Addiction: An introduction to Sexual Addiction

Sexual Addiction

The term ‘Sexual Addiction’ is used to described out-of-control sexual behaviour in areas such as pornography, prostitution, affairs, etc. Terms such as ‘Sexually Compulsive Behaviour’ are also used to describe the same problem. This video is delievered by Eoin Stephens, MA, MIACP, MIAAAC, Director of Training, Centre for Sexual Addictions. Eoin discusses the broad area of sexual addiction, within the context of identifying sexual addiction as an issue, and recovery from a sexual addiction.

My name is Eoin Stephens and I’d like to talk to you about the topic of sexual addiction. It’s possible to become addicted to any behaviour which is intensely mood altering. Gambling is a classic example. Obviously certain drugs are intensely mood altering aswell, but a classic example of a behaviour that’s intensely mood altering for many people would be gambling in various forms, they get a high, they get a buzz for that behaviour and that buzz can be potentially addictive.

Now sex is a mood altering activity, not all the time, but it can be one of the most mood altering activities in human experiences. Like other intensely mood altering experiences this can be sometimes chased after and become addictive for some people. In particular there are certain forms of sexual activity that are deliberately artificially enhanced, what I mean is activities like pornography, prostitution, telephone sex and certain activities which take place online, often coming under the term cybersex nowadays, that includes online pornography but it also includes other forms of sexual excitement and indeed contact with other people online. Particularly in chat rooms, but also using things like video-cams nowadays.

Its very accessibility, affordability and at least partial anonymity are very very attractive for a lot of people; this is often called the 3A’s of online sex addiction. This doesn’t mean that everybody uses pornography or indeed everyone who visits prostitutes or everybody who has an affair or everyone who uses telephone sex in addicted anymore than it means that everyone who gambles is addicted, what we mean is that this behaviour is causing damage in the persons life and has become out of their control to some extent. So usually what happens is that negative consequences begin to follow this persons behaviour so they may for instance contract sexually transmitted diseases through the use of prostitutes, they may well get in trouble at work because their beginning to access pornography during work time. Most of all relationships may be damaged, marriages may be damaged, people become increasingly withdrawn but also obviously a direct discovery may be made by a partner, that the person is spending a lot of time looking at pornography or perhaps even interacting with other people in a sexual way online. The problem with addictions is that when negative consequences happen we promise ourselves, we’ll stop, and its this internal struggle that defines an addiction not simply the fact the somebody else in your life is unhappy with your behaviour. It’s not easy to stop despite the fact that it’s cause negative consequences in your life. Its not necessarily even easy to even to really fully want to stop and so what happens is that people promise people in their life’s, as they also promise themselves that they will stop and they may even mean it at the time and they may even keep it up for a while, but when you’re addicted, its simply not that easy to stay stopped. And so people will find excuses to drift back and try it again and find themselves then caught up in it again and then needing to be secret about it again and then maybe being caught again. And this is the story that we tend to meet when we meet addictions and when we try to help people.

So if you or someone you know is struggling with these types of issues then it is worth finding out more, it is worth indeed going online, there’s lots of useful information on this very topic available lots of places nowadays; fortunately, so it is possible for people to educate themselves about this and discover, ‘yes this is what’s going on for me’, or ‘at least I’m pretty sure, maybe I need to talk to somebody’. If you do, the sort of help that you’ll get is initially just trying to be clear, that this is the problem and that you can identify with this. Its important with all addictions to be able to own the addiction and identify with it and say ‘yes I have this problem’, ‘I only partially want to stop’, that’s indeed part of the problem, ‘but I can own the problem’ and ‘yes I am addicted to pornography, my behaviour around pornography is compulsive’, ‘I try not to do it, but I end up doing it’, ‘I fight with myself around it, I want to do it, but I also want to stop’, ‘I feel bad about it afterwards, I promise myself that I won’t do it again but then I do it’ and if that’s clear, then we look at, need to look at how that can stop and its not easy with any addiction. The determination to stop won’t do it on its own and certainly wont do it long term.

Sex addicts may need to stop and change other aspects of their lifestyle. If their prostitution habit typically is tied up with drinking for instance, that they generally go after the pub. Then they may need to stop drinking for the moment, not because their an alcoholic necessarily, or because they have a drink problem as such, but because they are making it difficult for themselves to make the right choice. Very common example nowadays is use of the computer and the experience of being online, quiet difficult change for people to make but if the pattern and ritual that somebody has in their sexual addiction is that they go online and access pornography habitually after the rest of the family have gone to bed, then the one thing that won’t work for them is sitting up late, as they always do, after the family have gone to bed with the computer switched on and telling themselves ‘but I won’t look at pornography’. That simply doesn’t work in the long term, people need to change that ritual, they need to change their lifestyle to some extend, they need to find a way which supports them in their decision. Sexual addiction is a little bit more like food addiction in the sense that sex is part of life, and long term recovery isn’t about having no sex in your life. It’s about having some sort of healthy relationship with sex and with sexual enjoyment.

All addictions are difficult for families and for relationships and indeed its very very difficult for a partner to live with an alcoholic partner, to live with alcoholism, to discover, for instance that somebody is addicted to compulsive gambling, is a very difficult discovery and a horrible thing.

We found and been told by some people in this situation that there are some extra difficulties to discovering that your partner is sexually addicted, things like higher level of shame, higher level of shock, perhaps a greater level of hurt, a greater level of betrayal.

Nobody wants to have these problems in their life’s anymore that they want to have other addictions in their life’s but they arrive in our life’s. What I can most recommend, if you find that this is going on and you think maybe sexual addiction, the very first thing to do, whether its yourself or whether it’s a partner or whether its someone else in your life; is educate yourself around it. Try and find out what you can. And then there will be steps that can be taken. Problems like this are helpable. Many people recover from these problems.

Thank you