The Meadows Blog

Sexual Addiction

Sexual Addiction (35)

Monday, 16 May 2016 00:00

Life After Heartbreak

In 2009, Noelle found out that her partner, who is a sex addict, had had an affair. She was devastated.

For Noelle and her wife, it was a life-changing experience. Watch her video to hear how she was able to forgive her wife and begin the process of building a healthier, stronger relationship.

For women struggling with sex addiction, The Meadows offers an inpatient program on the main campus in Wickenburg, Arizona, and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at The Meadows Outpatient Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows also offers several workshops for couples and for the partners of sex addicts.

Call 800-244-4949 for more information.

Monday, 02 May 2016 00:00

Gaining Power over Sex Addiction

Chris didn’t know he was a sex addict until he attended The Men’s Sexual Recovery workshop at The Meadows. The workshop’s clinical team recommended that he go to the 45-day inpatient sex addiction treatment program at Gentle Path at The Meadows, but he wasn’t quite ready.

A couple months later, he was struggling with his addiction again. Watch his video to find out what happened once he fully accepted his addiction as a disease and completed his treatment.

By Georgia Fourlas, LMSW, LISAC, CSAT-C

There have been a number of high profile cases of sexual misbehaviors lately in the media. Each case has been accompanied by a barrage of interviews in the media with experts who discuss sexual addiction, excuse making, compulsive lying, bad behavior, legal actions, and a variety of other issues.

In the wake of these events, everyone wants to try to understand why individuals would act out in ways that could not only damage their own reputations, but also damage their families and risk the loss of their marriages. Help is often suggested or offered to those who have been “outed” as having engaged in sexually compulsive, sexually inappropriate, and deceptive behaviors— and it is critical that they get that help. But, where does that leave spouses and significant others of those with sexual disorders who have been traumatized by their betrayals?

Where’s MY Chip?

“Where is my f@$%ing chip???” This is a statement I recently heard while working with a partner of a sex addict. It perfectly captures the anger and desperation often felt by partners of individuals with sexual disorders. This person went on to explain that her sexually addicted partner was in a 12-step recovery program, attending therapy, and recently picked up a chip (a token given at 12-step meetings to honor milestones in recovery) for sexual sobriety. She spoke of the intense pain, debilitating shame and searing anger she experienced while watching the addict being congratulated and hugged.

Meanwhile, the partner sat in the background feeling even further isolated, abandoned, and resentful. All of these emotions fed the anger in this partner and the other partners that were present as they ruminated about the injustice of the betrayal perpetrated by the addict and how the addict, now in recovery, is seemingly, treated like a hero for, in one person’s words: “What? Not being a liar and cheater for a few months? Where is my prize for not being a liar and cheater AT ALL…MY WHOLE LIFE?”

This imbalance can continue well into recovery, as much of the addicted partner’s time and some of the family’s funds get diverted to treatment and recovery activities. Even when the bad behaviors and destructive activities are replaced with recovery behaviors and healthy activities, it still leaves the partner of the addict alone to deal with the fall out. This often leaves the partner with the sense that everything is still all about the addict, and the partner still feels cheated in the relationship.

Healing From Intimate Treason

I heard these expressions of pain and anger in a workshop I facilitate at The Meadows called Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts, which is based on the extraordinary work of Claudia Black. It is one place where a partner of a person with a sexual disorder can get help. The workshop is specifically designed to support and assist the spouses and significant others of individuals with sexual disorders and provides an environment that enables open dialog and honest sharing about all traumatic reactions that partners may be experiencing.

Partners are provided a safe place to take an honest look at their own behaviors. Sometimes, out of anger and in their own traumatic reactions, partners also behave in ways that are outside of their own value systems. This workshop can help partners to begin to make an internal shift from focus on the other person to focus on oneself. In this way, partners are encouraged to embark on a recovery journey that involves self-care and encourages healing. Partners can begin to make decisions for themselves based on what they want in their lives and what is best for them rather than making decisions purely from an emotionally-charged and reactive place of pain that results from betrayal.

A variety of skills are offered to help partners to find ways to regulate their nervous systems and cope with their own feelings about the betrayal. It also helps partner’s deal with the very complex grief and shame that accompanies the discovery of a mate’s sexually compulsive or sexually aversive behavior.

This workshop also offers a chance to give and receive support from others going through similar struggles while encouraging a focus on self when partners begin the difficult decision making process of “What now?” Partners will leave with their own “f@$%ing chip” but will also leave with so much more.

How to Register for the Healing Intimate Treason Workshop

For more details or to enroll, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6a.m. and 6p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.

The remaining 2015 dates for the Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts workshop are October 5 – 9 and December 14 – 18.

Earlier this week, news broke that Jared Fogle, the well-known spokesman for Subway, was at the center of an FBI investigation. No details have been confirmed at this time, but many speculate that the investigation is related to the recent arrest of an executive of the Jared Foundation on child pornography charges. (Fogle himself has not been arrested or charged with a crime.)

This news comes on the heels of the release of court documents in which veteran comedian Bill Cosby admitted to giving women sedatives in the pursuit of sex. And, similar shocking revelations have come to light in the past year pertaining to Stephen Collins from the popular 90s TV show 7th Heaven, and to Tiger Woods, who is rumored to have relapsed into his sexual addiction by cheating on girlfriend Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Vonn.

When these stories come to light, the same questions begin to appear on social media sites, in our offices, and around our dinner tables: “What is wrong with these men? How could they do these things? And, why can’t they stop?”

There are, of course, no easy answers to these questions. And, it would be too presumptuous for us to speculate about any of these men without any direct knowledge or understanding of their personal histories. But, here at Gentle Path at The Meadows, we do see some common behavioral patterns that emerge among our patients that have parallels to what we’re seeing in the news.

Entitlement

One of the patterns that we most often see with clients who are caught up in destructive sexual behavior is a struggle with an enormous amount of social or political pressure. Although this pressure in no way serves as an excuse for their behavior, it does often lead them to feel entitled to act out in destructive ways and, frankly, to not experience any negative consequences for it.

Their distorted thinking tells them that they’ve earned the right to do these things because “they work so hard” and “do so much.” On top of that, the constant scrutiny that they are under in the media and in other social arenas often fuels anger and resentment. The more anger, resentment, and pressure that exists, the more entitled they feel and the more destructive their behaviors become.

Over time, without intervention, the behavior will continue to get worse, sometimes leading to acting out that is even more offensive in nature. That’s when legal consequences and news stories often emerge.

Narcissism

Another common pattern we see in clients is the presence of narcissistic personality traits. These traits can include grandiosity, entitlement, exploitation of others, arrogance, repeated law-breaking, impulsivity, lying, aggressiveness, and lack of remorse or empathy.

According to a recent study, these same personality traits are associated with behaviors related to sex trade use, use of drugs with sex, soliciting sex with money or drugs, hurting and exploiting adults sexually and sexually exploiting children. Grandiosity, in particular, seems to have the strongest link to sexual acting out.

These traits are addressed early in treatment at Gentle Path through an exercise related to the first step of the 12-step model: admitting one’s powerlessness in the face of sexual addiction. This first step serves as a powerful challenge to grandiose, narcissistic, and antisocial traits, enabling patients to begin to take an honest stock of the damage caused by their actions and inactions and proceed with greater openness to restorative treatment.

A, A, A

There are three “A’s” that often fuel problematic sexual behaviors: Accessibility, Affordability, and Anonymity. The wealthy and powerful are not immune to their effects; as a matter of fact, for those with money or power these factors may have an even greater impact.

Accessibility refers to how easily outlets for sexual acting out can be found, from online pornography to escorts, to adoring fans willing to spend a few hours with a celebrity. Accessibility is often no barrier for the rich and famous.

The Accessibility factor is understandable in a culture that promotes immediate rewards as a means of comfort and happiness (e.g. fast food). Sexual images that elicit strong sexual responses are accessible within seconds through a few clicks of a mouse. This creates a sense of omnipotence and invulnerability for the addict, something that can be appealing to those who also presenting narcissistic personality traits.

Affordability, of course, refers to whether or not a person has access to the money or resources needed to purchase the types of sexual materials or encounters he’s looking for. However, it’s not just about money. It‘s also about emotional affordability. These men often feel that they cannot “afford” emotional complications and that they can better handle interactions that they can keep under control. It’s much easier to keep an interaction under control when it is with an object (i.e., a computer or a person who can be objectified).

Anonymity is a bit more of a struggle for celebrities who choose to act out with others in person. They frequently end up paying large sums of money for ongoing gifts or services long after the relationship ends to maintain the silence. Or, they endure the cost of attorneys to “make it go away.” For individuals whose choice is to indulge in pornography, anonymity seems assured, until the authorities knock on the door asking about the websites or files they have been viewing. The sense of Anonymity that comes with using pornography becomes understandable when a person is socially visible and is subjected to constant social scrutiny. Most forms of sexual acting-out could be immediately detected and sanctioned. Pornography and other forms of cybersex help them keep their secret lives in compartments.

The “three A’s” are a combination that can lead individuals to drown in a sea unhealthy sexual behaviors. One of the things we do as Gentle Path is help patients learn how to develop better coping skills, so they won’t be tempted to engage in those behaviors in spite of their accessibility, affordability and potential anonymity.

There is Hope

For the bystander, it may seem like “these men will never learn.” But, for those who are willing to acknowledge their problem and do the difficult and painful work of addressing their underlying issues, change is possible. Many men who have been through the program at Gentle Path report to us that they feel free from much of the shame that came with their sexual addiction, and that they have been able to regain their self-respect and restore relationships with their friends and loved ones.

If you or someone know is struggling with a sexual addiction, we’re here for you, 24 hours a day.

Visit Gentle Path at The Meadows or call 855-333-6076 to find out how we can help.

Monday, 06 July 2015 00:00

Seduction and The Sex Addict

By Monica Meyer, PhD, CSAT-S, Clinical Director of Gentle Path at The Meadows

Last week, best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert published an essay titled “Confessions of a Seduction Addict” in the New York Times magazine. It is a personal and poignant account of the pain and struggle that people with issues related to sex and intimacy often face.

The behavior Gilbert describes in her essay can be conceptualized using a sexual addiction framework (conquest type) with Dr. Pat Carnes’ model or using the complimentary framework of love avoidance from The Meadows Model. Both frameworks identify this pattern of behavior as a mechanism for avoiding intimacy with a basis in an insecure attachment and deeply held fears of rejection and abandonment. Love avoidance and sex addiction are issues that often go hand-in-hand because both are, at their core, intimacy disorders.

Early Attachment Issues

For a sex addict, insecure attachment is often at the root of these behaviors. Attachment patterns often have to do with how a person learned to self soothe and seek comfort from others. Insecure attachment often leads to dysfunction in a person’s ability to self-regulate and coping with distress later in life.

Insecure attachment is far more common among sex addicts than among their healthy counterparts. This article eloquently describes how someone with insecure attachment may use seduction as a replacement for intimacy.

Seduction as a Substitute for Intimacy

Many sex addicts demonstrate similar patterns of moving quickly from one romantic relationship to the next, remaining in a constant state of intensity, image management and emotional turbulence. These behaviors are often part of the conquest and relationship types of sex addiction. Romance, seduction and intrigue are the true goals of this behavior; the sex addict appears more interested in winning than in connecting.

For a healthy, intimate relationship to develop, the normal sense of intense infatuation in a new relationship─ which is partly based in fear─ is replaced over time with a more stable, companionate type of relationship based in intimacy, stability and trust. This signals a transition into a deeper level of connection.

But for the sex addict, this stability is often experienced as boring. The lack of intense emotion may even feel like abandonment. So, the addict typically either initiates chaos in the relationship or moves on to the next relationship in order to re-enter the infatuation stage.

While this intensity-seeking process is happening on the surface, a deeper pattern of avoiding true intimacy is propelling it from within. The sex addict often has a set of core beliefs centered on a low sense of value and worth. So, the possibility of being intimate and truly known by another person elicits strong fears of rejection and abandonment.

Stopping Destructive Patterns

Stopping destructive patterns of seduction is the most immediate goal in therapy at Gentle Path. The calm and quiet period of time that follows may create space for sex addict to introspect and practice emotion regulation without their old intensity-seeking mechanisms─ creating chaos and distraction─ to rely on.

But, the most difficult work takes place when the sex addict begins the brave journey of connecting in a relationship without using old patterns of seduction. Allowing oneself to be truly known, rather than projecting an image of what the other person wants or needs, may leave the addict feeling more exposed and vulnerable than ever before. It is this vulnerability that paves the way for true intimacy and connection to be built.

Thursday, 25 June 2015 00:00

Why Sex Addiction Isn't About Sex

Marie Woods, LMFT, CSAT

Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows

When our culture hears about a person with sex addiction, often the automatic assumption is that he (or she) must like a lot of sex. In light of the nature of their behaviors, sex addicts are also often labeled as perverted, creepy, or strange.

These distorted perceptions aren’t just limited to the public, but are often among the core beliefs that sex addicts have about themselves. As patients engage in treatment and begin to understand themselves better, they often begin to realize that their behaviors are not solely about the sex itself, but about some larger constructs.

IT’S ABOUT COPING SKILLS

As a treating therapist, I’m aware from the moment a patient enters my office, that the symptoms associated with sex addiction have less to do with sex, and more to do with limited coping skills for what is often an intense amount of pain. This is not to say that the sexual behaviors are excusable, but it does help us to shift the focus from the stigma of sex addiction and onto its possible underlying causes.

THE ROLE OF TRAUMA IN SEX ADDICTION

For many sex addicts, their problematic sexual behaviors developed early in their lives as a way to deal with significant stressors or trauma. For example, compulsive masturbation often stems from a child’s early learning about how to self-soothe in a chaotic home environment. At its onset, this coping skill was not necessarily problematic. But for sex addicts, the behavior becomes problematic when they do not acquire a more expansive set of coping skills as they continue to develop. This is just one example of the many ways in which engaging in normal and pleasurable sexual behavior may develop into problematic sexual behavior.

It is important to recognize that in our most functional human state we use a variety of coping mechanisms, including positive sexual behavior, to regulate ourselves, and that is not necessarily pathological or problematic. What can become compulsive, and perhaps problematic, is when this is one of our only coping mechanisms to regulate stress and anxiety over time.

FINDING THE ROOT CAUSES

As treatment providers, we work with patients to look at both the sexual behavior itself, and also at what may drive it. Sex addicts often have an immense amount of shame around their sexual behavior, so it’s important to help them understand any connections that may exist between specific sexual behaviors and their pasts.

But, some of their unwanted sexual behaviors are more about activating a part of the brain that allows them to numb out, dissociate, fantasize, or even feel deprived in order to provide some temporary relief from their emotional pain. In these cases, we would want to spend some time focusing on why a patient may choose these ways of responding, and what other coping skills they may need to develop in order to feel better about themselves rather than perpetuate the cycle of toxic shame they experience after engaging in their addictive behaviors.

CREATING LASTING CHANGE

The vast majority of addicts that we work with express an adamant desire to stop engaging in the use of alcohol, drugs, and to stop acting out sexually. Many of them can also identify numerous failed attempts to stop their behavior.

Before we make assumptions about what the behaviors associated with sex addiction mean, it is worth stepping back and considering the bigger picture. Moving towards lasting change with sex addiction means that we must examine both the behaviors themselves and the stories surrounding them. This opens the door for compassion, which is an essential component of the process of healing from sex addiction.

Marie Woods, LMFT,CSAT

Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows

If you are reading this, you probably know the pain of discovering the once hidden, out of control sexual behaviors of someone you love. These discoveries are often what catapult sex addicts into treatment. Following the discovery, there was likely some sort of intervention, and expedient efforts to find help. That process likely took up a lot of your time, attention, and energy until they were finally admitted to treatment. At that point, you may have felt some temporary relief, like you could finally breathe again.

Unfortunately, though, the distraction of getting the addict into treatment is now gone, and you are left with your thoughts, worries, and anxieties over what is to come. You may start to feel alone, isolated, and even resentful that the addict is getting all of the help. You may find it difficult to sit with the knowledge of the discovery because you have so many thoughts and unanswered questions. What should you do?

Take Care of Yourself

Now that the addict is in a safe environment, utilize this time to engage (or re-engage) in your own self care. In the midst of the chaos of addiction your own physical and emotional care usually takes a big hit. So, utilize the time to reconnect with yourself. This might include engaging in a moderate amount of physical exercise, taking reflective walks, taking a long hot bath, meditating, leisure reading, or engaging in other hobbies that you enjoy.

Give Yourself Some Space

At some point, you may have a desire ─sometimes a very strong one─ to try to sort things out with the addict. You may think that if they could just answer your questions, then you could make sense of this whole situation, and order in your life could be restored. The truth, however, is that the behaviors that occurred as part of active addiction are irrational. They won’t ever make sense.

Furthermore, the addict engaging in treatment at the inpatient level is in no position to understand and convey the nature of his or her addiction yet either. By giving in to the urge to sort things out right now, you run the risk of increasing your anxiety and feeling more hurt and pain.

At most sex addiction treatment centers, including Gentle Path at the Meadows, patients are highly encouraged to limit their communication with the outside world. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is to help them stay focused and engaged in treatment in order to initiate their healing process as quickly as possible. The other is to prevent any further hurt and damage to their relationships with others. Sex addiction has often already caused a lot of pain, chaos, and turmoil. Although we cannot change that, we can help prevent future damage. So, it’s important for both you and the addict to take advantage of the built- in time away from communication that treatment provides.

Find Support

In addition to your loved one, you also deserve to be supported through this process. That’s why it’s a good idea for you to build your own support network. Family members are highly encouraged to seek out their own therapist to assist them in navigating through the emotional maze of sex addiction. It would be ideal to choose a therapist that is familiar with sex addiction; however, the most important thing is that you connect with, and feel supported by, your therapist.

Although the inpatient treatment team may reach out to you for collateral information or to coordinate Family Week, their role is to help connect you with more substantial ongoing support rather than serving as your primary support. You may also consider confiding in a few close friends and family members who you trust, and who understand your situation. Additionally, there are also a variety of support groups, both twelve-step and otherwise, that can be helpful as well.

Keep Sight of What’s Important

As you read them, these points may seem obvious, but in the midst of the chaos of addiction we often lose sight of what’s important. Gentle loving reminders such as these can help bring us back to reality. Shifting the focus from where it has often been (on the addict) can be hard because it slows you down, and often brings up emotions that have been buried for a long time. As you embark on this journey, it is important to be gentle with yourself. Changing and developing new patterns is not easy.

Keep in mind, though, the growth that will result for you and your family member may end up changing your relationship with them and your lives in ways that are far better than you could have hoped!

 

Gentle Path at The Meadows has announced the addition of Couples Recovery Workshop to its services available to patients. Designed by Kenneth M. Adams, PhD, CSAT, with input from over a dozen leading national experts and Gentle Path at The Meadows clinical and executive teams, this program emphasizes hope for couples struggling with sexual addiction to recover trust and intimacy in their relationship.

"This unique program offers couples a one-of-a-kind opportunity to heal from the impact of sex addiction through a series of intensive workshops that track specifically the couple’s needs from disclosure to renewal,” said Adams. “Long overdue, it is my sincere hope that this program becomes an important contribution to the support of couples wanting to rebuild shattered lives."

The Couples Recovery Workshop, based on a developmental model of couple's healing from the impact of sexual addiction, encompasses sound clinical and research-based components of sex addiction, complex partner trauma, and couples treatment. Workshop participants can choose from three specific modules that can be taken together or separately to shape treatment for optimal timing and needs. Modules include:

  • Disclosure: From Secrecy to Transparency
  • Impact: From Recognition to Amends
  • Reconciliation: From Grief to Renewal

Allan Benham, Executive Director for Gentle Path at The Meadows, says, “This workshop is an exciting addition to our sex addiction treatment program. It offers couples a chance to address the impact of sexual addiction on the couple in a supportive, respectful, and caring format.” He adds, “We’re excited about this workshop helping us to more completely serve all of those who are impacted by this disease and working with the providers who send us their suffering couples to work with by providing specific written follow-up plans after each workshop module to guide the couple and their on-going treatment provider.”

Gentle Path at The Meadows is a confidential inpatient treatment center for men 18 and older who battle sexual addiction, relationship addiction, and sexual anorexia. To learn more about Gentle Path at The Meadows’ work, contact an intake coordinator at 855-333-6076 or visit www.gentlepathmeadows.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding Karpman's Triangle

Marie Woods, LMFT, CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at The Meadows

In relationships, individuals tend to develop a predictable pattern of acting and reacting to one another that they become accustomed to. This dynamic is sometimes referred to as their dance. This can often be a rather beautiful thing, as the dance metaphor implies, however, in relationships in which there is a great deal of conflict, these patterns can keep couples stuck in rather unhealthy patterns. Relationships in which these problematic patterns present are also often characterized by elements such as high reactivity, over control, manipulation, blaming, and other elements of dysfunction including addiction, for example.

The concept of the Karpman Triangle developed by Psychiatrist Stephen Karpman is a great illustration to help couples become more aware of this dynamic, and also learn how to change it. Within this concept, there are three primary roles that an individual may play. They include the victim/martyr, perpetrator/offender, and the rescuer/enabler. Individuals tend to play one role most predominately in their relationships with others, but in the process they often move around while typically still landing back where they started. The victim/martyr tends to have unrealistic expectations and avoids sharing their thoughts and feelings while blaming others. The perpetrator/offender tends to engage in a number of acting out behaviors that are offensive or harmful to others, or to themselves. The rescuer/enabler often engages in caretaking behaviors and sometimes serves as the pseudo-peacemaker in the relationship. Although these roles can play out in a variety of different ways, one of the most common dynamics is two individuals moving between victim and perpetrator typically followed at some point by one of them moving into the rescuer/enabler role to temporarily alleviate the problem.

In couples where sex addiction is present there is an obvious victim-perpetrator dynamic. The individual engaging in sexual acting out behaviors through lies, deception, and secrets, is operating in the role of the perpetrator/offender, and the partner is the victim of this behavior. Typically, when the partner discovers the sexual acting out behavior, they may stay in the victim role, and remain in a very painful place filled with constant self-loathing and blame. What is also common is that they can become aggressive and offensive towards the perpetrating partner and thus move into the perpetrator role (not to be confused with righteous anger). In this moment, the sex addict partner would be in the victim role. This movement from perpetrator to victim and vice versa can happen very quickly. In fact, individuals in a relationship can move back and forth between these roles numerous times in a matter of minutes. Because this exchange is exhausting, one person usually attempts to “fix” the situation. This can look like asking for “cheap forgiveness,” being overly compliant, or even showing extra affection despite their true feelings.

You might be wondering what is wrong with this attempt to repair the relationship hurts. The truth is that in healthier relationships where there is not a lot of underlying hurt and dysfunction it often does work because it offers temporary respite from the disagreement, and both individuals typically engage in the repairing at different times, so there is some balance. In more dysfunctional relationships, such as those where addiction exists, these superficial dynamics don’t really create lasting change. This is because they don’t really address the underlying problem that is often that each partner feels disrespected, unheard and misunderstood.

When presented with the Karpman’s Triangle, many individuals can quickly identify their primary and secondary roles. They can often see how the content of their disagreements in a relationship change, but the same patterns emerge. The difficult part is learning how to change that dynamic, or “get off the triangle”. For each role, there is a respective antidote that will most effectively allow an individual to step out of that role. For the victim/martyr, the most critical thing for them to do is to begin taking responsibility. This means identifying and owning their part in the problem. For the perpetrator/offender, they need to learn to negotiate. This means that they are not always right, and will need to work with others to create a situation where both people walk away satisfied. For the rescuer/enabler, their solution is in realizing that they have options, so it is their choice to try and fix a situation, or to step back and let each adult discern a solution for themselves. Real change tends to happen when individuals engage in these alternatives roles. Often, when they begin to see that the conflict is rarely about the topic at hand, they can begin to address deeper issues requiring more vulnerability and allowing them to move closer to true intimacy.

Contact Gentle Path at The Meadows Today

Every journey begins with one step. To learn more about the Gentle Path at The Meadows program or if you have an immediate need, please contact us or call 855-333-6076.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 00:00

GQ Tackles Sex Addiction

The Many Faces Of Sexual Addiction

The article entitled “Insatiable: The Real Lives of Sex Addicts” in the May issue of GQ magazine is a positive step in helping to overcome the stigma attached to sexual addiction. The media can serve as a source of much-needed education when it allows people to understand the pain associated with sexual addiction, and sometimes get in touch with their own difficulties associated with the multitude of behaviors of sex addicts. Sexual addiction is like any other addiction, and there is more and more neuroscience evidence to support this fact. Unfortunately, the media also glamorizes sexual addiction at times, which impedes the process of raising awareness about its true nature. Casting the struggles that some high profile individuals have with sexual addiction in a positive light leads people to believe that sexual addiction is just an excuse for people to engage in affairs or that it’s appropriate and celebrated celebrities get to have lots of sex while lay people who engage in the same behaviors are frequently vilified.

The article in GQ magazine, which was written by Nathaniel Penn, addresses the plethora of “hookup” apps like Tinder and Grindr as ways that individuals find sexual liaisons; the number of professionals seeking sex addiction therapy training doubling since 2008, the lack of insurance coverage for sex addiction; and the increasing popularity of Sex Addicts Anonymous as a 12 Step Group for sex addiction growing by 10 percent each year for the past decade. The article focuses on a potpourri of individuals—from all walks of life—who have struggled with or who still struggle with sexual addiction and through that we see the wide range of behaviors associated with this addiction.

NO INSURANCE COVERAGE

As the GQ article rightfully states, the absence of a DSM code is a deterrent in that it doesn’t allow sexual addiction treatment to be covered by health insurance nor does it provide funding for much-needed research. The sexual addiction research currently being conducted is largely funded through private donations from organizations like the American Foundation for Addiction Research (AFAR).

On a brighter note, the recent inclusion of Internet gaming and gambling disorder in the DSM has bolstered credibility for the recognition of non-substance related addictions, paving the path for sexual addiction to be recognized in the near future. Hopefully, in the interim, the media will continue to portray sexual addiction in an honest light in order to reduce its stigma and to open the door for people to become more educated about the true nature of this painful addiction.

SEXUAL ADDICTION ON THE RISE

While most sex addicts have a history of trauma and tend to come from certain specific family structures, we’re witnessing an increasing number of sex addicts in recent years whose addiction did not seem to have these typical precursors. One of the reasons for this shift is the proliferation of the adult entertainment industry, online pornography, and the widespread availability of hookup sites such as Tinder and Grindr. This landscape allows people to become addicted to sex because these types of technology-assisted sexual behaviors are strong enough to stimulate the brain beyond what it was originally designed to tolerate.

SEXUAL ADDICTION IS DIVERSE

Sexual addiction has one of the most diverse manifestations of any addiction. When you’re working with alcoholics, it really doesn’t matter what they’re drinking, it could be beer, wine, or vodka and abstinence from alcohol is the goal. Individuals who suffer from alcoholism know what they have to stay away from. When you’re dealing with sex addicts, their behavior manifests in so many different ways and understanding the specific behaviors reveals important clues as to how to treat the addiction because different behaviors are treated in different ways. While one person may act out through juggling multiple relationships, another person may turn to prostitutes or child pornography. Certain behaviors may be intended to meet different underlying unmet needs and wants or they may be manifestations of various types of unresolved childhood trauma. No matter how the sex addict is acting out in their disease, a life in recovery from sex addiction still has healthy sexual activity in it. Sex addicts must find a healthy relationship with sex in order to live a healthy life. Therein lies one of the challenges of treating sex addiction.

UNRESOLVED EMOTIONAL TRAUMA

The vast majority of sex addicts suffer from some sort of physical, sexual or relational trauma, which lies at the core of their addiction. Sex addicts often do not believe they have any inherent worth or value and typically don’t believe they can rely on other people to meet their needs, making it difficult for them to be honest, authentic and vulnerable enough to sustain long-term relationships. These faulty core beliefs come from childhood as we learn what to expect from other people from our primary caregivers when we’re young.

BRIEF SCREEN

Developed by Patrick Carnes, PATHOS is a brief screen for sex addiction that is composed of six questions. Using a cutoff score of three, the PATHOS correctly identifies 88.3% of male sex addicts. In such cases, individuals should be assessed for sexual addiction.

RECOVERY IS WITHIN REACH

At Gentle Path at The Meadows, we acknowledge the contribution of underlying trauma and insecure attachment to the development of adult addictions and relational problems. At the same time, we hold patients accountable by asking them to take responsibility for how their maladaptive behaviors have negatively impacted and even harmed other people. At Gentle Path at The Meadows, the difficult journey of working through trauma and being accountable for one’s addiction takes place in an environment that is strengthened by peer support. Our clients can comfortably share their stories with each other and build healthy friendships with other males who are also in sexual addiction recovery. When men gather together with the intention of changing the core of who they are, without distraction and fear of stigma from the outside world, a container of safety is created. This safe container in treatment creates the foundation of peer support that will continue to be fortified through continued participation in the 12-step recovery fellowship.

 

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