Sex and Love Addiction

“I know my ex-boyfriend lies
Oh he does it every time
It’s just his permanent disguise
Yeah yeah but he’s drop dead gorgeous

-Republica 1996

 

If you’ve never heard of SLAA it wouldn’t surprise me.  SLAA is the short hand for Sex and Love Addiction Anonymous, they don’t really broadcast who they are much because there is a fear of ridicule and shaming which does not help their cause or their problems.

Sex and Love Addiction is a measurable addiction that effects quite a number of people.  Sex and Love addiction does not have to do with someone who has a healthy interest in sex or is even into kinky sex or S&M. Sex and Love Addiction is about people who are pathologically driven to sex out sexual experiences as a means experiencing relief from intra-personal problems. As with other addictions it is characterized by effecting the following areas:

  • Inability to abstain
  • Impairment in behavioral control
  • Cravings + easily triggered
  • Diminished recognition of significant problems
  • Dysfunctional emotional response

 

This isn’t about people who just enjoy sex, it’s just the same as alcohol. The vast majority of people who consume alcohol will not have a significant problem other than their overall health being compromised – that’s a lot of people too. In the UK 90% of adults drink alcohol regularly, I don’t have the figure on the number of adults who have sex but I assume it’s fairly high as the figure of people who remain a virgin into their mid-20’s is around 12% in western societies.

Sex Addiction is a Brain Disease?

Sex addiction can be considered as a brain disease, not about sexual appetite or sexual attraction. Sex addiction is based in physically altered brain chemistry and driven by active neural pathways which have been permanently established. Long-term overpowering cravings are predictable. Sometimes an individual can be overpowered by the sight of a sexual image and begin to immediate act out in advances or impulsively masturbating later.

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One analogy is the brain like a ski slope after heavy snowfall. As skiers begin to traverse the slope, grooves or pathways begin to form as skiers follow the same groove over and over. Eventually, these “think-paths” become so deep and entrenched like behavior repetition it requires a great deal of effort for a skier to traverse onto a new path. However if the new path is repeatedly followed, it can eventually replace the old groove or path as the automatic choice.

Neurologically based impulses to act out sexually sometimes stay hidden unless opportunity or triggers arises.

Brain Chemistry

Brain chemistry, understanding the role of the neurotransmitter-dopamine in sex-addiction is helpful. Low dopamine levels cannot only cause sex-addiction but depression, loss of satisfaction, poor focus and many other symptoms. All the major theories agree that dopamine metabolism is altered by sex addiction, and that’s why it could be considered a disease.

The dopamine pleasure pathway is the go system, and the prefrontal cortex is the stop system.

When the reward center in the middle of the brain becomes active, it’s as if it says “Go Go Go”. When we anticipate and experience something good like food or sex, our brain experiences a surge in the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine. We feel warm, accept ourselves and others.

 Stop go system in the brain

Another part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex or higher brain is responsible for executive functions, evolved over time to help us to weigh the consequences of our decisions. It helps us to put a lid on impulsive behavior. The “Stop” system is the Brain’s brakes.

The signals to the prefrontal cortex, however, tend to be a bit slower. So, we need to stop and think things out before forging ahead with an impulsive decision. Putting it in the simplest terms, the “go system” hijacks the “stop system” in the course of this is called sex-addiction.

 

People with sex-addiction are suspected to be low on dopamine.  A low dopamine level causes us to unconsciously seek out dopamine through sex.  Sex stimulates the dopamine release or increase its activity and produce the hedonic response, “I like that” motivation, incentive stimulus and goal directed behaviours.

This is just scratching the surface of how sex addiction can affect a person’s life.  What I have showed here is merely just about the pathological presentation of sex addiction. There are many other aspects to consider such as

  • Previous history of sexual abuse
  • Co-dependancy
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Shame and guilt
  • Toxic shame
  • Negative self-image
  • Poor relationship with parental figures
  • Body dysmorphia

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What’s the RISK?

You might be wondering what’s the risk of a sex addiction? Isn’t it a good thing to have lots of sex with lots of different people? It’s a mentality that’s often purveyed by the media and loads of different mediums. People who are sexually active with multiple partners are often seen as successful and ideal to emulate. The intention of this blog is not to water down people’s exploits but bring about an understand that some people really struggle with their sex addiction.

You may have heard of a crime of passion, in AA and NA they use the term “jails institutions and death”, meaning they see that untreated addiction ending up with one of those ends.  Sex addiction is no different.

Many people with untreated sex addiction issues go on to cause all manner of chaos in their lives. Costly and painful divorces, financial ruin, loss of face, lack of trust and some extreme cases murder or suicide

 Take a sex addiction test

If you believe you might be a experiencing symptoms of sex addiction you can take an online questionnaire by clicking the link below.  However, please understand that going through a questionnaire of such nature can be difficult without a therapist to guide you about the results.

https://slaafws.org/download/core-files/The_40_Questions_of_SLAA.pdf

 

-Written by Dylan Kerr 2017

 

 

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