We are confronted with a sexual addiction when the desire to have sex occurs frequently, is intense, and is accompanied by compulsive behaviors aimed at satisfying this desire in an uncontrollable way.
This is how to understand sexuality in its different forms, that is to say not necessarily to have a sexual encounter with another person but also with sexual behaviors of masturbation, consumption of prostitution, consumption of cybersex or pornography, among others. The person spends a large part of their day looking for ways to meet their needs, Coming to see has affected his work and his personal life.
Addictions are usually the result of more primary problems in the person. In other words, consumption becomes the solution which can pose a certain problem. When the person consumes or exercises behaviors related to sexuality, in the short term the situation generating discomfort takes a back seat, transform this action into an emotional regulator that momentarily soothes discomfort. But what happens in the long run? the solution put in place becomes the problem.
Dependence as a form of emotional regulator
When consumed by any substance, our brain releases a hormone known as dopamine, causing pleasurable sensations. Because of this pleasure obtained, our brain will send us the message that it needs us to repeat this behavior to thereby achieve such a pleasant feeling. What is happening is that our brain needs more and more this substance which generates calm.
There are times in our life when we can experience complicated and painful situations for ourselves. At the moment, we can face the situation and the discomfort generated or avoid what happened and not face it. This second option can lead to some negative consequences for the person.
If the usual form of adaptation one employs is avoidance or suppression, what happens is that all of these psychological events and injuries that have arisen in us through lived experiences will be accumulated.. These experiences begin at birth and begin to relate to our caring characters; early experiences will later mark who we are and how we learn to deal with those experiences to come.
How does the bond with our parents influence the regulation of our emotions?
Many of these injuries relate to how we may have felt as a child in connection with our caregivers. When we are children, we seek the constant affection and approval of the adults around us.. If we don’t get it, we’ll look for ways to get it. We will set in motion behaviors that will capture the attention of our caregivers, try to please them, take care of their care, or set aside our needs to cover those of the adult and thus receive the approval we seek.
If we have had such an experience, it will be an injury that we will grow and develop with. This injury can result in an emotional void. It is a very painful feeling, which hides a great feeling of loneliness, incomprehension, fear or sadness. There is a need to feel complete, but the person does not know the formula for feeling that, so sometimes you start to look for ways to combat that feeling and discomfort and thus be able to feel completely complete.
Sometimes this feeling can wake up or increase after a breakup, layoff, work problems, or a situation that causes discomfort in the person. Faced with such situations, we can look away, so as not to come up against the reality of the moment. But what really happens is that we will not face or regulate our own discomfort, or the experience we are facing.
The negative consequences of poor emotional management
When we experience situations that generate discomfort, poor regulation of these can lead to the emergence of addictive behaviors.
Faced with situations that generate harm or a problem, if there is no good regulation of the discomfort or what is happening, there are people who begin to consume toxic substances, to fulfill their schedule plans, work harder.hours, consume pornography for hours, or have compulsive sex. In this article I would like to focus more on problematic sexual behavior.
It is well known that sex is a basic human need, and this is how it is stated in the Basic Needs Pyramid created by Abraham Maslow. Sometimes the sexual practices can even turn into addictive behaviors. In that case, these behaviors are not linked to the pursuit of pleasure; the goal would be the search for calm and the relief of the emotional discomfort engendered by the different situations lived, and in addition they are inserted in the context of the history of the life of each one.
Sex will be the person’s way of learning to regulate and calm their emotions., And this is how he will face what will cause him discomfort. A stimulus is sought which rewards and generates momentary relief. This also happens with other types of behavior such as, for example, eating food uncontrollably or consuming substances, exerting self-destructive behavior on oneself.
In the short term, you get a positive reward, which is followed by relief and less emotional distress. But … what happens in the medium and long term? The discomfort reappears.
First, the guilt of one’s own consumption will appear. This guilt generates emotional distress, associated with previous emotional distress that has also not been dealt with. Again, to calm this greater discomfort, the use of this problematic behavior is reused.
Therefore, we will not address the issue, but will cover and not affect what generated it. Sometimes, the concentration that generated the discomfort may not be seen by the person. But these types of behaviors tell us that something is wrong with us.
Developing a sex addiction is also a way of not coming into contact with the discomfort and the problematic situation. Imagine a perforated inflatable mattress. At the moment, because we have to use it and we don’t have the chance to buy another one, we are putting a patch on it. We know this patch can last the rest of our vacation, but probably the next time we want to use it, it will be broken again. This is what happens when we avoid dealing with the problems that come our way. For a while we can survive, but what will happen in the long run? What this discomfort will appear intense, sudden, and we will find it more complicated to manage.
How do we know if we are facing a problem with sex addiction?
These are several criteria that allow to know if there is a case of problem of sexual addiction.
He spends much of the day fantasizing and looking for ways to satisfy the need
It generates great anxiety and the brain has learned that the only way to calm it down is to consume pornography or have sex, for example.
Activities of daily living are left out
Examples of those activities which become low priority are work or relationships, family or social.
Anxiety, thoughts and fantasies do not decrease until the person uses
There is a feeling that the person has no control over the behavior which appears. Feel like you are in control of what you need
It is not necessary to satisfy the desire, but to calm and regulate the discomfort
Other said, the center of the experience is fixed on the negative.
The person feels a great emotional void and guilt
He may even feel worthy of punishment and that is why he sets in motion these self-boycott or destructive behaviors.
The need to go beyond the symptom
Due to my consultation experience, most of the time we find that after the symptom there is a great need to feel seen, loved, valued and wanted. Therefore, in therapy it is very important that we work to identify what may be causing these symptoms, and not just describe the description.
Author: Lidia García Asensi, health psychologist