Part 1: Sex Addiction
This intriguing trifecta – sex, food and money, are three of the most sought-after pleasures life has to offer. Yet, we’ve all suffered the extremes of having too much of a good thing – when longing becomes lusting and increasing stress and anxiety lead to obsession.
But there are warning signs if we choose to listen, whether they are nagging little thoughts at the outer regions or outrageous behaviors that become hard to ignore. These warning signs indicate perhaps seeking help is a good idea, around about – now.
In this first of three articles, I’ll address sexual addiction and reveal how you can develop awareness and mindfulness into your behaviors and take the first steps towards a healthy, loving, fulfilling sexual relationship.
Awareness of When the Healthy Becomes the Unhealthy
Like other addictions, sexual addiction is difficult to address until one accepts that there’s a problem and that takes awareness of how your behavior may be affecting your everyday life.
Sadly, it’s often a major event that signals to an addict that it may be time to seek help such as a breakup over an affair or a health crisis. So, learning about various types of sexual addiction becomes key.
Dr. Patrick Carnes, a noted sex addiction expert and author of “Don’t Call It Sex” outlines a number of problematic sexual behaviors that can indicate addiction:
- Fantasy sex involves an obsession with a fantasy sex life that’s so overwhelming that one stops having genuinely love sexual relationships.
- Seductive sex involves manipulating and charming others into numerous sexual relationships and affairs.
- Anonymous sex involves feeling aroused by strangers to the exclusion of forming personal relationships.
- Paying for sex and trading for sex are two forms of business arrangements that preclude an emotionally healthy sexual relationship.
- Voyeuristic sex involves becoming aroused by watching other people have sex through pornography or secretly watching people have sex.
- Exhibitionistic sex involves flashing parts of ones body in public, posing for photos or having sex where other people can see the sex taking place for the purpose of causing shock or disapproval.
- Intrusive sex and exploitive sex involve touching others sexually without their permission; often in relationships in which one person has authority over another.
- Pain exchange sex or S & M involves associating pain with sexual pleasure
Awareness of Behavior & Triggers
Awareness of our motivation to perform certain behaviors is key, particularly when faced with an addiction.
Identifying those triggers that precede our behavior then, is the first step to determining our motivation. When do we engage in this certain behavior? When we are vulnerable or feeling unloved or unappreciated by someone significant in our lives? Is it when we are feeling “blue” or as if we “deserve” to act a certain way because, well, life is just too short not to do what we want?
A thoughtful analysis of the triggers that precede a troubling behavior is an important step to bringing awareness and clarity to the behavior itself and allows you define what you do want.
For instance, in the case of sexual addiction, the goal is most probably a healthy, loving relationship that feeds both your body sexually and your soul – a relationship in which your self esteem is intact and in fact bolstered, simply by being accepted as the sexual, exciting being that you are!
Mindfulness to New Behavior
If insight and awareness into how your behavior may be contributing to an addiction is the first step, then mindfulness to a new set of habits and behaviors, including the visualization of a goal, can be considered a critical second step.
Mindfulness can take many forms including:
- Education about what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship
- Individual counseling and/or marriage and family therapy
- A support system like Sex Addicts Anonymous
- Confiding in those close to you who care about your success
- Following religiously, the repetitive tasks that you’ll determine are necessary for success, even in the face of everyday struggles
If you’re experiencing sexual behavior that’s difficult to stop or that you’re keeping a secret from others, or if you’re using certain behaviors to numb yourself from feelings of discomfort or to avoid responsibilities, there is help.
Developing respect for yourself and others and creating a healthy, loving sexual relationship are critical to your self-esteem and happiness – and are absolutely attainable!