Withdrawal and Progression are Part of the Addictive Process

Withdrawal from Addiction

Withdrawal is a state of extreme distress

Withdrawal as a Long-Term Reality in the Recovery Process

The distress experienced when an addicted person ceases using his drug of choice is called withdrawal.  Especially with Internet Porn addiction, continual abuse of the dopamine spikes that are released in the process of high intensity, super-stimulating sexual arousal is followed by a period of dopamine depletion.  It may take 6-8 weeks for the brain to “reboost” to a normal level of functioning.

Part of the pain of withdrawal is created by physical damage and the body’s need for the endorphins and chemicals created by the state of sexual arousal.  Part of the pain is caused by a psychological reaction to losing the primary method of coping with feelings and external stressors of daily living – emergence in the “erotic haze”.

At one point people believed that withdrawal from any mood-changing drug or behavior lasted for about seven days.  More current thinkers about addiction believe that withdrawal is a long-term process and may last for months or even years into sobriety.  This long-term withdrawal may last for months or even years into sobriety.  This long-term withdrawal, called post acute withdrawal (PAW) will be discussed in upcoming posts.

Addiction as a Progressive Disease — The Stages of Addiction

The stages of addiction

An alcoholic will develop a predictable series of alcohol-based symptoms.  The symptoms progress through three stages that parallel the stages of sex and porn addiction.  In the early stage it is very difficult to distinguish addictive from    nonaddictive use because there are few outward symptoms.  The body’s neurochemistry is gradually changing and adapting to the regular ingestion of the drug or the sexual “rush”.

The major symptom of early stage addiction is increasing tolerance.  People who are becoming addicted can usually use larger and larger quantities without becoming intoxicated and without suffering harmful consequences.  Internet porn users can spend longer and longer time on the computer which is simply experienced as enjoyment without negative consequences.

While most diseases create immediate impairments in functioning, this disease appears in the early stage as a benefit, enabling the affected person to enjoy the euphoria of the “erotic haze” without paying any of the penalties.

All the while, physical and psychological dependence — though hidden — is growing so there is no longer just a desire for sexual arousal but a need to experience the intense sexual excitement of Internet porn.  Alcoholics undergo changes in the liver and nervous system in order to tolerate larger quantities of the chemical and even larger amounts are need to achieve the same effect.

For users of Internet pornography, the person must gradually increase the amount of time engaged in pornography (in my client base, often from five to 14 (!) hours a day).  As the disease progresses, the porn addict requires more and more novelty, risk and deviance to achieve the same state of sexual arousal he achieved at the beginning of his involvement with pornography.

The middle stage of addiction, then, is marked by a progressive loss of control as the person is no longer able to use the same quantities or intensity of sexual experience, without experiencing life problems.  Not using creates pain.  The experience of intense sexual arousal is needed to relieve the pain created by not having the experience of intensive sexual arousal.

Friends and family begin to notice problems:  decreased performance on the job, chronic sleep deprivation, marital problems, perhaps legal problems.  At his point in the progression, the addicted person is not choosing the problem behavior.  It is part of the disease.  The person cannot, through willpower, choose to regulate his behaviors around viewing porn.  The hallmark of all addictions, loss of control, sets in.  The only alternative to continued problems and progression of the disease process is treatment and total abstinence.

The chronic stage of the addiction is marked by deterioration in all significant areas of life.  Short-term memory is affected.  The “executive functions” of the frontal lobes of the brain — the ability to think rationally, to make adaptive choices, to regulate impulses and feelings — are impacted.  Loss of sexual and emotional intimacy with a partner create marital stress or divorce.  Children are emotionally neglected.  Lifetime goals and objectives that were once meaningful become more and more irrelevant.

Activities that interfere with using are given up.  Getting ready to use, using and recovering from using become the central life activities of addicted people.  They structure their lives to protect and hid their using.  They break promises, forget commitments, lie — all to be able to use.  Isolation is common.  Connections to friends and family are severed.  Life is consumed by disregulated, compulsive sexual behaviors.

http://www.sextreatment.com

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