More than meets the eye
Posted Aug 20, 2015
Many people, clinicians, and clients have a very misinformed understanding of sex addiction. They may dismiss it for fear perpetrators use the term to rationalize and justify their behaviors. While that certainly can happen, it's important to view sex as the behavior or means for acting out as opposed to the goal.
Just as someone struggling with an eating disorder will use food (or avoid it altogether) or a gambler will use money to act out, a true sex addict is using sex as a means to cope with life. He/she is not someone who simply craves lots of sex. Instead, they have underlying problems stress, anxiety, depression, shame just to name a few that drive their often risky sexual behavior.
When the term "addiction" is used, many critics detest the lack of responsibility this term implies. They want to see their loved ones take responsibility for their actions and not hide behind this definition. Addiction itself is shrouded in complexity and means different things to different people.
For myself, the term addiction is used to refer to behaviors that at one point in the client's past was beyond his level of insight and/or control. It was beyond his/her ability to take control due to the client's own denial of the problem and inability to share this struggle with another human being and find healthier ways to cope.
Once therapy starts, I train clients and give them tools so they can cope with sexual triggers that may have been difficult or beyond his/her control before due to a lack of healthy coping mechanisms. Everything from cognitive-behavioral therapy to change one's think and distortions to learning how to meditate or breathe is able to help new clients regain a better sense of self-regulation so when they are caught in an emotionally dysregulated or distressed state, they have other means or healthy relationships to help them ease their fears, depression, or anxiety.
Also early on, they learn their own individual "triggers" that in the past set them on a path of sexually compulsive behaviors. Examples include feeling neglected, abandoned, or stress. Their inability at healthy attachments and healthy emotional intimacy led to living a life of secrecy. Therapy is teaching clients how to be vulnerable with another by sharing their feelings and seeing how this lack of intimacy fed their past acting-out behaviors. As you can see there is much more to sex addiction than initially meets the eye.