Sex addiction became a popular topic in the media a few years ago as stories of Tiger Woods' situation started breaking. But many don't really understand what makes something a sex addiction.
This week, Imagine Hope is discussing the Serenity Prayer and it's meaning. So far, we have gone through serenity, courage and change. Today we will discuss wisdom. The serenity prayer states "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
Why is pornography so addictive? Well, there are many reasons for this. Today we are going to discuss how and why exposure to pornography can develop into an addiction.
Exposure to pornography surges the reward circuit or pleasure center in the brain, releasing large amounts of dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel good and the brain "remembers" how good it felt. This “good feeling” can provoke you to repeat the same behavior, despite negative consequences, to feel that pleasure again. So, you keep coming back for more and more. Often times, it results in not being able to stop, and you can get hooked on pornography.
This week at Imagine Hope, we are discussing the 5 stages of pornography addiction. Pornography addiction is defined as compulsive sexual activity with the simultaneous use of porn, resulting in mental, physical, emotional, relational, monetary, and other life-functioning issues. Pornography addiction can lead to isolation, depression, job loss, financial issues, infidelity, and relationship issues.
This week, Imagine Hope is discussing sexual addiction and what healthy sexual intimacy looks like after sexual addiction has been identified in a relationship. You develop and maintain healthy boundaries with others.
Part of sexual addiction is poor boundaries with others. Because sex addicts have difficulty with boundaries, they either don't realize how important boundaries are in keeping both people safe, so they have none, or they might develop boundaries that are too rigid. The same might apply to the co-addict. Developing healthy boundaries allows you to be vulnerable and safe at the same time.
Sexuality is well-balanced and moderate.
While sex addicts live in extremes of sexual energy, experiencing either full-on excessive sexual tension or repressed, walled-off sexual feelings, when you develp sexual maturity, you can control an appropriate flow of sexual energy.
You are curious and caring about other people's reactions to you.
Instead of taking what people say personally, and reacting emotionally, healthy intimacy allows you to try and understand what is going on for them.
You learn to trust others.
Whether you are the addict or the partner of a sex addict, in overcoming sexual addiction, you must first focus on trusting yourself and learn to recognize your own truth. Then you can use healthy boundaries to keep yourself safe while trusting others' truth, as you move through the stages of relationships.
Have you recognized any ways you can begin your journey of healing from sexual addiction? What are some areas you identified? We hope this week's blog brought you some enlightenment-- thank you for joining us!
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.
This week, we have covered what sexual addiction is, how to recover, and we have started talking about sexual intimacy after you discover you have a sexual addiction. If you haven't read the previous blogs, I would encourage you to do so before going on, as it builds on itself. Today we will continue with what "healthy" sexual intimacy looks like in recovery. Healthy Sexual Intimacy
>>Realize that challenges, negative feelings, and suffering are a part of life So much of what an addict does, with any addiction, is to avoid negative feelings. It is like a desperate attempt to not feel bad that later becomes compulsive. It is important for a sex addict, or any addict for that matter, to learn to be okay with and cope with negative feelings. Challenges and suffering are unavoidable as long as we are living and breathing. So learning to cope with them in a positive way will help addicts shift their focus from avoiding to managing negative emotions. Learning to cope with their feelings will help them not to resort to sexual relief as a way of coping. This is an important part of any recovery.
>> Learning to nurture yourself in non-genital ways First of all, let's talk about nurturing. How do you nurture yourself? It is basically taking care of yourself, soothing yourself when you have negative emotions, and learning to love yourself. It may sound hokey but each of us has a need to be nurtured within us. Our parents were our primary nurturers as we grew up. Now it is our responsibility to do this in a loving, gentle way. Sexual addicts tend to only see sexually soothing ways to nurture themselves. That is why it is important in their recovery, to teach them to nurture themselves in ways that are not sexual. Everyone is different with what works for them but some examples would be taking a walk, talking to a friend or spouse, doing something you enjoy, or exercising. These are all ways to take care of yourself and nurture yourself.
>>Learn to be emotionally vulnerable Being vulnerable (open, honest, and humble) in a relationship is important to create emotional intimacy. This can open individuals up to possibly being hurt, thus making them feel vulnerable. Sex addicts are usually afraid of being betrayed so they sexualize many of their feelings in order to protect themselves from being to open to hurt. It is important to learn to have boundaries yet open yourself up enough to be vulnerable in a relationship. This will create the relationship that is actually desired!
I just want to add that sexual addiction is difficult to recover from. It is of DIRE importance to get professional help from a trained Therapist that is comfortable working with sexual addicts. The Therapist needs to have good boundaries and understand not just addiction, but sexual addiction. If you struggle with this, please get help! You will be amazed at how wonderful life can be again once you come out of the cloud of addiction.
Tomorrow Joleen will share with us more ways to help with achieving a healthy sex life during the recovery of a sexual addiction. Thank you for reading!
Written by Natalie Chandler
Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville