Author Paula Hall has drawn upon her own experience as a sexual psychotherapist to provide an interesting and often shocking insight into the world of sex addiction.
While researching her book, Ms Hall interviewed 350 sex addicts.
She was surprised to find that 25% of the respondents were women, and 75% of those women described themselves as ‘heavy porn users’.
“We have this idea that women are into relationship sex while men are more visually stimulated, so this seemed to fly in the face of that,” she said.
Ms Hall believes one of the biggest influences on the rise of sex addiction is the availability of highly sexual images on the Internet.
She describes it as: “A pattern of out-of-control sexual behaviour that causes problems in someone’s life.”
One of Ms Hall’s clients, David Prior (not his real name), waited until just weeks before his wedding to tell wife-to-be Sue that he’d become addicted to visiting prostitutes. The problems, he believed, began in his mid-twenties during an unhappy relationship. During this time he would visit prostitutes to escape from his situation. He soon realised it wasn’t the sex itself he was addicted to, but the feeling of shame that came with it.
Although Sue was ‘horribly shocked’ by the news, she believed her husband could be helped with the right support.
Fifteen years and two children later, their marriage is still going strong.
With the help of Ms Hall’s therapy sessions, David is now able to control his addiction by visiting prostitutes without engaging in sexual activities. This way he still gets the feeling of shame, without betraying his wife.
Her book, ‘Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction’ outlines ways in which sex addicts can learn to identify their problems and eventually learn to control them so they no longer have to live in shame. She also outlines six factors that make people more likely to develop a sex addiction. These are:
1. Early sexualisation – it is thought that, like with alcoholism, early exposure to sexual images or sexual activities could alter the chemistry of the brain to make a person more prone to sex addiction.
2. Adolescent isolation – teens who grow up feeling isolated may be drawn to pornography and sex as a way of feeling in touch with the world.
3. Over-controlling parenting – people who have over-controlling parents are more likely to enjoy taking risks.
4. Lack of role model – without good role models, some people find it difficult to know how to handle how they feel, making them dependent on external factors.
5. Childhood shame – when a child grows up believing sex is sinful, they find it hard to ever enjoy it as a normal part of life. For this reason, it becomes a secretive activity that can get mixed up with a host of other complex emotions.
6. Family secrets – growing up in a secretive environment can make the idea of leading two separate lives feel normal and even particularly appealing.
To find out more about how addiction works and to contact a counsellor specialising in addictive behaviour, please visit our page about Addiction.
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