LIVING BEYOND: THE DOWNSIDE OF SEX AND SEXUAL EXPRESSION

Dr. Asa Don Brown

SEX AND SEXUAL EXPRESSION

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine, or idealism.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

Sex and sexuality have become more prevalent throughout our global community. Obtaining sexually related products, images, and information have become readily available for anyone, of any age, to obtain with an internet access. Undoubtedly the consequence of such materials being readily available has had a positive and negative effect upon our society.

“Sex has become part of mainstream culture as reflected through the explicit coverage of sexual behaviors in the media, movies, newspapers, and magazines. In many ways, sexual expression has become a form of accepted entertainment similar to gambling, attending sporting events, or watching movies. Internet pornography has become a billion-dollar industry, stretching the limits of the imagination.” Moreover, the creative arts have had a tremendous impact upon our society through sexual exploration and expression (e.g. Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Andy Warhol). While the expression of sex and sexuality has long been associated with the creative arts, the ability to freely express, without fear of retribution, intimidation, or prosecution, has been liberated in recent decades.

The downside of sexual images, information, and products is that they are readily available through a variety of media. Unfortunately, for those who struggle with sexual disorders and addiction; such unlimited access only perpetuates one’s sexual urges, impulses, and compulsive behaviors. The cultural paradigm shift has created a neo-relationship to sex and sexuality. While the shift has permitted for an increase in sexual expression, impression and sexual exploration; it has also allowed for those who have been struggling with sexually related issues and disorders to have greater difficulties refraining or abstaining from the misuse of sex.

WHAT IS A SEXUAL ADDICTION?
The features of an addiction are: compulsive behaviors that are uncontrollably attached to, or driven by any activity, person, place, thing, or substance. While there are many who claim to be “addicts,” the features of an addictive personality may vary dependent upon the ability to control the addictive habit. Furthermore, some addictive habits are more acceptable than others. For example, an individual who is addicted to his or her career may be viewed as having a great work ethic, but we seldom consider the negative implications of such a compulsive and intense behavior. Life is ultimately about balance and self-management.

Sexual Addiction
“Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family member’s increases as
the disorder progresses. Over time, the addict usually has to intensify
the addictive behavior to achieve the same results.” The reason for the intensification stems from the numbing of the psychological makeup of the individual. When an individual becomes psychologically numb to an emotional stimuli, the implication of being numb increases the likelihood that the individual will develop more egregious behaviors to counter the numb feeling.

The primary features of an addictive habit or an addiction are uncontrollable urges, preoccupation and obsession over an activity, person, place, thing, and/or substance. For those who struggle with such internal impulses, the typical remedy for eliminating such arousals can only occur through alleviating the sexual impulse.

THE EFFECT OF A SEXUAL ADDICTION
“For some sex addicts, behavior does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or the extensive use of pornography or phone or computer sex services. For others, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape.” Please note it is prudent to understand that not all sexual addicts are predators nor do they have predatory impulses. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has defined sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” Therefore, the sexual addict begins to engage in at risk behaviors despite the possibility or the probability of developing other negative issues. The at-risk behaviors may include: financial mismanagement, unprotected sexual encounters and relationships, multiple relationships, denial of psychological wellbeing, and criminal activities.

THE SEXUAL ADDICT
Sexual addicts are not all sexual deviants. Likewise, not all sexual addicts will partake in at-risk behaviors, but the truth is, the impulsivity and drive of the sexual addict may cause the individual to compromise his or her personal values, morals and ethical wellbeing.
Sexual addicts have similar challenges to other addicts: ultimately, they are seeking pathways to escape and avoid pain, while having the sensation of pleasure, excitement, and release. “This fantasy-induced neuro-chemical quagmire is a combination of dopamine (pleasure), adrenaline (anxiety, fear), oxytocin (love, jealousy), serotonin (mood stability), and endorphins (mild euphoria).”

For so many addicts, the attraction to sex begins through an innocent encounter. In time, the sexual addict is no longer capable of receiving the same pleasurable sensations or they are no longer in a relationship that fosters the original sexual engagement. The sex addict begins to find a personal release through the sexual encounter, thus associating personal pain with the avoidance or denial of sex, and pleasure with the ability to act upon his or her sexual urges and impulses. However, the sexual experience becomes skewed with healthy sexual desires and inappropriate sexual conduct and behaviors.

The following descriptions may indicate that you have a sexual addiction:

• Persistent and frequent viewing of pornography or pornographic images.
• An unhealthy preoccupation or obsession with sex or sexually related topics.
• At-risk behaviors that involve sex or sexually related acts.
• Excessive masturbation or need to have physical stimulation.
• Sexual relationships with others who may be at-risk or have known chronic issues.
• A willingness to hire or exploit others for one’s own sexual desires.
• Indiscriminate and frequent sexual encounters with others.

THE PURSUIT OF HEALTH

It’s not that they need to avoid all sexual imagery or communications; rather they need to heal the underlying psychological issues that have brought them to the sexual addiction. Addictions are in essence a coping mechanism and strategy to manage life. For many, they choose the path of least resistance, and for the sexual addict the alleviation of the sexual impulse is a physical release of stress, energy and obsessive thoughts. In fact, the release may not be associated with sex at all, rather it maybe the physical manifestation and the neurological outcome that sex produces. In simple, the sexual encounter may be away of self-medicating without digesting medications or other substances. Sex is known to bring forth a euphoric moment of intense excitement, happiness, bliss and calm.

For those who have battled a sexual addiction, psychological treatment may be necessary. Sexual addiction is often enveloped with shame, blame, guilt and remorse. For many, they may avoid care because of the accusations or perceptions of his or her addiction. The best approach and remedy may be psychological care, but here are a few suggestions to begin one’s personal journey to healing:

1. Honesty is necessary, be honest with yourself about your sexual addiction.

2. Refrain from being in the emotional neighborhood of your psychological triggers. In many cases, sexual addicts require sex to alleviate negative feelings or emotions.

3. You may desire to establish an accountability partner, but only choose someone that you trust and has your best interests at heart.

4. Avoid blame and shame, do not try to lay blame and do not accept shaming as a source of healing. Once you have admitted to your problem, begin to move your life forward.

5. Avoid using sex as a psychological and physical release, rather re-associate sex as an intimate relationship you have with yourself and/or another.

6. Work on your personal self-esteem, self-acceptance and personal self-approval.

7. Find a therapist that you trust to share your most intimate of personal details. Treatment for addiction may also include: support groups, counseling, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and medication.

Most of all, know that you are not, and should not be defined by your addictive issue. Your addictive issue has been a vice with which you have chosen to deal with the past and current psychological challenges. You are capable of moving forward and finding a pathway to health and authentic happiness.

May you begin living beyond.

Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S.

Website: www.asadonbrown.com

References Provided Upon Request