Why Is Sex Addiction So Difficult to Stop?
Andrew sat across from me in my office and echoed a refrain I have heard many times. With both resignation and confusion, he asked me why, despite strong effort, he had not been able to stop acting out his sex addiction. His method of acting out was with pornography and he had made many attempts to stop that did not last. Thoughtfully he asked, “what is the cause of sex addiction anyway”?
Too often, many look at addiction through an incomplete lens. In times past it was approached as a behavioral issue and addressed with an emphasis on behavioral remedies. Those are important but only part of the solution. For sex addiction recovery to be successful, it must have components that include spiritual, biological, emotional and trauma influences.
I will not go into detail about all of these in this post but let me start with where I start in my office. Often as I begin work with a client, I get a detailed history of their trauma story. In my experience, trauma is one of the biggest forces that drive sex addiction along. There are multiple reasons for this. The first is that the negative experiences we have as we grow have much more power than we realize. Think of a time you have accidentally cut yourself. While that wound is healing, it is very sensitive and most of us have to be very careful to not cause further pain. Emotional injuries are no different. As we incur those injuries through hurtful experiences, a wound develops that seeks an alleviation of pain. Addictions (and many other forms of coping) are very good at temporarily numbing the pain of those early wounds.
Did you know that sex addiction actually causes changes in the neurochemical makeup of the brain? Multiple studies have shown that, among other changes, there are alterations to the prefrontal cortex (part of brain responsible for executive functioning). Brain Studies on Porn Users & Sex Addicts – Your Brain on Porn
The role of emotions in our lives are important because they prompt us to act and give us information about how we are experiencing the events of our day. They can also be distressing to us. The ability to tolerate our difficult emotions is one of the cornerstones of recovery. This requires awareness of the emotions we experience and then the training to allow those emotions to be there without escaping them. Many times, as sex addiction grows, it serves as a means to medicate emotionally difficult experiences.
I end with a look at the way faith affects sex addiction. The recovery process requires an understanding of the world that is bigger than me as an individual. This is where faith comes in. God is the one that has the power to help us deal with the suffering that we encounter along the road of life. Our willingness to allow him to help is the key to recovery. As the 12-step tradition says, “He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
-Mike Vaughn – https://surehopecounseling.com/sexual-addiction-counselor-specialization/