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.