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Pornography and sexual addiction

Addiction to any substance, behaviour or activity is characterised by dependence, and whilst alcohol, tobacco and drugs are recognisable in everyday life as substances to which people can become addicted, it is sometimes harder to understand and to explain problematic behaviour resulting from a psychological disorder – such as sexual addiction. Physiological changes in the brain can result in an inability to stay in control of sexual urges, and this lack of control sometimes occurs because of a desire to avoid feelings of low self-esteem, loneliness or a fear of being rejected.

Causes

Childhood mental, physical or sexual abuse is thought to increase the risk of developing an addiction, as is early, inappropriate exposure to pornography experienced by children aged up to 10 or 11 years old. Brain abnormalities, certain chemicals and atypical levels of sex hormones can also play a role. Sometimes, sex addiction is related to other compulsions and psychological conditions, including pathological lying, compulsive stealing or eating disorders.

Often misunderstood

Sexual addiction is associated with sexual pleasure, and it can be hard to comprehend it as the major, disruptive problem that it most certainly is. A sex addict is much more likely to view their compulsive behaviour with misery and humiliation, rather than complacence or pride. Where pornography is used, feelings of shame and guilt can accompany a desperate, unstoppable need to view images of a particular type that trigger chemical responses in the brain.

Get help

The consequences of sexual addiction can be severe, including the inability to form positive relationships, adverse effects on health, and even financial and legal issues resulting from addictive behaviour. Getting help is crucial and counselling, support groups and psychotherapy may be combined with selected medications to help sufferers come to terms with their chronic condition, which will usually have to be treated over a long period of time, and can involve rebuilding impaired relationships and managing stress.

Here is a two part interview that I did with one of my clients for radio nottingham. He has been struggling with a sex addiction for 20 years. If what he is describing feels familiar to you, you need some help. Either call me, Relate or anyone else on the COSRT website and make a choice for change.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Audio snippets taken from the BBC radio Nottingham interview.

 

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Accreditations


Michele McCulley is an accredited member of the BACP

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