Although you don’t read about it too often in the news or media, sex addiction is probably just as common as addiction to alcohol. Often, unhealthy patterns of relationship and dysfunctional sexual behavior aren’t seen as clearly as drinking every night. However, when an individual begins to heal the alcohol or drug addiction, then perhaps a sexual addiction might also become evident.
Certainly, sex is a topic that continues to be taboo. Perhaps its forbidden nature promotes secretly becoming obsessed with porn, excessive sexual activity, and fantasy. At the same time, the fact that sex is taboo can make it challenging to talk to about. Even if someone were in drug addiction treatment, he or she might not be ready to talk about a sexual addiction. Besides, it’s probably more important to focus on and heal the addiction to drugs or alcohol first.
However, it’s also important to know that sexual fears and even traumas might be at the heart of an alcohol or drug addiction. Having experiences of sexual abuse along with challenges with one’s sexual orientation can contribute to an addiction. Furthermore, the rigid definitions of gender have also led to addiction. For instance, when women are taught to give up their needs for support and intimacy for the sake of tending to the needs of the family or when men are taught to give up expressing their feelings in exchange for being assertive and the breadwinners, these rigid roles and ignoring needs and feelings are also contributors to addiction.
Drug addiction treatment can include a clear exploration of this in order to facilitate understanding on how an addiction might have developed in one’s life. According to the Sexual Recovery Institute, 40 percent of adults who are now in recovery for sexual addiction began in their adolescence. However, some adults admit that a problem with sex actually began earlier in life. As mentioned above, child sexual abuse can lead to sexual fantasy and obsession with sex as a symptom of unresolved trauma. As a child moves into adolescence that unresolved trauma could become exacerbated and an obsession with sexuality might grow. Research indicates that individuals addicted to sex often come from families in which there was abuse.
However, early sexual trauma is not the only cause for an addiction, whether that’s to sex or drugs or alcohol. Those addicted to sex tend to experience a sense of euphoria, making sexual-related behavior more about pleasure seeking, just as taking drugs might lead to a high. Sexual addiction is not about intimacy; rather it is often about seeking pleasure and avoiding unpleasant emotions or interpersonal problems. Moreover, the pleasure experienced by engaging in sexual activity is often accompanied by guilt, shame, and remorse. These thinking and behavior patterns are frequently the case with other types of addiction as well.
Certainly, drug addiction treatment can include a discussion of the role of sexuality in developing other addictions. All types of addiction include a compulsive behavior where there is a loss of control and an individual spends large amounts of time engaging in and fantasying about whatever it is that they are addicted to – whether that’s sex, drugs, or alcohol, or something else. Frequently, the addiction leads to the neglect of social, academic, or family responsibilities.
In fact, an addiction is often developing when there is the presence of shame, secrets, and self-destruction. In drug addiction treatment, an individual might uncover an addiction to sex too. It’s not uncommon, especially because sex is at the core of life itself. If this is the case, getting treatment is important if that addiction is getting in the way of drug addiction treatment.