Compulsive sexuality is an ever-growing topic in contemporary culture. Tiger Woods, the successful pro-golfer has been exposed for having alleged affairs with more than 15 women. While this celebrity is in sex-addiction treatment, the public is starting to take a harder look at sexual addiction.
Sex addiction, also known as sexual compulsion and sexual dependency describes any sexual activity that feels ‘out of control’ A person who struggles with compulsive sexuality feels compelled to seek out and involve themselves in sexual behavior, despite the way it may be devastating their family, work, and social lives Sexual addiction can be one single behavior or multiple behaviors ranging from compulsive masturbation, compulsive use of pornography, affairs, exhibitionism, prostitution, anonymous sex, telephone sex, chat room/online sex, strip clubs, or illegal sexual practices.
The essential difference between the addict and the non-addict is that these behaviors feel out of control. The addict does not feel like they are choosing anymore. They feel as if the behavior is choosing them. They feel un-able to stop. The ironic thing is that sexual addiction or compulsion is rarely about sex. Usually, it is more often about control and the fear of vulnerability.
So what is this disorder really about? “As others I view sexual compulsivity as a disorder related to the inability to tolerate psychological intimacy” (Levine, 383). The sexual issues at hand are not about the physical act of sex being so compelling, as it is about the person having a relationship disorder. “It is estimated that as many as 95% sexual addicts are unable to form close attachments” (Levine, 383).
So how does one recover? The first step is the sexual addict experiencing healing from early attachment traumas in their heart. One of the most common sources of such disruption appears to be chronic emotional disconnection characterizing sexual addicts family of origin. The research reveals that 78% of the sexually compulsive come from rigidly disengaged families. This is not so much physical or sexual abuse as it is experiencing neglect at a very young age.
The goal of treatment then is not to have the individual stop all forms of sexual activity, that is the product of the goal being met. The goal then would be to “enhance individuals self-regulation and to foster their capacity for meaningful interpersonal relationships” (Levine, 386). If this happens, suddenly there is not a deep craving for compulsive sexual behavior because their craving is being met elsewhere; in meaningful interpersonal relationships.
If you or someone you love is experiencing a sexual addiction and wants out, don’t let shame rob you of the freedom you can have! Join a support group, or see a therapist who specializes in sexual compulsion. Begin to seek out life-giving relationships and heal from the inside-out.
Research taken from Handbook of Clinical Sexuality for Mental Health Professionals by Stephen B. Levine