Notes on Sex Addiction from Dorothy’s Presentation to the BDSM Community


Reclaim Sexual Sanity:  Find Recovery Now by Calling 212-673-5717 for an Initial Consultation.  See www.sextreatment.com for 35 full-length articles about sex addiction and for details about my private practice.

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I recently did a presentation on “Sex Addiction in the BDSM community” for a room-full of kinksters.  You can only imagine the level of addiction that shrouds our “alternative lifestyle” cousins.I’m posting my notes, as they may be of interest.
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What is sex addiction?(Is it addiction or just a bad habit?)First – let us consider what sex addition is NOT:  Sex addition is not defined by sexual desire.  Sex addiction is not defined by the type of sexual act performed.  It isn’t defined by the frequency or the form of sexual activity.  So you’re FORM of sexual expression has nothing to do with sex addiction – unless it does.

Rather, sex addiction is defined by persistent sexual urges, cravings, fantasies and behaviors designed to address non-sexual, emotional needs that the person feels ill-equipped to get met in healthy, related, connected ways.   Sex addiction is a pathological relationship to your own sexuality.

How can it be an addiction?

  • o    When the sex addict is acting-out  – he is experiencing three basic types of neurochemical responses: arousal, satiation, or an increase in fantasy or preoccupation with the object/behavior.
  •  Mood-altering behaviors can create the same central nervous system responses as mood-altering substances, and often the behaviors and substances are used in combination. Behaviors associated with sex addiction trigger neurochemical reactions similar to those produced by many psychoactive drugs. In other words sex addicts become addicted to the neurochemical changes that take place in the body during sexual behavior.  
  • Sex addiction is an obsessive relationship to sexual thoughts, fantasies or activities that an individual continues to engage in despite adverse consequences. These thoughts, fantasies or activities occupy a disproportionate amount of “psychic space” in the person’s mind.  This results in an imbalance in the person’s overall functioning in important areas of life, such as work, intimate connections, friendships and recreational activities.
  • Distress, shame and guilt about the behaviors erode the addict’s already weak self-esteem.
  • Sexual addiction can be thought of as an intimacy disorder Central to the disorder is the inability of the individual to adequately bond, connect and attach in intimate relationships.   Usually because early-life attachments to parental figures seemed dangerous and inconsistent, the person eschews reaching out to others to get emotional needs met and turns within himself.   He comes to replace intimacy with intense sexual pleasure.  He confuses intensity with intimacy.
  • Sex addiction is a narcissistic endeavor with self-centered sexual pleasure as an abiding goal and value that results in the devaluation of other human beings.  People become no more than need-satisfying objects with no needs or wishes of their own.  Others sense this objectification and avoid connection and contact with the addict, thus increasing his alienation and isolation. In desperation, some individuals try to make an illusory connection with others through highly impersonal intimate behaviors: empty affairs, frequent visits to prostitutes, voyeurism, exhibitionism, frotteurism, cybersex, sexual arousal to objects, etc.
  • Because he has eschewed intimate connections and has withdrawn into himself, the addict lives in alienation and isolation.  Sex addiction is usually a secretive, private affair. LYING  and DECEIT may be part of the deal.

                                                          The Erotic Haze

Every sex addict experiences an immersion in what I have called the “Erotic Haze.”  This is a period of time that may last 4-5 hours or longer.  The body bathes the brain in pleasure-enhancing endorphins.

The unconscious mind overpowers the conscious mind, making it impossible to make rational decisions.  The sex addict fails to account for his own enlightened self-interest or the feelings of others.

Fantasy is the fodder of a person in the “Erotic Haze”. In many cases, sex addicts perform some form of ritualized behavior.  This usually precedes a sexual act. For example, an addict may cruise in a car for hours looking for just the right sex worker.  He gets pleasure from the ritual.

When the sex addict is in this mental state, his needs are what matter most of all.  He feels no anxiety about responding to the needs of another.  There is no fear of closeness, vulnerability or rejection.  To him, nothing feels as if it is a compromise.  All that exists is the pleasure of the sexual fulfillment.  It is the only time in a sex addict’s life that he knows perfect control over the “other,” and this is distinctly unlike what he experienced as a child.

The “Erotic Haze” is a totally compelling state, one in which sex addicts are totally preoccupied.  When in the Haze, the person is “dissociated”, meaning he’s checked out from himself and the reality around him.  Dissociation is a state associated with Multiple Personality Disorder and it damages the functional integrity of personality.  It has a de-unifying, disintegrating effect of the person’s identity.

  • Sex addicts have a private life and a public life.  I’ve observed a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” experience in my clients with each side of the personality having different and conflicting values and goals.
  • o Secrecy and deceit are the hallmarks of the Mr. Hyde persona.
  • o Uneasiness, shame, guilt and fear of exposure are the constant companions of Dr. Jekyll.
  •  The sex addict uses sex as a quick fix, or as a form of medication for anxiety, pain,loneliness, stress, sleep deprivation, boredom, feelings of self-loathing, existential emptiness, physical pain, distress over marital conflicts, guilt, worry and depression.  Entrance into a sexual pleasure trance (a/k/a “The Erotic Haze”) is a magic elixir that instantly annihilates many of the emotional experiences that most of us deal with from time to time and that make us human.
  • Sexual addiction is often accompanied by other addictions, such as an addiction
  •  to work, alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • There is Recurrent failure to resist impulses to engage in sexual acting out.  These
  •  recurrent failures to control impulses erode already fragile self esteem.  Shame is
  •  fodder in which sex addiction thrives.
  •  Frequently engaging in sexual behaviors to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended (loss of control)
  •  Inordinate amount of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from
  •           sexual experience.
  • ·           Preoccupation with the behavior or ritualistic preparatory activities. (Cruising the
  •           hooker spots in your car).
  •           Frequently engaging in sexual behavior when expected to fulfill occupational,                          academic, domestic, or social obligations.  Students who spend 14 hours looking at internet porn when they should be studying.  A father who misses his kid’s birthday because of sexual pre-occupation or acting out.
  •          Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, academic, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused by the behavior.  (Continuation despite adverse consequences).
  •            Need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk of behaviors to achieve the desired effect, Similar to “tolerance” in the alcoholic. Talk about guy with kiddie porn arrest.
  •           Experience of distress, anxiety, restlessness, or violence if unable to engage in the behavior.
  •       Withdrawal, (as in alcohol and drug addiction) as manifested by either of the following:
  • o    The addict craves his “dopamine” rush and feels imbalanced by the drop in the “pleasure” neuro-chemicals resulting from the cessation of the behavior.  Without the “erotic haze”, the person is faced with the entirety of the unwanted internal states he had eradicated with sex.  He has Problems with dealing adaptively with realistic issues because of lack of higher coping mechanisms.
  • oTHEN the same behavior is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.  (Called the addictive cycle). Sexual behavior becomes less about pleasure and more about eliminating the distress of NOT doing the behavior (avoiding withdrawal) (At some point alcoholics stop experiencing the pleasure of drinking and drink just to relieve withdrawal symptoms)
  •  Sex addiction is a narcissistic endeavor with self-centered sexual pleasure as an abiding goal and value that devalues other human beings.  People become no more than need-satisfying objects with no needs or wishes of their own.  Others sense this objectification and avoid connection and contact with the addict, thus increasing his alienation and isolation. In desperation, some individuals try to make an illusory connection with others through highly impersonal intimate behaviors: empty affairs, frequent visits to prostitutes, voyeurism, exhibitionism, frotteurism, cybersex, sexual arousal to objects, etc.
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