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Are You Ready to Get Real About Sex Addiction?

We’ve become much more compassionate as a culture when it comes to alcohol, drug and food addiction. Television commercials for treatment facilities, subway ads asking if you have a problem with cocaine and competition shows like The Biggest Loser have begun to dismantle the stigma of those who suffer from addiction.

Despite all that progress, there’s still one addiction that still remains very much in the closet – sex addiction.

Breaking the Silence

getting over sex addictionSex addiction is kind of like the naughty step-child of the addiction family. When alcohol or drugs are the problem, total abstinence is required for recovery. Once clean, we can get better because we don’t need drugs or alcohol to survive.

When dealing with an eating disorder, things get a bit more difficult. We need food to live and so, when food is the problem, the only solution is to get healthy by eating right, exercising and dealing with whatever emotional pain is causing you to use food as a way to deal with your feelings.

But when sex is the addiction, it’s often looked at as a “moral failing” and, unfortunately, shame often becomes the answer. In truth, it’s no different than alcohol, drugs, food or gambling.

The Facts

According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, PhD, top addiction specialist and author of the book A Gentile Path Through the Twelve Steps, it’s vital to understand the following facts about sex addiction:

  • All addictions, even if they do not involve alcohol or other drugs, impact the same centers of the brain.
  • Addiction changes the brain, laying down neural networks that chemically encourage us to repeat harmful, compulsive behaviors.
  • Addictions are interactive. One addiction can trigger, replace or heighten another through a measurable biochemical process in the brain.
  • Whether it’s slugging back a liter of vodka, snorting an eight ball of cocaine up your nose, binging on chips and ice cream or having sex with multiple partners a day, these are just the symptoms. The effects on our brains, the consequences and underlying causes are the commonalities we should focus on.

The Reality of Perception

Let’s be honest; there is much less controversy over food than there is over sex. You’ve never seen a breaking news food scandal in Washington, D.C. have you? There’s a modern sex stigma that complicates things for those battling sexual compulsions. And that stigma pushes many back into hiding.

…everyone is trying to muster up extra sex appeal and binge on the deadliest drug out there – validation.Sex sells in our culture; it’s everywhere! Sex launches careers instead of crumbling them, sending mixed messages to us all. In our modern voyeuristic, self-obsessed, social media world, everyone is trying to muster up extra sex appeal and binge on the deadliest drug out there – validation.

Let’s Break it Down

Like any other addiction, if sex, the pursuit of sex or obsessive thoughts about sex are making any part of your life unmanageable, it’s time to evaluate your behaviors.

how to break sex addictionAdmitting you’re a sex addict doesn’t mean you have to give up sex forever. In truth, it’s all about finding a healthy sexual balance. After all, sex is a natural part of being human.

Sexual compulsion is not really about sex. Like food addiction isn’t about the cookies. It’s all about the intolerable feelings, the childhood trauma, the damaging messages we received growing up, ways we may have been shamed as children and various other factors. There are several psychological models out there that may help you to better understand a sexual addiction.

Step Out of the Shame

  • Addiction is Addiction: You need to see your sex addiction like any other addiction. You deserve the same compassion and treatment as an alcoholic or food addict. You are powerless over compulsive sex, thoughts and behavior. It’s no different!
  • Putting in the Work: In order to overcome a sex addiction, you have to work at it. Many people start by buying a book on sex addiction. The next step might be finding a support group, twelve-step fellowships or therapist specializing in sex addiction.
  • Shut It Down: If websites are keeping you up all night or taking over during the day, it might be a good idea to have someone you trust block those sites on your computer. There are plenty of site blocking programs out there – many of which are free.
  • You’re Not Alone: Sex addiction is based in isolation. But everyone, addict or not, has sex issues. We’d hardly be human if we didn’t. Don’t let shame keep you isolated and afraid. Reach out and ask questions. We all deserve to be sexually healthy.

Additional Reading: The Rocky History of Sex Addiction in the Public Eye

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