Sex addiction comes in many forms. Many people don’t realize that the disease is related to early childhood development and that it becomes progressively worse, as is the case with all addictions. Here are six little-known sex addiction symptoms that impact normal sexual and social development.
1. Inability to Make Healthy Connections
Researchers believe the problem often has to do with an individual’s attachment style, which is established in the way they bond ―or do not ― with primary caregivers. Insecure attachment occurs if a child experiences trauma, abandonment ― physical or emotional ― or any other negativity from caregivers that causes early trust issues. As infants they become avoidant and this pattern continues into adulthood as they seek relationships without emotional attachment.
2. Masturbation May Be the Only Sex They Know
Young boys with attachment disorders learn to self-soothe through masturbation and many discover sex on the screen. Many have never held a girl’s hand or asked anyone out on a date. They sequester themselves to masturbate. This extreme behavior has the same impact on the brain as if they were doing drugs every day. Their brain isn’t developing or learning to socialize so they grow up with few or no tools for healthy relational intimacy.
3. Contact with Women Exists in Fantasy Worlds
Their concept of relationships is distorted because it’s based on porn actresses or sex workers. One man explained his compulsion with strippers: “I pay them money and they tell me what I want to hear, and they do whatever I want.” If a strip club or sex club is the first physical exposure to women, they don’t develop the skills for normal relationships. Through paying sex workers, they develop a false sense of control over sexual relationships.
4. Porn Choices Become More Extreme
As the disease progresses, their arousal template expands along with the need for riskier, more taboo sex. One example prevelant in many middle-aged, heterosexual sex addicts is a graduation to transsexual porn. Regular porn doesn’t do it for them anymore. Some will eventually begin seeing transsexual prostitutes. These men are often not bisexual, but this is where the progression has taken them.
5. Leading a Double Life
True intimacy remains elusive and married addicts look for ways to fulfill compulsions in front of their computers ― or outside of the home ― hiding their activities from spouses. An addict may invent a business trip in order to sequester themselves in a hotel room to excessively view porn, spend hours on the Internet or hire prostitutes — or all of the above. Binges can get more intense. One man traveled to Thailand for massages that came with sexual favors. The low price allowed him to have relations with several different women each day (although he told his wife he was attending a conference). Because they have this compartmentalized double life, they are always on guard about what they say to their significant others for fear of a verbal “slip up.” Honesty, communication and intimacy are impossible in this scenario.
6. Crossing the Line is Inevitable
Ultimately, as sex addiction symptoms increase, a sex addict can get into trouble with the law. One man told the story of watching women undress in summer camp, and years later stalking a woman he liked for a chance to masturbate while looking at her. Another could not stop from exposing himself on the subway and ended up getting punched by a female passenger. Another moved toward illegal porn and flirted with the chance of a jail sentence. As the disease progresses, the need for risk increases ― and the chance of losing everything heightens.
Sexual addiction is an outward grab for inner security. Recovery is discovering that the important things have been inside all along. The process of recovery requires learning how to be honest and vulnerable (initially with other recovering sex addicts). If the acting out ceases and sobriety begins, underlying issues that have been medicated (sometimes for decades) will surface and need to be addressed in a healthy, holistic manner. For many, the bonding that happens, especially on an inpatient basis, is the first time they haven’t shamefully hidden who they are. At that point, recovery is possible.