A hidden addiction - internet pornography
All addictions have the power to destroy us if left untreated. We have all seen on TV or increasingly experienced the dangers, the effect on families and the damage to health that addicts of alcohol and drugs can have. Yet there is another addiction just as prevalent in our society today that is a hidden addiction but with as much power to destroy families and relationships, to jeopardise or health and cause other mental health problems. I am of course talking about sex addiction or compulsive sexual behaviour.
Sex is of course and natural and acceptable part of our adult lives. While the range of sexual activities and tastes vary for each person. The sufferer of compulsive sexual behaviour has a different experience of sex. Often it is the frequency with which they engage in sexual acts either alone or with a partner. Often they take huge risks both legally and personally to get the next ‘high’. There are some key indicators although this is not an exhaustive list. The sufferer
- May spend hours on-line trying to find exactly the right image or video of sex
- Will feel out of control unable to resist the lure of their next fix
- Engage in sexual behaviour which may be a betrayal of their partner or be legally questionable
- Experience trouble in their relationship
- Get little or no pleasure in sex itself, being completely driven by getting the next high.
So how can a sufferer get help? It is often noted that while an alcoholic can avoid booze and a drug addict can get clean and stay away from the drugs, the sex addict has no such option open to them. Their desire is hard wired into their brain they cannot avoid or get away from the hormones and thoughts that might trigger a relapse.
Often asking for help is the hardest thing to do. While society has become much more open in recent years there is still something of the puritan values around today. The sufferer feels shame, embarrassment and guilt and this can prevent them coming forward for treatment.
Some of the most successful treatments are based round counselling and psychotherapy either as a group or individually. These sessions are about support and giving space to talk through what the addiction is like, what are the problems you are experiencing. There is also work done to understand your process, what are the triggers, what are the behaviours that you should avoid and how do you break the chain that stops the trigger leading to the behaviour you want to stop.
As with all addictions the sufferer needs to want to change, forcing them into a program is unlikely to lead to a positive outcome. However, with support and helping them to see how their quality of life may improve, many sufferers are willing to give therapy a try.
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About Graeme Orr
I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling for both individuals and couples on the Southside of Glasgow.
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