Sex on the Brain By: Sylvester Glover For: Psy 201.013 Prof Jurgens The case files of sexual addiction tell some rather disturbing stories. A woman?s husband went to the office to do some catching up. The woman searched for husband after he hadn?t returned for an unusually long time, and she found him dead from autoerotic axphyxiation. A dentist was thoroughly furious because his wife wasn?t giving him any, so he would secretly drug her so that he could have sex with her. One man has sex with a complete stranger in a public restroom while his wife and kids sat waiting in their car for him. A woman so obsessed with arousal and climax wound up in the emergency room after using a vibrator so intensely that she burned herself. These are all cases from the research of Dr. Patrick Carnes, the psychologist whose book gave the general public the first thorough understanding of sex addiction in 1983.
Dr. Carnes wrote Out of the Shadows in 1973; however, the world wasn?t ready to accept the idea that too much sex was a problem. It was in 1978 that clinicians began recognizing this addiction as a disease.
Addiction to sex begins with a sexual experience that temporarily relieves anxiety, loneliness, and distracts one from problems that plague the mind. I?ve heard people say that sex is a way to cope with stress many times, but when we repeatedly seek sexual acts to relieve anxiety, loneliness, and stress is when we get into the cycle of sex addiction. Usually there?s a predisposition to addiction; a history of emotional pain and sexual confusion; a life filled with violations of trust which creates an inability to be intimate. People discover that they can get high from sex, and keep in mind this is no ordinary high. Sex is twice as intoxicating as most other ?drugs? because of the rush of adrenaline along with the excitement of involving your job, relationships, and even your life. Also, if you?re having sex with a new partner, you?re having ?fantasy sex?--which is anything you want it to be. ?Fantasy sex? is never committed, meaningful, or intimate.
Sex addicts believe that they have conquered someone, or they have the illusion that someone wants them. They realize what they have done after it has sunk in, and they hate themselves so much that the only thing they can do is go back out and do it again. Sex to an addict is just like crack. It gives you and intense high that goes way up and quickly brings you way down. Conventional lovemaking becomes inadequate to a sex addict and doesn?t do enough to stimulate one. Some peoples? addiction is so bad that they would knowingly have sex with a person who is HIV positive, which should give you an idea of how crazy sex addiction can make a person.
?Anonymous sexual encounters in public areas with other men...You want to stop, but then you rationalize, Just one more time. And every time, its insanity: you do the same old thing and think, ?this time, the result will be different.?...you don?t really feel depression or sadness or joy. All those feelings become sexualized, until all you feel is a kind of numb anxiety.? These are the words of a recovering sex addict who is a professional who holds a graduate degree, but was never able to fully understand sex addiction. His addiction started when he was young, got worse in college, continued in his 20s and lasted until he was arrested for anonymous sex in a park and his employer found out. ?Sex addiction is a kind of a steamroller to hell. The double life, the inconsistencies, it all takes great energy...Nobody can juggle it in the long run; they burn out...People can do it for years though.? The hallmark of addiction is that sex becomes the organizing principle of daily life, with every spare moment devoted to fantasizing, planning the next experience, ritualizing it, enacting it, agonizing over the guilt and shame it leaves behind. From there, the addiction can manifest itself in an infinite variety of forms, settings, moods and degrees.
How can a disease so elemental involving such an essential part of life be treated? Most people eventually get caught up in some way and have to pay consequences, which may bring them to the realization that they have a problem. Most people don?t realize they can get help for this condition. When one is in recovery there are withdrawal symptoms that are just like withdrawal symptoms from recovering from drug abuse. Some of those symptoms are dizziness, body aches, headaches, sleeplessness, and extreme restlessness. Recovering from sex addiction is less severe initially, but more prolonged and painful than recovering from drug addiction. The good news about treatment is that the success rate is 90% plus which means sex addiction is indeed treatable.
Some therapists use a three-part approach in treating sex addiction: medication if necessary, individual therapy and 12-step work. Individual therapy is necessary because many people can sit in a crowded group for years, do no work, and gain absolutely nothing from it. On the other hand, some patients need to attend a group to tell their secrets to some one whom will accept them. Sometimes it helps tremendously just to know that you are not alone. Some therapists focus on relationships, on developing a capacity for intimacy. Some simply work on controlling the behavior and thought patterns, and some go deeper, trying to reach the ?affect regulation? that?s formed in the first few years of life and is now seen as the basis of all addiction.
No, you don?t have to practice abstinence. Do people with eating disorders stop eating? I don?t think so, and if they do--it becomes a whole new problem. If you?ve been having sex, continue to. Just don?t have sex for a release; it should be for love or anger.
What marks an addiction isn?t the activity itself; it?s how you feel about it and how it dominates and damages your life. Addicts might obsessively fantasize or play roles; seduce coworkers; have anonymous and/or public sex; masturbate compulsively; rub themselves against unsuspecting strangers; exhibit themselves; pay or barter for sex; watch others undressing or having sex; exchange pain with sexual partners; invade boundaries in ways ranging from unwelcome flirting to rape; molest animals or children; sexualize bodily wastes, clothing or objects; have phone sex or now, computer sex. Our society should take a close look at one of life?s most powerful, universal, misunderstood elements and re-evaluate our culture to make sex sacred again.
Bibliography Coon, Dennis. Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior.
2001 Thomson Learning, Inc. Belmont, CA.
Batz, Jeanette. ?Strung out on Sex?. The Riverfront Times St. Louis, MO. June 23, 1998.
Bissette, Dr. David C. Sex Addiction Information Page@ HealthyMind.com. 1996.