How Can A Sex Addiction Be Unhealthy?

How Can Sex Addiction Be Unhealthy

Sex is a natural part of adult life. Some versions of Maslow’s Hierarchy even include it among the most basic needs, right alongside food and shelter. Sex, in our culture, is utilized for both procreation and recreation. It is used for marketing purposes, and is used as a measure of dating success. How can something so natural, and so common, become a problem?

While sex addiction is no longer a specific classification in the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM,) it is still a very real issue. In a fairly recent survey, it was discovered that up to 10 percent of people admit to experiencing negative consequences of their obsession with sexual thoughts and behaviors. A condition which causes distress for the individual, or for those around, is a consistent indicator for having a disorder.

 

What A Sex Addiction Consists Of

It is estimated that over 30 million people, in the United States, suffer from a sexual addiction. As with any other addiction, a sex addiction is one of obsession and compulsion. A person who is obsessed over something will think on that topic excessively. The persistent thoughts can be welcomed, or can become intrusive, similar to how a drug addict can enjoy – or beat himself up over – consistently planning how to score the next high. Obsessive thoughts of sex can interfere with work life, and can impede the development of healthy relationships.

Compulsion is the aspect of addiction which involves action. This is the stage where the thoughts of sex have become so strong, that the sexual addict feels no relief from anything other than acting on them. A person under compulsion feels powerless to resist an impulse, in spite of potentially making a predetermined decision to abstain from the behavior. Acting on the thoughts which precede the behavior produces a sense of relief. When it comes to sex, this sense of relief is what biologically drives the desire, in the first place, which makes it particularly problematic to resist.

The types of behaviors associated with sex addiction are as varied as the number of people who experience it. Human sexuality is a complex subject, and sexual attractions are prone to evolve over time. For some, the addiction is confined to an existing relationship. Others will exercise it over the internet, or through visiting strip clubs. Yet others will find themselves compelled to engage in the actual sex act with strangers. The common theme is that – whatever the addiction is – it takes up your thinking space and interferes with your progress toward peace or wellbeing.

 

Negative Consequences of Sex Addiction

Addictions wouldn’t be called such if they didn’t carry negative consequences along with them. Just as with many other forms of addiction – such as overeating; spending too many non-productive hours on a hobby; or obsessing on physical appearance – the sexual addiction arises from something that we are naturally prone toward doing. We need to eat; we need to spend time in leisure; and we need to care for our physical bodies. Most of us also feel a need to have sex. The problem arises from the amount of indulgence we allow the activity in our lives. The following are some of the major areas of distress which can arise from permitting a sexual addiction to control us.

 

Loneliness

The foremost consequence of experiencing a sex addiction is the impact on the self. Regardless of whether you are male, female, or other, the emotional aspects of intimacy are important to the psyche. Those who engage in sexual thoughts and behaviors which do not include such an important aspect as emotional vulnerability are primed for developing a sense of isolation and loneliness. The experience of emotional isolation can result in depression; anxiety; and increased thoughts of escaping the discomfort through engaging in the addiction.

 

Guilt

Along with the potential for increasing the void of loneliness as a result of sex addiction, there is also the potential to be quietly heaping guilt upon yourself. Our culture is one which – in spite of the presence of sex in television ads and movies – is still reluctant to discuss the issue of sex, openly. The topic of sex is so taboo, in the context of our private lives, that many will choose to keep the addiction a secret. Operating under guilt and secrecy is fertile ground for any addiction to grow worse.

 

Disease

For those who are prone toward indulging the sex addiction through engaging in actual sex acts, there can be an entirely different set of risks. Particularly when engaging in sex with strangers or multiple partners, sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) are a very real danger. Across the board, the rate of contraction of STD’s is increasing in the United States. As recently as 2017, it has been found that over two million cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia are in circulation, at any given time. While the overall amount of people who are engaging in sex outside of a committed relationship is decreasing, the study found that  – for those who are engaging in non-exclusive sexual behavior – the acts, themselves, are becoming more risky. And, as most of us learn in middle school health class, when we are risking infection with an STD, we are also putting our partners at risk.

 

Damaged Relationships

Partners of those who are addicted to sexual behaviors suffer, too. They can be plagued by feelings of inadequacy; insecurity; mistrust; trauma; emotional numbness; and depression. For those who entered a relationship with the intention of monogamy, finding out that he or she is living with a sex addict can be devastating. Just as there tends to be a lack of acknowledgment and support for the sex addict, there is a lack of open discussion and support resource available for partners of the sex addict. Even if you don’t find enough motivation, for your own sake, to seek help for your sexual addiction, consideration of what it is doing to the one you love may help spur you toward making a needed change.

Don’t Let The Shame of Your Addiction Impact Your Recovery

Don't Let the Shame of Your Addiction Impact Your Recovery

The initial steps which are taken on the road to recovery are the most vital. It is important that our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are carefully monitored, and that the input that we dwell on is full of hope and encouragement. Much like an infant who is learning to walk, progress is dependent upon support. Allowing ourselves to have our feet kicked out from under us through experiencing shame is not an option.

 

Shame Comes From the Outside

As humans, we have evolved to value the input, assessments, and opinions of other people. Without this ability to sense what others are thinking about and intending for us, we would not be able to survive within communities, cities, or nations. In order to thrive, there has to be a common mentality which is shared by the group. We tend to refer to this common mindset as the culture in which we live.

It is through this development of culture that the concept of shame emerges. If we do not behave in a way which contributes to the group, we are in danger of becoming ostracized and outcast. In more primitive times, this type of rejection could mean the end of our life. If pushed out of the community – beyond the safety of the city walls, and without means to food and shelter – we were left to face the wilderness, alone. Starvation, wild beasts, and dying from exposure to the elements was a very real fear in those scenarios. Shame was developed to stop us from engaging in certain behaviors which were frowned upon by the group, before this consequence of ostracization became our reality.

Though it has moved slowly, there has been quite a shift in our cultural approach toward addiction in these recent years. We are slowly catching on to the idea that people do not become addicted because they are bad. They do not become addicted because they want to be addicted. Addiction is most often a side effect of a person’s attempt to escape some type of physical, mental, or emotional pain. It is a trap which people fall into, and not one that they seek as an end.

There is less cultural shaming surrounding addiction, and a growing segment of people who understand that a person in recovery needs love, support, and positive regard. Rather than pushing people who are suffering from addiction out of the fold, we are learning to bring them in for support, comfort, and conveyance of hope. If you are feeling tempted to dwell on any shame surrounding your failures in life, up to this point, you will likely benefit from surrounding yourself with people who hold this more positive, culturally evolved, outlook.

 

You Are Not Alone

Part of the reason that there is increasingly less shame involved with addiction is because it has become a rather common occurrence.  Numbers don’t make things right, but they do make a scenario more normal. During a 2013 survey, it was discovered that over 22 million Americans were suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. It can only be imagined how much that number has increased over the past several, years.

One of the major factors which has contributed to the prevalence of addiction is the nature of prescription medications. Unbeknownst to the trusting public, pharmaceutical companies have a long history of bringing products to the market, promising that the new medications are the answer to the woes which plague a population. It is only after many years – and after many lives are sabotaged – that these manufacturers will admit that they have made a mistake. These wonder drugs often have a hidden side effect of causing people to become severely addicted, and many have fallen victim to this tragedy.

Other factors which contribute to the growing amount of people who find themselves trapped in addiction include biological and psychological tendencies. As the science of what makes us human increases in its ability to discern matters on a microscopic level, it is increasingly discovered that a portion of what we do comes from our very genes. Those of us who share the genetic makeup of ancestors who were prone to become addicted are more at risk for such, ourselves. We cannot change this risk factor any more than we can change our height or the color of our eyes.

Psychologically speaking, our environment is also found to have an effect on our tendency to abuse and misuse substances. Much like monkeys, humans learn through observation of those around them. Growing up in a household where substances are abused – and proper coping mechanisms are not practiced and taught – puts us at risk of following a similar path of addiction. We cannot practice healthy coping if we do not know what it consists of.

 

Guilt Versus Shame

Though many tend to confuse it, the concept of guilt is different from that of shame. While shame is the result of considering our past behaviors – and imposed by ideas of what the surrounding community desires from us – guilt exists to motivate us in the present. Without any sense of guilt, we would have no motivation to cease our self destructive behaviors, and to make changes for the better.

The easiest test of whether you are experiencing guilt, as opposed to shame, is to ask yourself the following question: Is what I am feeling bad about something I can change, right now? If your answer to this question is affirmative, there is a good chance that your conscience is attempting to get you moving in a better direction. If the answer to your question is no, then it is likely self-defeating shame which is at work.

Shame prompts us to feel bad about things we cannot change. Don’t let inability to change the past drag you back down into a pit of despair. Learn to be kind to yourself. Keep your focus on where you are heading, and not where you have let others down, in the past.

Understanding How Relapse Impacts Recovery

Understanding How Relapse Impacts Recovery

Though not often mentioned in the context of recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, the event of relapse is very common. It is estimated that up to ninety percent of those in recovery will experience some instance of relapse. The process of recovery tends to follow a curvature pattern, with temptations to use the substance getting stronger before they eventually fade.

The secret to successfully navigating this period is knowing that relapse is not the end of the journey. Instead, it can be viewed as a step along the path of further growth. You may, in fact, find it to be the case that your experiments with old coping mechanisms no longer bring you the ignorant bliss that they once did. This new you is equipped with knowledge and insight that the old, addicted, you did not possess. Such knowledge and insight can be tested during times of relapse, with you emerging as the victor. In order for this to be the case, it is important to understand the mechanisms behind the experience.

 

Facing Your Triggers

The concept of “triggers” has become popularized in our culture, with folks using the term to describe everything from their tendency to become annoyed to their inability to control their actions. The term arises from discoveries made in the field of behavioral psychology. It has been found that certain sights, smells, feelings, and interactions become associated – in our minds – with certain behaviors. We can become animalistic in our instincts toward stimuli. Just as a dog can start salivating at the sound of the rustling food bag, we can be tempted toward behaving in our former patterns of drug use during certain conditions.

Part of the usefulness of entering a drug rehab program is that we have the opportunity to be separated from the triggers which our minds have associated with the substance use. A treatment center provides the space to learn new ways of reacting to novel situations, through creating a virtual oasis of support and positivity. The idea behind it is that you will take these new ways of thinking and behaving back into your realm of every day life.

The true test of your resolve comes when you insert yourself back into your home environment. It is here where our existence as creatures of habit become most apparent. Interactions with friends and family can ignite old emotions and desires. The presence of work or family stress can tempt us toward familiar patterns of escapism. While giving in to these temptations is not ideal, experimenting with ideas of going back to one’s old ways of doing things is not uncommon.

Think about stories which involve heroes. How many of those heroes became such through doing things perfectly, the whole way through? Most hero stories involve a resolve to do something noble, followed by several struggles and failures. It is only due to the overcoming of these obstacles that the hero emerges victorious. Experiences of relapses are like battles with a dragon. You may come out with injuries, but the quest requires that you slay that particular dragon, pick yourself up, and continue onward.

 

Winning the Battle For Your Mind

It is often said that we are our own worst enemy. The initial journey of recovery is typically plagued by self-defeating thoughts, and at no time are those condemning voices louder than during experiences of relapse. You may be tempted to entertain thoughts that you have failed; that you are incapable of staying sober; or that all of your efforts are down the drain. These types of thoughts do nothing but seek to lead us down a path of misery, guilt, and hopelessness. It is important that you learn to recognize them as enemies to your wellbeing, and learn to turn your thoughts toward the hope which inspired you to get sober.

Overcoming negative thought patterns is not a quest for the faint of heart. Entire fields of psychology are devoted to this process, and you may find it useful to visit a skilled mental health provider for guidance in how to accomplish it. Many of our self-defeating thoughts have been with us since childhood, and these same negative thoughts often drive our journey into addiction, in the first place.

A new path of sobriety requires that a new way of viewing both ourselves, and the world around us, be implemented in our home territory. The first step is learning to be kind to ourselves, even if those around us don’t understand. Combat your negative thoughts by replacing them with positive, self-affirming, admonitions, and use them to keep moving forward.

 

Educating Family and Friends

It is a relief to be around professionals who understand relapse as being a part of the process, rather than being a sign of a failed attempt. Our friends and family, however, are often another story. Their emotional investment – and many years of worrying – can result in a gut reaction of panic when faced with the possibility that you may be giving up your resolve of recovery. As part of your own self-care and advocacy, it is important that you eventually help them to come to realize that falling off of the sobriety horse doesn’t mean you’ve given up riding.

As most of us eventually come to understand, our words don’t mean as much as our actions do. Attempts at verbally convincing those around us that we are still on course, following a relapse, may prove a difficult task. Their fear that we are going to be recaptured by addiction is likely to cause them to be highly skeptical, and they may react to your relapse as if it is the end of all hope. It is important that you rely on your own determination, resolve, and knowledge at this point, and let your continued progress toward recovery shine forth. Overcoming the expression of disappointment from loved ones is just one more way that you are growing as a person, and your eventual victory over temptations to use will be its own testimony of your strength.

Five Myths About Addiction

5 Myths About Addiction

There are many misconceptions surrounding the nature of addiction. Many of these errors in thinking are employed by those who have no first-hand knowledge of the struggle, but some are espoused by the recovering persons, themselves. These types of myths can impede the road to recovery, through spreading misinformation and discouragement. In seeking to help ourselves, or our loved ones, away from addiction, it is important that these types of misunderstandings be corrected through proper consideration. As Confucius has said, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”

 

Myth #1: Addicts are Bad People

Those who work with others in addiction know, indisputably, that the majority of folks who struggle with substance abuse are just like everyone else. People in addiction have usually arrived there after making some counterproductive decisions in life, and often as a result of seeking a way to relieve severe mental health symptoms. Still others end up in addiction after following the orders of doctors to take highly addictive, prescription, medications for severe pain. Having empathy and compassion for the addiction as a symptom of distress – and not as a character flaw – is imperative for the recovery of those whom we wish to help.

It is pointless to deny the fact that addiction and criminal activity are associated. It is equally important, however, to recognize that a person under the influence of a substance is not acting as his or her true self. In addiction, the substance becomes the ruler of a person’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. It overrides any drives toward any goal other than feeding that next high.  Don’t be too quick to ascribe to the person what can truly be blamed on the effects of the substance.

 

Myth #2: People Choose to Be Addicted

While it can be argued that there exists the presence of choice as related to initial use of a substance, there comes a point of addiction where it is no longer we who are choosing to live in such a way. The nature of addiction is that it takes over our conscious choice, and carries us down a river of destruction. For a person in addiction, the hunger for the substance is similar to our hunger for food, but with the added negative component of impairing rational thought. They may have initially contributed to the presence of that hunger, but they soon become the puppet of it.

The more highly addictive a substance, the less chances there are for us to rouse from our addiction coma, and the less opportunities for us to resist the primitive mental, emotional, and physical hunger for the drug. The experience of being trapped in the violent whirlpool of addiction makes it all the more imperative that, when we finally do see those exit routes, we take them.

 

Myth #3: Other People Can End The Addiction

Popular television shows tend to posit that addicts can be changed through outside influence. It suggests that loved ones can rationally explain the pain they experience over our actions, and can effectively guilt the addict into sobriety. Anyone who follows those types of stories to the end will be able to note that the changes – if any – are often only temporary. Intervention approaches rarely produce lasting changes, and can sometimes contribute to even more damage.

The decision to become sober ultimately has to stem from an internal motivation. For the addict who has used substances as a means of escaping negative experiences, heaping more negative emotions upon them – in the form of guilt or ultimatums – is unlikely to to produce the healing power which is required for the development of inner peace. It is the finding of inner peace which sustains recovery, and failure to find it often leads to relapse. It is highly likely that your loved one will eventually be able to feel remorse over the pain that the addiction brought to others, but his or her own pain must be dealt with, first.

 

Myth #4: Relapse Is Failure

The idea of relapse meaning that one has to return, full-fledged, to the behaviors of addiction is a form of cognitive distortion known as all-or-nothing thinking. We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to considering that one failure to live up to our goals means that continuous failure is inevitable. This type of thinking can even be what creates the scenario where we continue in our bad decisions, intent on fulfilling our own doomsday prophecy.

What do you do when you fall off the horse? You get back on. The idea behind this antiquated phrase can be applied to all manner of life difficulties, but it is especially relevant within the realm of recovery. Not only does your success in eventual sobriety depend on you not allowing yourself to consider a slip-up as anything other than a temporary state, you must also resist the fatalistic attitudes of others toward such an occurrence.

 

Myth #5: Addicts Have to Hit Rock Bottom Before They Recover

This particular myth has been propagated by former addicts, themselves. While it is sometimes the case that we refuse to change our behaviors until there are absolutely no choices in the matter remaining, it is equally possible for us to make a change based on cognitive reasoning. Considerations of the potential future, should we continue down our road of addiction, can be just as powerful in choosing recovery as actually experiencing the destruction of it.

As previously mentioned, there are points within addiction where we experience moments of clarity. It is during these moments where some will remember the pain and struggles in a way which prompt them toward taking that next hit of substance. Rather than letting that transient clarity move you back toward such a destructive form of escapism, that moment can be used as motivation to seek change. Wisdom is the ability to make decisions without having to go through the painful experience, first hand, and wisdom can lead us away from ultimately hitting that brick wall.

Overcoming Sex Addiction

Understanding and Overcoming Sex Addiction - Transcend Texas

In many ways, sexual addiction holds the same danger zones as does addiction to alcohol. Sex, like alcohol, is openly sold on the market. It is culturally acceptable that members of society partake in indulging the sexual cravings – through, for example, purchasing pornography – just as it is culturally acceptable that people drink alcohol at the bars or clubs.

And, just like with alcohol, it is incumbent upon the partaker to ensure that the invisible line between acceptable, and not acceptable, is left uncrossed.

Unlike with alcohol addiction, however, sexual addictions are still considered a taboo topic. While groups like Alcoholic’s Anonymous has been in circulation for over 80 years, there is still no nationwide support group for those who suffer from sex addiction.

A large part of the problem with speaking openly about the debilitating presence of sex addiction is that there is a culture of shame surrounding the topic.

 

Shame Is Counterproductive

Unlike guilt, which is a negative feeling born of inherent belief that we are doing something wrong, shame is a feeling which is imposed upon us by others. While guilt can push us toward making an internal genuine change in behavior, shame is only useful for dictating our outward appearances of change. A person who is surrounded by shame is likely to simply hide the behavior, which is prime fodder for the addiction to continue.

In overcoming your sex addiction, you will likely be called upon to challenge the status quo of cultural shame. It is our society which has made the availability of sexual content so rampant, and our society which has pushed hypersexuality as a norm.

It is, likewise, the responsibility of society to address the needs of those who have been unable to successfully ride that fine-line between acceptable and non-acceptable indulgence. It is bad form for society to provide us with the pieces for crafting the monster, and then to singularly fault us for putting it together.

Once recognizing and refusing the oppressive nature of the shame factor, we are able to more accurately account for our own state of being. Letting the secret of your addiction out into the light is the first step toward healing. Finding the support of those who will not judge or condemn you for your experience is possible, and vital.

 

Assess Your Experience

Another area which you are likely to find a lack of support for your problem is in the psychiatric field. The latest Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM V) has removed the diagnosis of hypersexuality, which was formerly used as a label which permitted insurance companies to cover therapeutic treatment for sex addiction.

The justification for the elimination of the specific classification appears to be in consideration that addiction to sexual activities do not exist in isolation from other problems. Don’t be surprised if you go into therapy for your sex addiction, only to be diagnosed with some other disorder.

When assessing our addictions, it is useful to determine two pieces of data. Firstly, determine what it is about the thoughts and behaviors which interfere with your ability to function in a healthy manner. Secondly, determine what it is that you seek to gain from the addictive behaviors.

In order for something to qualify as an addiction, it must do two things. Planning of the behavior must dominate our thinking, and engagement in the behavior must negatively affect our quality of life.

It is by this criteria that any number of activities can qualify as an addiction, and focus on sexual gratification is no exception. If your focus on sexually-based activities is such that it is interfering with your ability to form meaningful relationships, or keeping you from completing productive tasks, it is likely an addiction.

Once having established that the focus on sexuality is impeding your healthy functioning, the next step is to discern what you are gaining from continuing in the behavior. For many, the sexual experience can be compared to the high which is obtained from a drug. Endorphins kick in, the brain releases feel-good chemicals, and cognitive processing takes a back seat. During the time that the sexual activity is engaged in, the problems of real life are avoided.

Take some time to sit down and take stock of the ways that your sexual behavior is negatively affecting your quality of life. Then, give equal time to discerning all of the reasons that you engage in it.

There has to be something about it that has been working for you, up until this point. Motivation for changing the addictive behavior is most powerful when it comes from a position of wanting to find something that works similarly well for you, but without the negative consequences.

 

Replace the Sex Addiction Behavior

It is always easier to do something, than to not do something. If it has been determined that you are gaining some sort of pleasure from sexual activities which is lacking in your life, otherwise, the task will be to replace the source of your enjoyment with something more adaptable. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques are typically very effective, to this end.

Within CBT, there is the concept of antecedents. Antecedents is the fancy term for identification of what happens in our environment just prior to our engaging in a behavior. For someone with a sexual addiction, the antecedent to engaging in sexual activity may be a simple as coming home to an empty house. For others, it may be a response to experiencing relationship strife or social rejection.

In any case, there are thoughts and beliefs which are related to the scenario. The thought process which precedes the sexual behavior includes that doing so will solve some sort of problem.

As you are reading an article on overcoming sex addiction, there is a good chance that you have become aware that the behaviors do not, in fact, solve the problem. At best, the sexual engagement postpones the problems. At worst, it compounds them.

Working with a CBT therapist can help you to find different responses to the antecedents which prompt you toward these ineffective coping methods.

Understanding the Effects of Addiction on Your Body

The Effects of Addiction

Anyone who has been exposed to the photos provided by the “Faces of Meth” campaign is acutely aware of the outward symptoms of addiction. Skin is damaged and teeth are ruined. Eyes are bloodshot, and massive amounts of weight loss can leave a person looking like a walking skeleton. These visuals can provide a shocking glimpse of the ravaging effects of substances on the body, but the  damage is actually taking place on a more minute, less visible, level. The biological processes within the brain and body of persons who are addicted to harmful substances undergo many changes, and the outward, visible, signs are only a symptom of these deeper problems.

 

The Body is Robbed of Vital Nutrients

A major contributor to the damage which is caused to the body as a result of substance addiction is that of nutrient deficiency. Some substances induce lack of appetite, which means that the addicted person is not taking in enough vitamins and minerals, to begin with. Other substances cause the user to experience symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, which prevent food and water from having the chance to do their work.  Yet other substances prevent the body from absorbing the nutrients which are introduced. The body which is under the influence of addictive substances will simply refuse to absorb valuable components, even when healthy foods are ingested and digested. Some of the major nutrients that are missed out on during substance addiction are vitamin B; iron; sodium; potassium; calcium; and chloride.

The eight vitamins within the B class – ranging in numbers from one to 12 – play a major role in the body’s ability to metabolize nutrients. These vitamins help to transform food into usable energy, and contribute to the formation of new DNA.  A lack of vitamin B can result in experiences of fatigue; nerve damage; jaundice; difficulty breathing; rapid heart rate; and lack of mental clarity. These nutrients are not able to be stored for later use by the body, and so a steady stream of them – and proper ability to absorb their effects –  are necessary for the body to function properly.

The symptoms of an iron deficiency are quite similar to those of a B vitamin deficiency. Iron is a mineral that is necessary for forming the parts of the red bloods cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. Substances which decrease appetite, or which cause vomiting and diarrhea, are major culprits in the lack of iron absorption, and can result in a person developing the problems associated with anemia.

Nutrients such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and chloride are collectively called electrolytes. Electrolytes play many important roles in bodily function, including regulating muscle behavior and carrying signals from one nerve cell to another. Not having a proper amount of water in the body has a major effect on the balance of electrolytes, and many addictive substances are notorious for causing dehydration. An electrolyte imbalance can lead to physical symptoms such as bone disorders; disorders of the nervous system; and convulsions or seizures.

 

Thinking Patterns Are Reordered

Scientists are always at odds when it comes to the nature vs. nurture debate. While the nature side of the argument points out that certain things about us are inherent and unchangeable since birth, nurture proponents emphasize the fact that how we behave, and what we are exposed to, work to create our experience of being human.

Most of us are able to discern that, when it comes to patterns of thinking, we have added quite a bit to the thinking process which we utilized as a child. Our thought patterns are able to adapt and grow as we go through life, and hopefully with the outcome of our being able to reason more effectively. While under the constant influence of an addictive substance, however, our evolution of thinking is often stunted. The concept of Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP) explains this stunting of thought development from a biological perspective.

In simple terms, PDP can be compared to how a stream of water turns into a river. When the stream is small, it is easily diverted. We can change the course of this stream by kicking some dirt into the path, or through digging some gullies with a shovel. As the stream of water grows more powerful, it will begin to cut out its own pathways through the ground. Eventually, as the stream turns into a river, its course becomes set, and we can predict exactly how it will flow.

The patterns which we establish in our thinking behavior can be compared to this stream of water. Inside of our brains are neurons. These neurons make connections through synapses. Neuron communication links together like a chain, forming a stream of thought. Each time we think in a certain way, we are reinforcing the direction of those thoughts, just as though we were using a shovel to move the dirt and change the direction of a developing stream of water. Over time, the thoughts become set in a pattern, and changing the river-like course of their content can become difficult. The established, biological, channels of mental processing can make changing our addictive responses and behaviors quite a challenge.

 

Emotional Transmitters Become Lazy

In kind with the concept of neuronal communication affecting our thinking patterns is the physical effect on our emotions. Our brains are designed to produce a natural punishment and reward system, through releasing certain chemicals under specific circumstances. Addictive substances are designed to bind the neurons which regulate pleasure, and to artificially invoke the chemicals which result in our feeling euphoric. Over time, these regulating neurons realize that they don’t have to do their job of producing our emotional responses, because an outside influence is going to do it, for them. When the addictive substance is removed, the neurons don’t know what is going on, and the result is that the brain – and body – go into a panic mode. Retraining the transmission and reception process of neurons to work on their own can take years.

Why Seek Professional Help For The Addiction Recovery Process?

For those of us who are go-getters, and are used to doing things on our own, seeking help once we realize that we have an addiction problem may be the last thing we want to do. We may figure that we got our own selves into this problem, and we are the ones to get ourselves out of it. Aside from the drive that some of us possess to go it alone, there is also often a matter of pride. Admitting that we have a problem – and that the problem is bigger than ourselves – can be a humiliating experience.

The interesting part of the idea of humiliation is that it comes from the root word, humility. Humility is the state of being humble, and successfully overcoming our addictions often involves this as a prerequisite. After subjecting ourselves to the temporary embarrassment of admitting that we need help, we may find that we are set free from some of what has hindered us in our past.

Seeking help can be a powerful first step toward setting our lives on the right course. While pondering whether to put any lone-wolf tendencies to the side, here are some practical considerations of how seeking help with your addiction can assist you on your journey of recovery.

 

Medical Interventions Can Ease the Difficulty of Withdrawal

Some of us know of folks who have kicked their addictions cold turkey. While this may be something to admire their tenacity for, detoxing from addictive substances without medical intervention is a modern-day equivalent of yanking a bad tooth with no Novocaine. You can do it – if you have to – but it is nice to know that there are less painful options available.

When seeking the help of professionals during the initial phases of recovery, you will often receive access to medication regimens which are specifically tailored to combat your withdrawal symptoms. While these medications are still, technically, a drug, the amounts and types administered allow the body and brain to more easily wean itself from the targeted substance. Addiction withdrawal symptoms range from headaches and digestion issues to seizures and coma. Taking any extreme physical discomfort out of the equation can provide you with the space to begin the work toward changing your life, sooner.

 

Professionals Understand the Journey

Many people who are caught up in addiction have faced scenarios where those they love have, unwittingly, made the situation worse. Instead of compassion, there is anger. Instead of useful solutions, there are ultimatums. Instead of understanding, there is judgment.

Our loved ones aren’t often behaving in this way because they hate us. It is usually a result of their not being equipped with the insight and education which would allow them to react to our difficulties in a more productive way. Their own needs, perspectives, and hurts are often what guides them toward their reactions.

When working with drug treatment professionals, you can expect a refreshingly different interaction. The training and experience of substance abuse professionals allows them to take a partner view, rather than that of a combatant. They know not to take your symptoms personally. They know that recovery is a process , and that certain – sometimes unpleasant – experiences are a required step along the journey. They have been trained to know the road map of recovery, and can assist you with discovering where you are on that map. Having a map for our journey makes arriving at our intended destination much easier.

 

Addiction Preys On The Isolated

It has long been recognized that those who suffer from addictions often feel socially isolated. This type of disconnect from society is repeatedly cited as a factor in what drives a person toward seeking relief through drugs and alcohol. And, not only can feeling isolated contribute to the initial substance seeking behaviors, it can contribute to its persistence.

When it comes down to it, we are all alone in our thought world. Unless we make effort to share our thoughts, the conversations that go on inside our head are known only to us. Those private conversations are sometimes positive, such as when we have the one which leads us to consider changing our lives through ceasing our substance abuse. Other times, those private conversations can turn dark.

Recovery from substance abuse and dependence is a cycle. Many people will experience an initial determination to rid themselves of the self-destructive behaviors, and will set out on their journey toward wellness with this idea in mind. As time goes on, though, those old, less-positive, thoughts have a way of creeping back in. If we have kept our journey a secret up to this point, the temptation to battle those negative ideas alone is great.

Many lone warriors have fallen to the horde of negative thoughts which eventually gather forces and attack toward dragging us back down into our addictions. With professional support, you will be able to wage that war with an army of supporters. Having an army at your back makes your victory more secure.

 

Social Support Is Crucial For Success

Humans are social creatures. Without the connection and teamwork of others, we would not have been able to develop the concept of civilization. Our ancient ancestors understood that we need others around us if we are to survive the harshness of our environment.

While overcoming our addictions, we are in one of the harshest environments that exist. Not only are we facing the physical discomfort which weaning ourselves from the toxins can produce, we are also faced with emotional and psychological struggles. The thoughts and feelings which the substances tend to numb can arise in full-force during recovery. They emerge, and we are tasked with facing the elements fully.

A vital component of a professional sober living program is that of putting us into connection with others. We can begin to network with those who have our best interests in mind. Those positive contacts can help us to build our house of recovery, and to plant our fields of prosperity. The connections made as part of a treatment program can become our new tribe.

Understanding How Your Addiction Can Harm Those Around You

How Addiction Harms Those Around You

When we are engaging in behaviors of addiction, we often don’t see past our own, immediate, situation. We are focused on what the high is doing – or not doing – for us, and putting ourselves in the shoes of others doesn’t tend to come naturally. The fact is that our addiction doesn’t only harm our own lives and future. We are part of a bigger picture, and all who are around us can be impacted.

 

Losing Your Friends

The first people to know about our addiction is usually our friends. Our friends may even be the ones who provide us with the drugs or alcohol, in the first place. Drugs and alcohol affect different people in different ways, and you may end up reacting better – or worse – to the substances than your friends do. Either way, there are uncomfortable consequences.

If you are the friend who manages to get by with using drugs or alcohol occasionally, with few negative experiences, you may feel like your addiction is not a problem. Unless you are only using the substances when you are completely alone (which can be a bad sign, in itself,) you are probably encouraging others to use along with you. You can never know how much impact you are having on the future of those friends. One friend may do alright with the using, like you do. Another friend may have a fierce tendency toward getting hooked, and will start using the drugs or alcohol to excess. It isn’t any fun, knowing that we have played a part in the destruction of someone’s life, through being the one who provided him or her with the drugs which eventually took over his or her existence.

If you are the friend who watches your other friends do fine with using – while being out of control, yourself – there is another set of concerns. Young adults, in particular, often have their own problems to deal with. They are busy figuring out how to set up their own lives. They don’t have the time or energy to babysit a drunk friend all the time, or to talk a paranoid friend down from a bad trip every day. Eventually, these friends will get tired of giving you the amount of attention that your addiction is requiring. You are likely to find yourself more and more alone, as they separate themselves from the burden of your behaviors. Both you, and they, have lost a friend in this scenario.

Included in that list of friends may be a romantic partner. Being the girlfriend or boyfriend of someone who gets high or drunk all the time is wearing. There are only so many times that a significant other can listen to the nonsense or hateful words of a high or drunk person before considering that the relationship needs to end. A person, sober, is not the same person when addicted to substances. Asking a boyfriend or girlfriend to stick around while you play the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not fair. As with other types of friends, you are putting too much burden and responsibility on your significant other when you expect him or her to carry you through the darkness of your addiction.

 

Stressing Your Family

Other than ourselves, the people who are often most affected by our abuse of drugs and alcohol are the members of our family. For a family, watching a young person creep closer and closer toward falling over the edge of addiction can be extremely frightening. They may try to do anything they can think of to help pull you away from that dead-end. Their attempts to help can come as crying, yelling, cursing, and making demands. All of these behaviors are a result of the fear and panic that our addiction is causing for them. Our loved ones are afraid for our future.

When we are afraid, there are many physical consequences. Our hearts pump faster, and our blood pressure increases. Our blood sugar levels rise, and our muscles stay tensed up. We become vulnerable to getting sick, and our mind isn’t able to function as clearly. When this fear response stays around, every day, we call it stress or anxiety.

Family members who are worried about the future of a loved one walk around with this heightened arousal, daily. Prolonged stress and anxiety have been linked to migraine headaches; heart disease; depression; and insomnia. While we may know that our addictions are taking years off of our own life, we need to also be aware that we are taking years off of the lives of our loved ones. To put it bluntly, we may be slowly killing our family members with our addiction.

 

 

Damaging The Community

When a community has a high number of young people who are addicted to substances, the reputation of the entire area is tarnished. People who are working toward their futures don’t tend to want to move into a city where drug and alcohol abuse rates are high. There are only some types of people who want to move into towns like this. Those types of people are often other substance abusers, and drug dealers.

When a town can’t attract new, productive, citizens, it can’t financially prosper. Neighborhoods become dangerous and run-down, resulting in a decrease of property value. Existing businesses end up shutting down, and new businesses choose to open up in a different town. Job availability declines, and crime rates tend to increase, making it so that no neighborhood is safe for the community’s children to play in.

Towns which are plagued by high rates of drug and alcohol abuse tend to report more robberies; burglaries; and vehicle thefts. There are also more instances of deadly vehicle accidents and instances of homicide. While it might seem like an exaggeration to think that your own, personal, drug and alcohol abuse is at fault for this type of demise of a community, keep in mind that every individual in a community plays a role. Your role can be that of working to improve your town, or that of contributing to its bad reputation.

 

You Aren’t A Failure Because of Drugs

Addiction is a Disease and Not a Choice

It’s still a problem: drug users are heavily stigmatized, and that stigma carries over into self-stigma – an appropriated feeling that, because everyone else sees you in a bad light, you too begin to see yourself in it.

But stigma is a construct, and reality isn’t determined solely by public opinion. Your life is not forfeit due to drug use, and the state of your mind is very much salvageable in nearly all cases of addiction. In other words: being addicted to drugs neither makes you a bad person, nor does it make you a failure.

A cursory Google search will give you dozens of results detailing the success stories of countless athletes, actors, entrepreneurs, and doctors who prevailed and forged ahead through blazing careers despite their history with serious drug abuse and long-term recovery. Drug use doesn’t expel you from the chance to lead a great life, and for many people, the recovery process can act as the perfect catalyst for real personal growth.

 

Addiction is a Disease, Not a Choice

The argument has been made over and over again that addiction is not a disease, but the consensus remains the same: repetitive drug use affects the brain and changes the way it reacts to other neurotransmitters and signals. This causes changes in behavior and thinking, some of which are virtually irreversible, as well as chronic in nature.

But that doesn’t mean addiction is hardwired into any of us as a certainty, nor does it mean that anyone is exempt from ever becoming an addict. Look at it this way – we all possess a baseline risk of becoming addicted, and that risk is modified by various risk factors and protective factors, that increase or decrease our chances. A healthy lifestyle, a happy home, and feelings of contentment all massively reduce the risk of developing an addiction. Meanwhile, factors that increase stress and anxiety also increase the risk of developing an addiction. These include threats to financial stability, poverty, deteriorating health, tragic loss, mental illness, and chronic pain.

The deciding factor in each case, however, is the drug itself. Protective factors and external risk factors often determine how likely it is for a person to try a drug. It’s often our internal factors – matters of neurobiology, informed partially by genetics and partially by a person’s mental and emotional state – that determine whether experimentation at a party turns into a more frequent habit, before eventually spiraling out of control.

Once a person reaches the point of physical dependence, addiction becomes something that is largely out of their control. Some people speak about simply quitting their drug use one day and being fine. Others speak about ‘maturing’ out of drug use – about how they had a party phase in their 20s, before hitting their 30s and 40s, and simply running out of time to use drugs.

But these aren’t stories about addiction. They’re stories about drug use. Some drug users use their habit as a way to cope with a breakup or with some form of pain (describing an emotional dependence), but that doesn’t mean they have a physical dependence on the drug. A physical dependence isn’t broken by ‘maturing out’ of it but requires proper attention.

All this is to say that when you’re struggling with drug use, and you can’t stop, you are by no means a failure. It just means you need help.

 

Addiction Can Be Treated

Among the first steps to treating an addiction is realizing that the fear, guilt, and stigma that come with being an addict are all emotions that addiction feeds on. Addicts often don’t know what it’s like to cope with pain without drug use and turn to drugs as the easiest and most efficient way to deal with all negativity, further fueling it instead.

By pursuing strict sobriety and separating yourself from the temptations of using again through a rehab facility, inpatient program, or sober living home, you go through a process of allowing your brain and body to heal, recovering from the changes introduced by physical dependence. Through rehab, you can go through the withdrawal period under medical supervision and overcome the growing list of challenges and responsibilities that await you in sobriety alongside the help and guidance of addiction specialists and therapists.

The recovery process is more than just a return to the status quo. There is no cure for addiction, which means that the only way to really overcome it is to convince yourself that living sober is better than anything a drug can offer, after giving your mind enough time to remember what it’s like to lead a normal life without heavy drug use. Through this process, you won’t only rediscover yourself, but you’ll have the opportunity to grow in ways you might never have imagined.

 

Life Is Better When Sober

It’s only through sobriety that you avoid the painful hangovers, the constant mood shifts, the infrequent-but-terrifying blackouts, and the growing list of costs associated with your drug use, from the drugs themselves to the hospital fees they eventually spawn. Drug use, despite the high, brings nothing but pain into a person’s life. And while it’s tempting to write it off as a self-destructive habit, one person’s addiction directly affects at least half a dozen other people in many detrimental ways.

On the other side of the coin, living sober changes life for the better. You get to live in the moment. You’re in a healthier mind and body. The constant drug use, malnourishment, and bad sleeping habits are gone, and with them the hygiene issues, skin conditions, weight loss/gain and sickness that often accompany heavy addiction. Through sobriety, you get to have fulfilling relationships again, you get to work a job you don’t have to worry about losing every week, and you can manage your stress in healthy ways that don’t require you to withdraw from reality and start worrying about new consequences.

No one ever genuinely argued that addiction doesn’t start with a choice. But no one should argue that a person’s life is forfeit for a few innocent self-destructive mistakes. There is no moral lesson behind addiction – it’s a disease that targets everyone, regardless of their moral compass, and runs rampant through their lives. But it can be overcome, most of its damage can be reversed, and most people who make it through the recovery process come out the other end being stronger, wiser, more mature, and more capable of standing up to the many challenges life still has in store for them. Your drug use never made you a failure – and recovery gives you the opportunity to take your unfortunate past and turn it into a story of living a better life despite overwhelming odds.

 

Where Does Sex Addiction Come From?

Where Does Sex Addiction Come From

Sex addiction had several different names in the past, including nymphomania (in women), hypersexuality, and satyriasis (in men), but it’s only recently that its definition has shifted from including all deviant sexual activity as a sign of illness, to simply categorizing sexual compulsion as a problem. However, because of the nature of addiction, many healthcare providers and psychiatric associations are wary to consider sex addiction a problem in and of itself.

While sex addiction exists, it is more likely a symptom rather than a condition of itself. Where an addiction is a physical or emotional dependence on a substance or action due to the addictiveness of that substance or behavior, sex addiction either implies poor impulse control or may be a hint at a personality disorder characterized by problems with intimacy, empathy, and long-term emotional commitment.

To understand what a sex addiction is and where it comes from, we need to separate the problematic from the accepted.

 

Lewd or Deviant Behavior Is Not an Illness

Sex positivity is still a controversial topic in modern society, but we have come a long way from puritanical views on sex and reproduction. It is generally accepted that individuals have sex recreationally, and that they are free to do as they please if both parties consent. This includes a very long list of sexual preferences or “kinks”, as well as fetishes. Even non-safe, illegal sexual activities such as voyeurism or exhibitionism are not always indicative of a sex addiction, although they might go hand-in-hand.

The presence of a kink, fetish, or abnormal/deviant sexual desire (excluding harmful or dangerous paraphilias) is not a problem. But it can be one. During the 18th and 19th century, cases of “nymphomania” would have been diagnosed (in women, exclusively) on the basis of “lewd advances to men or women”, as well as masturbation and “sexual insatiability”. We have since come to understand that being sexually active, masturbating, and engaging in oral and/or anal sex is not a form or symptom of mental illness, although it took until 1980 to do so.

What does present itself as a problem is when one person’s sexual activity causes them great personal harm, to the point of being ruinous for several relationships, causing them to lose out on work, and even land themselves in jail due to unwanted sexual advances or unwanted exhibitionism/voyeurism. Sometimes it’s a matter of choice and poor decision-making – and sometimes, sex addiction reveals a real problem with impulse control, compulsive behavior, and other deep-seated psychological problems.

 

Compulsion vs. Choice

Just like the tendency to sleep, eat, or yell aggressively at a screen, sexual drive is a biological factor controlled by several substances in the body and brain. During certain mental health conditions and treatments, this drive can increase or decrease drastically. Depressive disorders are known to decrease a person’s sex drive considerably, yet on the other hand, manic episodes may be accompanied by moments of hypersexuality. These instances of “excessive” or even dangerous sexual activity can thus be explained by other biological or psychological conditions, and after the primary condition is treated, the hypersexuality ceases.

There is also some evidence to suggest that hypersexuality may be a form of coping in cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders, wherein a person uses the emotional and physical release and gratification of an orgasm or sexual encounter to soothe their anxieties, or to address specific obsessions through compulsive sexual behavior.

If a case of sex addiction is accompanied by other forms of poor impulse control, sudden urges, and emotional outbursts, an individual may be suffering with an impulse control disorder rather than any form of addiction.

This is the primary problem with viewing hypersexuality as a form of addiction – because the mechanism of what drives extreme and/or dangerous sexual activity is so poorly understood, it’s important not to conflate a sex addiction with a substance use disorder. Instead, many cases of hypersexuality may betray other disorders instead. Nevertheless, compulsive sexual behavior shouldn’t be dismissed as something that doesn’t require treatment.

So, when does sexual behavior become something a therapist or psychiatrist should be concerned about? Either when an individual’s sex drive shift suddenly, either dropping to rock bottom or increasing multifold, or when an individual’s sexual behavior is detrimental to their own health or safety, and they continue to engage in dangerous sexual behavior despite clear and suffered consequences. Either of these issues suggests a sudden change in a person’s mental and neurological state, as well as turning sex into a potential form of coping (thus relying on it despite clear consequences).

The presence of serious consequences is key. A person may engage in extramarital affairs, masturbate excessively, and/or spend several thousand dollars a month on strip clubs or pornography, but if their behavior is not negatively impacting other areas of their life (from financial ruin to several sexually-transmitted diseases, losing partner after partner, and/or job loss), there is no real evidence of a disorder.

 

Sex Addiction as An Intimacy Problem

There may be many reasons a person turns to sex to cope, but one proposed reason is a problem with intimacy and long-term emotional bonding. While sex is arguably the ultimate fix when you need a quick emotional high with another person, it also typically comes with a series of strings attached. People don’t always engage in one-night stands, and tie feelings of sexual gratification and desire together with romantic feelings. Some people, however, may struggle with that concept and instead actively sabotage their relationships and move from one conquest to another in order to avoid any feelings of intimacy, usually out of fear, in order to avoid being in a position of emotional vulnerability where another person may see them for who they think they truly are. Deep-seated self-esteem issues and feelings of guilt or shame may fuel a personality that sees sex as a way to get high but will do everything to stay away from the romances associated with it.

This, however, doesn’t sound like an addiction, but rather, seems to be a form of maladaptive coping, with potential anxiety problems or symptoms of depression feeding an image of self-hatred. While sex can be a compulsive outlet for many looking for a quick fix, it’s important to differentiate unusual sexual desires from truly harmful sexual compulsions, and addiction.