loneliness, as well as to convince themselves that their women charms are still strong. Entering a new sexual relationship, sexually dependent women temporarily raise their self-esteem, substitute the sense of spiritual emptiness with the sense of power and euphoria of sexual conquests, but in most cases they are left deprived of communication and tenderness (Giugliano, 2003; Schaeffer, 2009).
At the same time, addiction always covers a burning desire to avoid the feeling of one’s own worthlessness. Observations also show that addicts are in fact driven by a thirst for intimacy and warmth, but they do not know how to achieve this.
Thus, in-depth interviews conducted by Giugliano (2003, p. 278-84) showed that the most common representations of male sexual addicts of themselves are: 1) I am inherently a bad worthless person; 2) no one will love me as much as I do; 3) my needs will never be satisfied if I have to rely on others; 4) sexual satisfaction is my most important need. Female sexual addicts have similar beliefs: 1) I am powerless; 2) I will always be alone or will feel lonely; 3) I will always be abandoned; 4) my body is shameless (vicious), disgusting. These core beliefs, in turn, lead to behavioral norms that define the actions of sexual addicts. For example, the belief that “No one will love me as much as I do,” leads to the misconception that equates sex to love: “Someone can love me, if one feels sexual excitement to me” or “If someone has sex with me it proves that I can be loved.” In turn, the core belief of a woman that she will always be abandoned generates the setting: “I will not be abandoned, if I learn to seduce.” In an effort to assert themselves or escape from grief and loneliness, they again enter into a sexual relationship to feel confident and achieve short-term enjoyment of life replacing the concept of love with the concept of sex.
Typically, sexual addicts go through the following phases of sexual addiction (basing on reports by Young, 2008; Schaeffer, 2009; Coleman-Kennedy & Pendley, 2002):
- Preoccupation with thoughts on sexual subjects bearing obsessive nature. Constant return to these thoughts leads to the situation when they occupy an increasing amount of time becoming a favorite topic of reflection. An addict gets some pleasure at this time, the mind begins to set differently, fantasizing about sex is becoming increasingly important. The perception of many things changes. Surrounding people start to be viewed through the prism of preoccupation of thinking and imagination with sexual topics. They are seen primarily as sexual objects. Other activities are considered as necessary but unpleasant, the ones that do not bring joy. This period may vary over time, it may not be accompanied by specific actions, but the emergence of certain preferences and thoughts on how to implement them and fixing them in the mind.
- Stage of behavior ritualization with the development of schemes that lead to sexual behavior (including thoughts and fantasies), in which one event follows another in sequence. Addiction involves sexual implementation and becomes a daily ritual for the implement of which a special time is reserved. Entry into the cycle of ritual behavior does not tolerate distractions from others. Ritualization of preoccupation with sex is more important than the specific implementation since it is associated with a changed psychological state of consciousness causing psychological relaxation. This process consumes a lot of time and energy. Gradual “inclusion” of activities related to the preparation to enter this state is possible. All this is often not seen by others as sexual addict seeks to preserve the image of normality in relation to the outside world, showing it the false self, trying to look like a man who does not have an addiction.
- Stage of compulsive sexual behavior with the phenomenon of loss of control inherent to other addictions. Having entered this phase, an addict cannot control one’s actions, leaving a “trail” behind, risking to reveal oneself, or inflict psychological or physical damage to oneself. The one is powerless in preventing the behavior. It is difficult to stop. Control over the various types of sexual activity is lost. After the implementation of compulsive behavior, the understanding of the need to stop emerges bringing the unrealizable promises. This behavior is accompanied by a further intensification of the inferiority complex.
- Stage of disaster or despair, coming after the troubles caused by certain events, such as punishment or disease. The person feels absolute powerlessness, despair, and hatred to one’s own personality. During this period, negative feelings toward oneself are growing, provoking exacerbation of self-destructive instinct and the emergence of suicidal thoughts.
In the end, the consequences of sexual addiction may be organism fraying, venereal and infectious diseases, depression arising due to the constant need to find a new sexual partner, which turns sexual addiction in a socially dangerous disease that requires prevention and treatment, despite the fact that the sick person usually resists treatment not considering oneself pathologically dependent on sexual addiction.
Coping with sexual addiction: therapy options
Indeed, as Parker and Guest (2003) state, absolute majority of sexually addicted people are confident in their full normality. Therefore, the first and most important step to timely treatment is to convince the person in the presence of psychological problems. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, only a strong shock like the loss of job, family, or serious health problems may cause the patient to understand how sick he or she was (Coleman-Kennedy & Pendley, 2002, p.144). Further, patients who faced the reality of their dependency often try to resolve the conflict immediately, “by force”. In such cases, their actions usually lead to an opposite reaction, and all efforts seem to be in vain. In order to understand how to get rid of sexual addiction, one must admit, above all, that positive progress cannot be reached through one’s individual effort only. As Young (2008) claims, this is the first and most difficult step on the road to recovery. Here, sex-addicts may start from finding Internet communities of people with similar dependence and life experiences. Such communication will help solve some of the problems and find a way out of a state of dependence. However, when a person reaches the solution to make a qualitative change in one’s own life, professional advice and psychological support are absolutely irreplaceable.
It should be said here that addictive sexual behavior bears continuous and irresistible character, as soon as it becomes the only condition that decreases anxiety and fear (Maté, 2012; Schaeffer, 2009). Addictions are generally difficult to be corrected, but psychoanalytic treatment proves to at least drastically reduce the quantitative aspect. Therefore, one of the main tasks of psychotherapy is to teach a patient to change negative beliefs, generating negative neural excitation and let one know that it is possible to cope with anxiety and stress in some other ways, not only through sex, using different internal forces of the body (Parker & Guest 2003; Young 2008). First of all, a dependent person must learn to socialize properly, because the ability to communicate inside real social environment helps to get rid of loneliness, successfully create new relationships or restore old ones. Therapy should also typically focused on the identification and treatment of comorbid psychiatric and personality disorders and related dependencies, such as alcohol and drug addictions.
To achieve these goals, different programs and psychotherapeutic techniques are currently applied, including hypno-suggestive psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, cognitive techniques and dialectical behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and positive psychology, along with art and/or music therapy, intensive psycho-educational programs, general life style instruction and spiritual counseling (Parker & Guest, 2003; Young, 2008; Giugliano, 2003). According to Young (2008, p. 32), the best results in the treatment of sex addiction are demonstrated by group therapy courses, especially if such groups involve people close to the patient. In particular, psychotherapists do not consider sexual addiction a sufficient ground for divorce and call friends and relatives to support the desire of the patient to undergo treatment. Participating in the family programs, family members get more information about the disease as such and their role in the process of treatment. Eventually, family members sometimes decide to begin the treatment themselves in order to solve their own dysfunctional behavior patterns and get rid of the pain (Parker & Guest 2003; Young, 2008).
In severe cases, psychiatrists sometimes prescribe medicines for the treatment of sexual addiction through controlling behavior, and those mainly include antidepressants, sedatives, and hormones of serotonin and progesterone (Parker & Guest, 2003, p.19). It should be noted, however, that the impact of medicines is known to be very limited (Young, 2008, p. 33). To achieve considerable results, medication should be combined with psychological treatment as well as a set of measures to restore correct biorhythms. Thus, in addition to psychiatric examinations and tests on dependences, an important step of treatment is to conduct biochemical testing, the evaluation of lifestyle and nutrition, as well as the full medical examination. Based on the results of laboratory tests, a nutritionist can create a special nutrition program, complemented by the use of food additives. In addition to optimizing physical health, detoxication programs and optimal diet are also directed at restoring the biochemistry of patient’s brain and normalization of neurotransmitters that reduce cravings for compulsive sexual behavior (Young, 2008, p. 34-35, Maté, 2012, p. 61). Treatment may also include amino acid therapy and herbal medicine.
Overall, it is quite easy to put an end to compulsive sexual behavior in the clinical setting. Meanwhile, after the discharge from treatment centers, a significant portion in patients often re-experience anxiety, depression, insomnia and/or craving for previously observed behavior patterns, and part of them experience absolute failure to adapt changes and return to “self-treatment” of stress (Parker & Guest, 2003, p.15). Therefore, the next crucial step in coping with progressing lust should be the total displacement of obsessive feelings of patient’s life. This involves getting rid of all things related to sexual obsession: video with sexual content, computer games of erotic nature, erotic newspapers and magazines, setting filters that block sex web addresses and spam mail, as well as all other items that are related to sex or remind of it (Young, 2008, p.35). This advice not only helps to control sexual addiction, but also relieves from the fear that these things will be detected by an outsider. Generally, as Parker and Guest (2003, p. 18) reasonably marks, coping with sexual addiction, patients face a vital necessity to rethink their habits, as soon as the latter may either lead to the dependence or be a part of it.
On the way to finding internal control, sexually addicted individuals could also be advised to introduce training programs in the gym and outdoors into their daily regime, devote themselves to meditation and yoga lessons, and indulge in other techniques promoting relaxation, such as massage, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and reflexology. Moreover, at the stage of rehabilitation, addicts may still be accompanied by a mentor or therapist, maintaining their patients in building new relationships with family, colleagues, friends and society, and adapt their lifestyle to the recovery program principles. Post-treatment support may last from several days to several years. At the same time, it is important to understand that unlike the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, gambling and other heavy dependency, in this case, doctors do not require the patient completely “sing off” sexual life, and that’s a major point encouraging for healing success.
Sexual addiction should be understood as a compulsive sexual behavior that is subconsciously used to achieve psychological comfort and pleasure, and is characterized by the loss of control over sexual impulses and continuous increase in their frequency, the emergence of the negative consequences of uncontrolled behavior and disregard of them, as well as withdrawal syndrome after prolonged abstinence. The presence of these signs should serve as an impetus for a person to find a solution to get rid of excessive sexual addiction.
Just as in cases of other addictions, sexual addiction is always a way to escape from reality, from one own self and one’s own feelings. Individuals with this type of addiction show to experience numerous emotional difficulties: tendency to low mood, impulsivity, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt and shame, inner emptiness, a habit to hide their problems from the loved ones, inability to experience pleasure from other sources, and combination with other addictions. Despite the external search for physiological pleasure, addicts are in fact driven by a thirst for intimacy and internal warmth, but they do not know how to achieve this. Such people wants to be loved, but simply cannot create the model of relations, which would provide the normal and strong relationships with the opposite sex. The reasons for the development of pathology are often found in infantile trauma, causing the disorder of sexual structure of personality: for example, childhood rape, unsuccessful first sexual experience, parents’ sexual misconduct, wrong set of priorities they established, hyperstimulating sexualized relationship with father, demonstrative exception of a child from parental love relationships, as well as general lack of love, care, and attention from parents.
Meanwhile, sexual addiction should be viewed as a psychological and social problem that requires correction. Otherwise, the growing number of people becomes not only doomed to constant loneliness, but also experiences the sense of insecurity, shame, remorse, and depression. In addition, the risk to human health carried by a frequent change of sexual partners also needs to be considered.
Being the disorder of the body, mind and spirit, sexual addiction should be treated through a multi-dimensional approach, involving psychological therapy, detoxication and relaxation programs, nutrition and lifestyle adjustment. Thus, therapeutic techniques may include hypno-suggestive psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, cognitive techniques and dialectical behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and positive psychology, art and music therapy, intensive psycho-educational programs, general life style instruction and spiritual counseling, healthy dieting, physical training, massage, meditation and yoga courses. The main task of therapy lies in eliminating the root causes that led to the emergence of addiction, as well as teaching addicts to re-adapt to the social environment.
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