Monthly Archives: December 2012

Understanding the Nature of Addiction

addiced brain

Beating an addiction to Internet Porn is tough.  The relapse rate among recovering porn addicts is very high.  It’s unusual to find any amount of long-term abstinence in the “S” meetings.  This can give way to feelings of hopelessness and despair about ever being able to get the monkey off your back.

With that in mind, I’ll be writing a series of posts about understanding relapse and learning to incorporating a strong set of relapse prevention skills into your Sexual Recovery Plan.

The Disease of Addiction

“Addiction” is a condition in which a person develops a bio-psycho-social dependence on any mood-changing substance or experience.  An addiction causes a person to use a drug or behavior for short-term gratification.  But there is a high price to be exacted.  Addiction satisfies immediate needs for gratification but creates long-term pain and discomfort.  Addiction is accompanied by obsession, compulsion and loss of control.  When not engaged in the behavior, the person is preoccupied with using again.  He thinks about, plans and looks forward to using again.  This is the obsession.  Using interferes with living, but there is a compulsion to give way to the irresistible impulse to engage.  An addicted person uses to relieve the pain created by using.  Thus the continued engagement in the “erotic haze” leads to continued engagement in the “erotic haze”.  This is addiction.

Lack of the Freedom to Choose

Addiction is distinguished from use and abuse by the lack of freedom of choice.  Using the mood-altering experience of viewing porn.  Addiction, however, is a condition that robs a person of choice and dictates the frequency, the quantity and the nature of use.  All addiction begins with use, but all use does not lead to addiction.  In fact, only 10% of the people who view Internet porn become addicted.

Addiction is a physical disease.  It is properly classified with heart disease and diabetes as a chronic illness that produces long-term physical, psychological and social damage.  We’ve already addressed the issues surrounding the abuse of one’s own brain chemicals as a primary cause of Internet porn addiction.

While addiction is primarily a physical syndrome, it is affected by and affects all areas of a person’s life.  For this reason we call addiction a bio-psycho-social illness.  “Bio” means biological or of the body.  “Psycho” means psychological or of the mind.  “Social” refers to relationships among people.

The study of brain chemicals that affect the transmission of messages by nerve cells is advancing the understanding of addiction.  But the answers give rise to new questions.  The process of chemical action in the brain is very complex, but it is clear that the brain chemistry of an addicted person is different in a non-addicted person.

People begin viewing porn for psycho-social reasons.  The “erotic haze” makes them feel good (a psychological reason) or because the “guys” do it (social reasons).  At some point, people become addicted for physical reasons.  They develop tolerance; it takes more time spent in the “erotic haze”, more novelty, more risk, more deviance to give them the same rush they got in the beginning of use.  This leads to dependence.  The body comes to need the particular effect of certain combinations of endorphins and chemicals (spikes of dopamine).  Absence of these chemicals will result in physical withdrawal causing intense, uncomfortable feelings of distress.

The more people use the state of sexual arousal to feel good, the less they learn to use healthier, more effective ways to cope with feelings, situations and people.  They do not use, or forget to use, other methods of coping.  Dependence then becomes psycho-social as well as physical.  All areas of life are affected.

The tragedy of Internet porn addiction is that it inhibits a person’s growth and development.  The addict becomes developmentally “stuck” at an adolescent phase of living and fails to achieve the rewards of psychological maturity.

http://www.sextreatment.com

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Why Online Porn May Make Your Forget

A man sitting at his computer has a headache.
CREDIT: Headache photo via Shutterstock

Though some people find porn entertaining, they don’t necessarily remember what they’ve seen. That’s because viewing Internet pornography may interfere with short-term memory, according to new research.

The study is the first to examine the influence that processing pornographic pictures has on working memory. The part of the brain responsible for keeping information in the mind while using it to complete a task, working memory is critical for understanding, reasoning, problem solving and decision-making.

German researchers asked 28 men — all heterosexual, and averaging 26 years of age — to look at a number of computer images. Some images were pornographic and some were nonsexual. The nonsexual images included pictures of people doing a number of activities, such as laughing, playing sports or carrying a weapon.

As the volunteers viewed the pictures, they touched a “yes” or “no” key to indicate whether or not the picture they were seeing was the same as one they had seen four slides previously.

The men logged a significantly greater number of incorrect answers when they viewed the porn than when they saw the nonsexual images.  On average, they answered correctly 67 percent of the time when they viewed pornographic pictures but 80 percent of the time when they saw the nonsexual pictures.

Their recollection of porn was poorer even as the men acknowledged feeling higher levels of sexual arousal and an increased urge to masturbate when they looked at the pornographic pictures than when they viewed the nonsexual images.

“Sexual arousal interferes with working memory, an important facet of executive functioning,” said study author Christian Laier, a graduate student studying under psychologist Matthias Brand at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

The study was published in November in the Journal of Sex Research.

According to the researchers, the findings could help psychologists understand why some people with Internet pornography addictions forget to sleep, miss appointments, shirk job responsibilities and neglect relationships.  “Sexual arousal and its impacts on cognitive processes might explain parts of these negative effects,” the researchers wrote.

Previous research has linked the processing of pornographic pictures with areas of the brain responsible for emotion, arousal and attention.

Because the current study focused solely on heterosexual men, it is impossible to say whether the findings would apply to gay men or to women. “This study is a first step,” Laier said. “Our results need to be tested with respect to gender and sexual orientation to verify.”

source:  http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/3366-online-porn-affects-memory.html

 

http://www.sextreatment.com

What to Do When You Want to Quit Porn

guy in a whole

So you’re disgusted with yourself — at the bottom of the pit — and you’re ready to quit porn.  In a cost-benefit analysis, the pain out ways the pleasure.

If you’ve been struggling with porn abuse and Internet sex, you can’t beat this demon alone.  The very nature of addiction implies distortion in your thinking.  You need both the insight that a therapist provides and the accountability that only an objective person can provide.

Please know – change can be a reality IF you take positive action in that direction.

Here are some of the first positive actions you can take after you’ve made the decision that you want change.

  1. Find an accountability partner.  This is a trusted person such as a sponsor or a therapist.  Ideally, you should have a 12-step sponsor and a therapist.  A sponsor is available for you to check in with regarding the changes and commitments you are making.  It would be beneficial if that person has struggled with his own sexual problems and found healing through a 12-step program and/or psychotherapy.
  2. Throw out all pornography.  Tapes, DVD’s videos, CD’s, adult bookstore tokens, computer downloads should be boxed and put in a dumpster at least a mile from your home.  Drop it in and leave it in.
  3. Contact your accountability partner to let him know you have thrown out the porn and commit to not buying more.
  4. Avoid R rated movies.  For people who don’t have sexual problems, these movies are fine.  But right now you’re vulnerable to being triggered.  Avoid the danger places.
  5. Business trips away from home are often a huge trigger.  Call ahead and request that adult movies be blocked in your room.  If at all possible, don’t bring a laptop.  If you  must go online, do so in a public place.  Alternatively, use the hotel business center or a local Internet coffee-house.
  6. Buy and INSTALL porn blocking software.  There are internet filters such as Net Nanny that eliminates access to sexual content.  This is a MUST for those with porn problems who plan on using the Internet again.  Give the access code to your accountability partner or therapist.  Don’t play games and try to defeat the software.
  7. Move your computer(s) to a public place.  Put it in the living room.  If your office computer screen faces away from people walking by, move the screen so others can view what you’re accessing.
  8. Go online for e-mails only.  Let others gather data.  Commit to your accountability partner or therapist that you’ll avoid any unplanned online activity.
  9. Put up photos of your loved ones or family around the computer.

These are the generally acknowledged steps that are recommended as a first plan of action.  These changes may be cumbersome in the beginning.  Make rules for yourself.  In time, rules become habits and these actions will be second nature to you.

In AA terms, you are “putting the plug in the jug”.  Your new routines will be the foundation of the next step — having a recovery plan.

 

http://www.sextreatment.com

Personal Reflections on Recovery

As you may know, I’ve been in recovery for over 30 years through a somewhat active involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous.

I began my clinical career in 1989 working as an intern in a chemical dependency drug and alcohol detox and rehab.  I was then hired as an outpatient counselor at the same organization and then moved on to working in a day-treatment program for adolescent and adult drug/alcohol unit of a hospital.  In between, I worked on an hourly basis at a number of outpatient clinics, seeing people one-on-one and in groups.

I started working in sex addiction in 1999.

Suffice it to say, most of my adult life has been spent recovering from my own addiction and talking in great depth to others who were seeking recovery.  Most succeeded, many did not.

Certainly, over the years, I’ve formulated some thoughts about what the recovery process actually is and what skills and attitudes it takes to get you there.

I can’t stress the importance of group participation and individual therapy enough.  People grow and thrive in the context of caring communities.  While I don’t mandate that my clients attend 12-step meetings, I think they are enormously beneficial in a number of ways.

Addiction thrives in isolation — especially porn addiction.  The first step in recovery is to brake that isolation by being willing to recover with people who are caring and supportive of your efforts.  For myself, I needed an ARMY of people to get me sober.  The group provided a measure of comfort and security that I was seeking in the bottle.  The structure and routing of going to meetings broke my obsessive negative self-ruminations and filled in my unstructured time, which had always been a trigger.

What’s the purpose of listening people tell their dreary stories again and again?

It provides for the process of identification.  When I listen to a person tell my story, or worse, and I see that they have the courage to tell it in front of a group of people, having achieved some level of freedom from active mind and a measure of peace of mind, I gradually begin to believe that I can acquire what others have achieved.

Through identification, I gradually began to feel like a participating member of the human race.  I had a place in the world.  People began recognizing me and saying “Hello, Dorothy”.  It had a palliative effect on my soul.  I belonged somewhere.

As for the attitudes I had to acquire for the process to take hold, I gradually developed a willingness to put my personal view of myself, others and the world aside to open myself to a new way of being.  Self-will was not a luxury I could afford.  Judgements of others in the rooms, while inevitable, needed to be tempered.  I began to strive for an attitude of unconditional acceptance of myself and others.  Only then could the peace of mind begin to enter my beleagured spirit.

The act of surrender with regards to using was key.  Although we get sober a day-at-a-time, I knew in my heart that I could never drink safely again.  That fact became the pivotal truth around which I lived my life for a very long time. I would have to survive, somehow, with the magic elixir that was alcohol.  The feel-good trance that drinking provided me would have to be relinguished.

With time, I learned other ways to manage my intense feelings.  I acquired better coping skills for dealing with life and the people in it.  I started having fun and being interested in various activities and endeavors.  I fell in love and got married.

After four years of recovery, I had enough self-confidence to get a “real” job in the “real” world.  I started out as an administrative assistant.  The department was run my women who had all received MBA’s in Marketing.  I wanted what they had and somehow tapped into enough self-confidence to register for a course in Finance.  I did it once class at a time, one course at a time, and six years later, was awarded an MBA.  I never for a moment thought I could follow through with the program, but AA had taught me some things.  “Act as If”; Just Move the Body”; One Day at A Time”; Just Keep Doing the Next Right Thing”.

I moved along in my marketing career, getting and suceeding at increasingly responsible jobs.  My sense of competency, mastery and self-esteem grew with each.

I worked in business for only about five years before I had a sort of “spiritual awakening” and decided to follow my heart’s path to become a psychotherapist.  I had developed a gnawing intellectual curiosity about how the mind worked.  I received another Master’s degree and then attended a few psychoanalytic training institutes.  I was in my glory!  I was devouring information and knowledge while at the same time using my energies and talents to be of service to others.

I think it’s tougher to beat porn addiction than it is to lick alcohol.  With porn addiction, you carry the source of your own supply in your mind which you can never get away from.  It takes, on average, about two months of abstinence from any artificial sexual stimulation and your brain goes back to being where it was when it came out of the factory.

I often hear clients tell me, with glee, about how much better they fee — emotionally, spiritually and physically.

They’re than ready to move on to Stage Two Recovery.

More on that later.

http://www.sextreatment.com