The Danger of Sexual Addiction
By Chiwuike Uba
I wrote a piece entitled “Addictions: Are You Hooked or In-Hook” in early 2022. The referenced article reviewed the different types of addictions and how they impact our wellbeing. As I mentioned in that article, sexual addictions, work addictions, and religious addictions are rarely discussed. Focus is always on drug and alcohol addictions. Unfortunately, while sexual addictions are deeply rooted in the core values of our society, little or no attention is paid to it. Drugs and sexual addictions are the most shameful. Actually, sex addicts are typically selfish and narcissistic. It is about them each time and until they are sorted, nothing and nobody matters. Sex addicts can be classified as biological sex addicts, psychological sex addicts, trauma-based addicts, spiritual sex addicts, anorexic intimacy addicts, and mood disorder sex addicts.
If you are wondering if you are addicted to sex, you may also want to keep track of the following signs. The truth is that you are addicted to sex if you feel powerless about the manner in which you act sexually, and your sexual choices make your life unmanageable. In addition, you are addicted to sex if you feel shame, embarrassment or even self-disgust about your sexual acts. Finally, you are addicted if you are so concerned about sex that it becomes like a ritual for you and you do not manage to keep your promise to change. Naturally, sexual addiction like other addictions often interferes with sex addict’s ability to live their everyday lives. These individuals have no control over their sexual thoughts, impulses and urges/drive, despite the harmful effects of sexual activity on their relationships, jobs and/or self-esteem. Some sex addicts knowingly have unprotected sex with people who had life threatening STI’s.
Sexual addicts usually are engaged in fetishism, voyeurism, exhibitionism and pedophilia. Sex addicts are also obsessed with sharing nude photos and videos with partners and strangers. Sexual addictions include sexual acts, prostitution, pornography viewing and consumption, masturbation and sexual fantasies, among other things. Despite knowing the consequences, sex addicts may alter their activities to perform sexual acts persistently and unable to control their behavior. The victim may engage in behaviors such as frequenting chat rooms, engaging in personal advertisements, or making obscene telephone calls. Sex addicts often put their desire for sex ahead of family commitments, job responsibilities, and pretty much anything else that is not sex-related.
Researchers believe that between 3% and 10% of the adult population are engaging in addictive sexual behavior. Studies have also shown that men with sex addiction have an average of 32 sexual partners, while females have an average of 22 sexual partners. Furthermore, there is a strong relationship between sexual addiction and childhood trauma. For example, the available data indicates that 72% of people with sex addictions were physically abused, 81% were sexually abused and 97% were emotionally abused during childhood. Sex addicts also frequently contract STDs. About 48% of men and 55% of women with sex addictions have a venereal disease as a result of their behavior. Pregnancy is also a common side effect, which can occur as a result of risky behaviour. In one survey, almost 70% of women with a sexual addiction reported having at least one unwanted pregnancy because of their addiction. The internet, social media and online dating apps contribute largely to the rising cases of sexual addition.
A critical analysis of events in our society suggests that a large number of our youth suffer from sexual addiction. Most of them are not afraid to initiate and engage in sex even in public places – stores, bars, cars and even inside churches. Not too long ago, an incident occurred in a church where condoms were discovered littered over the facility’s toilets and other open places. Members of the Youth organ of the Church were accused to be responsible for the action. During that incident, I and others worked so hard to defend our youth. Nevertheless, in view of recent experience and the information currently available, it is clear that some of them may have committed the alleged act. Some of them take girls and boys to their parents’ house just to have sex with their buddies. Sex addicts have no respect or fear for anyone – not God, not their parents, not their leaders.
Pornography is easier to access than ever with the proliferation of the internet and mobile devices into our homes, workplaces, and social spaces. As a result, people are being exposed to sexually graphic content at earlier ages, with children as young as 8 years old being seeing pornography in the normal course of internet use. Porn and sexting are often the first avenues of exploration for teens as far as sex is concerned. Beware of your teen being abnormally secretive with their devices, using them at unusual times of day or locking their bedroom door. Approximately, 32% of teens say they intentionally access nude or pornographic content online. Forty-three per cent of them do it every week. About 70% stumbled across porn accidently. Unfortunately, only 12% of parents are aware that their teens are accessing pornography. These signals alone are not indicative of a problem because sexual exploration is a normal part of teenage development. But when it becomes near-constant, that may indicate an issue.
Teens sexual addiction manifests itself in self-destructive, defeating and/or high-risk sexual behaviour. Many young people with sexual addictions are exposed to long-term physical and psychological damage, especially as the brain is still developing until the age of 25. In addition, sexual addicts develop a distorted vision of relationships and intimacy. Unfortunately, women are more often than men sexually represented in films, telephone shows, advertisements and billboards. In the same vein, the feminine image is sexualized in music videos, song lyrics, on the internet and in video games. This, naturally has its effect on young and teenage girls and can contribute to developing sexual addiction. Painfully, the stigma around sexual addiction may make parents reluctant to seek help for their addicted children. Counseling is a good resource for overcoming teen sex addiction.
A sexually addicted child continues the behavior in spite of repeated attempts to quit. This situation is made worse by the enormous shame, stigma and public ridicule that still surrounds teens addicted to sex. There is also a tremendous shame on families who have a child who is addicted to sex. One of the reasons that children are often overlooked on a discussion about sexual addiction is because children themselves fail to tell anyone about their struggles. Fear of being alone in their behavior keeps children silent about the disease. Some of them do not start to open up about their history until they are in recovery.
Naturally, parents are perhaps too quick to judge their teenage or young children who may be sexually addicted. However, to help them recover quickly from their sexual addiction, parents need to understand them before judging them. Even if they are misunderstood, it is better to pretend to understand them. Most times, even when these children claim to be mature or have become ‘small adults’, they do not go about the world the same way parents do, or do things for the same reasons’ parents do them, due to their lack of experience and warped knowledge. The majority of them are also influenced by peer pressure, hormones, low self-esteem and lack of social or emotional development. They may also believe that parents do not understand and are still tied to “primitive” thinking, which is not correct. Despite this conflict in time and reasoning, the best approach would be to ask them questions about their position or reasons before passing judgment on the outcome. It works out much better than simply proceeding with assumption that they must be raving idiots because nothing else could explain their behavior.
Typically, someone with a sexual addiction suffers from obsessive sexual thoughts and spends too much time and energy on sex. They spend time not just trying to acquire sex, but also having sex, being sexual or recovering from sexual experiences. Students who are sexually addicted can miss classes as they are fixated on sex to the point where they have difficulty engaging in their other activities. They typically fall short of their academic, professional or personal responsibilities. Many are also so dependent on their phone because it provides them with the platform for online sex, sexting, masturbation, connecting with their sex partners, and other forms of compulsive sexual behavior. As previously mentioned, sexual addiction can lead to inappropriate or risky sexual behaviour, such as exhibitionism, public sex, unprotected sex, and sexual relationships with multiple partners. Studies have also shown that sexual addiction leads someone to develop sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and sexual offences.
Nearly all sex addicts are willing to trade their time, reputation and money, especially when illicit sexual relations are the end. Usually, their sexual cravings are too strong to resist and they are always willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy these cravings. One of the characteristics of sex addiction may be secrecy of behaviors, in which the person with the disorder becomes skilled at hiding their behavior. They are also full of lies or half-truths and can even hide their condition from parents, spouses, partners and other family members. They may lie about their activities or engage in them when and where they will not be discovered. We are naturally only as sick as our secrets goes the saying. The more we keep ourselves away from others, the more we suffer. The more we suffer, the more we are exposed to shame and isolation.
It is noteworthy that most sex addicts experience remorse or guilt after sex. They assure themselves and their families that they will never do it again. Unfortunately, these promises are not often kept. For a sex addict, he or she feels good about engaging in compulsive sex, but soon thereafter, not so much. The type of ‘emotional hangover’ that a sex addict often experiences after engaging in risky sexual behaviour is nothing to be envied. These feelings of inadequacy often follow them for long periods of time until they get their next ‘solution’ and the cycle ensues. Anyone can have a sex addiction, no matter his or her gender, sexuality, or relationship status. Nonetheless, sex addiction is a momentary pleasure that destroys permanently. Taking that first step to recovery is hard, but there is always a new life of health and hope just waiting for you. The next chapter of your life can begin now, but you alone can change your story and history.
One of the first and best things sex addicts can do is to find a trustworthy person (parents, family member, friend, priest, significant other, recovered fellow addict, etc.) to share their secrets. The more you can verbalize the thoughts, fears, and desires in your head that keep you stuck, the freer you can be from them. Finding support from parents and loved ones and spending time with them will help an addict remember why they should quit and commit to quitting. Nonetheless, they might have loved ones who do not understand sex addiction or who are angry with them for their past behavior. If this is the situation, they should not be discouraged as these feelings are normal.
Writing about the harmful effects of addiction after thinking about them is a significant step. It is important for a sex addict to explain how sexual addiction has affected them, their family, their personal relationships and other aspects of their lives. Writing can serve as a reminder of the negative aspects of addiction and provide additional inducements to move forward. For teenagers, providing adequate sexuality education and being open and chatty/talkative about the topic goes a long way in helping them develop a healthy perspective on sex. Also, ensuring that they are receiving the proper help for any other mental health and wellbeing issues is also important, and will make them less likely to develop other unhealthy habits.
The next step is to identify the positive changes you want to make as a sex addict. Write about how you would like to see your life after addiction and what positive changes will happen once you gain control of your life. If there is no reason to decide, it would be easier to have a relapse. Therefore, the creation of a quitting mission statement, which is a summary of why you are fighting your addiction, is important. Having a list of reasons will serve as a reminder whenever you feel shaky. Similarly, setting targets that create a recovery schedule after an addiction is very important. It is difficult to assess progress without setting targets and timelines. In addition, deciding when to have conversations with people you have harmed is important in the recovery process.
Furthermore, a sex addict needs to intentionally discard or recycle pornographic magazines, photos, videos and everything else that puts him or her at risk of backsliding and reoffending. Also, removal of porn from phone and computer, and clearing of history from the sites visited before are needed. They should also consider installing a program that blocks pornographic websites. If they are surrounded by things that remind them about sex, it will be more difficult to stop. Most importantly, distancing themselves from people and places that trigger addictive behaviour is important. It is important that they avoid places where they have sought sex in the past. The contact details (names, phone numbers, addresses, emails, etc) of sex partners should be deleted from phones, computers and any other device and any form of communications with them severed. Having a list of people willing to have sex might be tempting when you feel like having sex. Inform regular partners that you will no longer pursue relationships with them. Set boundaries and follow strict boundaries. Replace addiction with healthy sources of energy. When you stop engaging in addictive sexual activities, you may have excessive energy. Try healthy activities like exercise or other recreational activities.
Relying and truly reconnecting with your family and loved ones are very important as you disengage from addictive behaviors. Parents, brothers and sisters, priests, partners, best friends and children are there to help. Focus on repairing relationships that need to be fixed and nurturing those that have faltered. The more you invest in the people around you, the less you will need sex as a means of escape. Work more towards healthy, non-sexual relationships. Overcoming sexual dependence does not mean that you must cease having sex forever. Instead, it means you cannot allow compulsive behavior to control you. The reality is that sex is overrated, has become so cheap and worthless. There is a for everything. Speaking to a therapist or joining support groups will help you and your children put their addiction into perspective and connect with others who are going through the same thing.
Sometimes it can take a while to recover. Be that as it may, remain focused on your goals and objectives. You can probably experience addictive sex cravings at times too, but do not give into these cravings. Keep your mission statement in mind and remind yourself that you can repair damaged relationships and solve financial problems. If you have a relapse, think about what happened. Try to avoid the triggers which provoked the relapse. For all intents and purposes, don’t give up. Keep pushing forward. Celebrating our achievements gives us more motivation. Once you have achieved some of your goals, take the time to celebrate the achievements. If you go a month or more without exhibiting addictive sexual behavior, recognize your accomplishment with a treat. You can visit a favorite restaurant, or buy a new piece of clothing or other gift items. I repeat: always celebrate what has been achieved and set a new goal.
It is important to grow new habits when you are about to do something. As a sex addict, do not go into psychological acting out bubble whenever you feel stressed/ anxious/ depressed/ isolated. Instead of loading up porn/cruising ads/searching for anonymous sex, pick up the phone and call a family member and/or trusted friend. If you understand that feelings of unworthiness and isolation are at the root of your desire to act out, the best thing you can do is connect with someone who cares about you and would not take advantage of your situation. A family member can, in this case, be the best person to contact. If reaching out for support is too challenging for you when you feel like acting out, another thing that you can do is induce crying. Be self-aware and self-compassionate. Self-awareness will make you aware when your mind is driving you in an unhealthy direction. Feel your feeling, and set yourself free from the pattern.
An abundance of self-compassion leads to happiness, social interdependence, emotional resilience and a globally satisfactory outlook on your life. A lack of self-compassion leads to low self-esteem, self-critical thinking, comparing oneself negatively to others, depression, anxious disorders, repressed thoughts and emotions, and perfectionism. Everything that deserves to be done deserves to be done right. Failure is not an option. The only way you cannot be controlled by these toxic thoughts is by testing your assumptions and embracing reality. You are entitled to live in a state free from being ruled by your mental poison. It’s your right to be free. It’s your right to be happy. You deserve love and belonging, every step of the way, like anyone else on this planet.
Finally, we are but a pen in God’s hands and we cannot do much without Him. He is our creator and, as such, He has the capacity to rebuild all the shattered and damaged areas of our lives. Therefore, prayers and entering into a new covenant with God are very important in the journey towards the recovery from sexual addiction. Whether or not you believe in God or a higher power, there is a sense of relief that you will feel after crying or screaming for “help” from God. Ask others as well to pray with you whenever possible. Everything at the right time! God is with us!
Dr. Chiwuike Uba is a medical doctor