- Sex addiction actually, er, exists
It is a condition or syndrome with a proven neurological, psychological basis. It’s not just a pretext or for the philandering, the promiscuous and priapic. It is an addiction or compulsion to certain sexual behaviors that causes the sufferer to transgress their own values and ruins their lives. Of course, sexual desire is an evolutionary urge, a normal drive, perfectly healthy in most people. But for some, genetic predisposition, family trauma or attachment disorders and early exposure to sexual material has warped this desire, hijacking reward centres in the brain and causing the sexual drive to dysfunction. An allergy of the mind arises; sexual activities are craved but when indulged in they cause mental pain. This is sex addiction, and it is a ‘thing’ and it affects more people than you think. Perhaps it is because it is a process addiction or because of the shame and stigma surrounding it (see below) it still remains misunderstood by most.
- Sex addiction is more powerful than crack cocaine
In the book The Porn Trap the authors break down the physiology of sex addiction. They cover the dopamine secreted during the anticipation and the mind-blowing opioids of the orgasm and fulfillment. Gary Wilson in Your Brain on Porn, writes about how repeated exposure to pornography subjects the dopamine reward system to the same fatigue over time as cocaine abuse. Research going on at Cambridge University has shown that the pleasure centres stimulated in sex addiction are identical to those in pharmacological addiction. As Patrick Carnes writes we are looking at a self-peddled, self-secreted drug abuse, and a strong chemical dependency.
Due to neuronal plasticity, (neurons that ‘fire together, wire together’,) using porn and other thrill seeking sexual practices compulsively, eventually recalibrates the brain to such an extent that it cannot snap back and is chronically impaired. The brain then craves this fix. The results can be a skewed arousal template, (not finding ‘normal’ women or intimate sex exciting), diminished libido in the absence of sexual fetishes, or even erectile dysfunction as documented by Gary Wilson in his book. And that’s just the addiction not to speak of the experience of withdrawal.
- Sex addiction is not a modern phenomenon.
Sex addiction was not invented by the publicists of Michael Sheen and Tiger Woods. It’s always been around. Many have a history of it in their families, secreted in rumours, half truths, concealed in euphemism, in understatement, and embarrassed whispers about being ‘a bit of a ladies’ man’ or having a racy love life, when we are talking about a man who died of venereal disease or died in a brothel in a drug addled stupor. Many writers, poets and artists have been sex addicts or have written about sex addiction – it just wasn’t called sex addiction. You can find sex addiction hiding in coy euphemism in the novels of Dostoyevsky, and in descriptions of gentlemen who dishonoured themselves in unspeakable ways. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is an allegory for the double life of an addict. Given its long lineage therefore why has it only now come onto our radar? Continue reading