Frequently Asked Questions about Sex AddictionFebruary 18th, 2011 // Tags: abuse, abusive behavior, addiction treatment, covert abuse, emotional abuse, emotional trauma, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual addiction, trauma recovery, trauma treatment
I receive many questions about sex addiction. I thought I would share some common questions…
Does all sex addiction come from abuse? I don’t think I was abused as a kid.
There are two ways abuse can manifest; the first is overt abuse. Overt abuse is usually aggressive behavior that is measurable, such as bruises, a raised voice, a verbal attack, or an insult. The second is covert abuse. Covert abuse is passive, often unconscious, and not seen as abusive (such as withholding love, giving a stern or threatening look, failing to protect a child, or minimizing his or her realities). One can be abused covertly and/or overtly and, no matter how the abuse is perpetrated, it always leaves victims feeling shame and pain on some level.
Individuals often normalize abusive behavior or, even worse, blame themselves for the abuse. “If I hadn’t been drunk, I wouldn’t have been raped.” “Putting each other down is just what my family does.” When it is pointed out that these are examples of abuse, often the reaction is denial, defensiveness, or confusion.
Because of these common reactions, it is important to grasp the scope of abuse and to become aware of how abuse may have affected or influenced one’s life.
Once an individual begins to understand the scope of abuse they can see how it set them up to feel disemboweled as a child because of the continual fear, guilt, and shaming one received. The wreckage of such abuse leaves all sex addicts with a sense of betrayal so severe that they lose the ability to trust. They are convinced that if they are seen or really known, they will be despised.
Too afraid to tell anyone, the addict learned what was perhaps his most powerful coping skill. He learned to live a double life- a life of secrets and lies, where shame festers, multiplies, and spreads like a deadly cancer. But when one can establish a bond of trust, they can have a respectful attachment- a place at which the healing can begin.
What does abuse look like?
Below is an outline of the types of abuse, with examples of specific behaviors in each category.
I. Physical Abuse (any forced or violent physical action)
- Unsolicited touching or tickling
- Pulling hair
II. Emotional or Verbal Abuse (putting down, threatening, and saying cruel or untrue things about another person)
- Cursing, swearing, screaming
- Harassing or interrogating
- Insulting, name-calling, shaming, ridiculing
- Threatening to harm; beat up; sabotage; hurt; maim or kill pets, children, or
- family members
- Controlling others (e.g., through money or power)
- Forcing others to engage in degrading acts
- Making accusations
- Punching, throwing, destroying property
- Going through others’ property or possessions
- Threatening to kill oneself as a form of manipulation
- Sexualizing others
- Driving recklessly
- Not letting others sleep or eat
- Making facial expressions or physical gestures that indicate judgment, rejection, ridicule (e.g., smirking, covering the ears as if unwilling to listen, walking out of the room while someone is sharing, rolling the eyes, shaking the head, moving the hands in a manner indicating that the other is wrong or inadequate)
III. Sexual Abuse (any nonconsensual sexual act, behavior, gesture)
- Not respecting “no”
- Making sexual remarks, jokes, innuendos, suggestions, insults
- Taking advantage of situations and exploiting others’ intoxication or incapacitation
- Demanding or manipulating unwanted sexual acts (e.g., anal penetration, physical restriction, choking, golden showers, oral sex, sadomasochistic acts, role-playing)
- Having unprotected sex while knowingly having a sexually transmittable disease
- Giving sexual criticism
- Engaging in inappropriate touching (e.g., touching in public, grabbing, pinching the breast or groin)
- Blackmailing or manipulating the vulnerable (i.e., the much younger and/or sexually inexperienced, the disabled, the mentally or emotionally challenged)
- Taking advantage of a power differential (e.g., the case of a boss, clergy member, lawyer, judge, law enforcement officer, landlord, teacher, coach)
IV. Neglect (failing to provide the essential necessities for a child, including the following)
- Medical care
- Dental care
- Attention to physical, emotional, and intellectual needs
This outline does not include every possible abusive behavior, but it does provide an overview of abuse.
If you would like to read more about this, please visit www.sexaddictionfaq.com