It can be extremely difficult to admit to others that our sexual behavior is out of control, or is controlling us. While many people accept that alcoholism is a disease, they have more trouble seeing that the use of sexual activity to “self-medicate” can be beyond a person’s ability to control. We may blame the sexual addict for poor moral character or poor values, or just being “selfish” or “a cheat.”
In fact, sexual addiction is like any other addiction. It starts with the person having a genetic predisposition to becoming addicted to something (alcohol, other drugs, gambling, sex, etc.). Then the person has experiences early on in life that make it difficult to tolerate “negative” emotions (shame, fear, anxiety, loneliness, depression, anger, etc.). At some point the person discovers sexual activity, and voila! They learn that sex can take away all of those negative feelings! So they begin using sex as a means to feel better.
Over time, their use of this coping mechanism grows, and the risks they are willing to take for sex also increases. They begin to justify to themselves that “it’s just porn” or “I didn’t go all the way so it’s not cheating” or “I’m just sowing my wild oats”. They start to lie to themselves and others about what is going on and then the lying creates shame which fuels the need to do something to feel better. It becomes a vicious cycle.
If this sounds like a struggle that you are having then counseling can help. Learning why one has trouble with negative feelings can lead the way to learning how to better cope with them. Sharing the shame and secrecy of an addiction can go a long way in helping to change those patterns of behavior. Like any other addiction, if left untreated, sexual addiction will often cost a person many or all of the important things in their life: relationships, self-esteem, health, career, etc.