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18October2019

Intimacy4us

When is lots of sex too much?

Maybe you just say in the heat of the moment to your man: “Oh, you’re addicted to sex”, while you put on your apron. But is he really addicted to it? How do we know if it’s the case?

For Herman it started with a photo of a naked woman that he found under his father’s mattress. He was 14 years old. He immediately experienced that he felt stimulated and that his body reacted. It was a very pleasurable sensation and he put the photo into his pocket and went to his own room. There he immediately masturbated while he looked at the photo. The stimulation was very intense and he had never before experienced such a powerful sexual pleasure.

He regularly masturbated while looking at that photo after the first experience. He later got other photos from friends and as a 17-year-old easily found pornographic websites with explicit sexual images that he could use while he masturbated. It was easy: he could remain anonymous, he had privacy in his bedroom and every time he could get more stimulating pictures.

As a young adult he began collecting pornographic material and spent hours daily with it. He was involved in several sexual relationships with young women, but he never felt that he had an emotional connection with any of them.

When he met Marina, he felt more of a genuine bond and after a four-year-long relationship, when they were both 28, they got married.

Marina tells how she woke up one night and noticed that the bed next to her was empty. On her way to the bathroom, she saw Herman sitting in front of his laptop masturbating. It immediately made her feel uneasy: Was she not good enough for him? She was hurt, while he felt guilty and promised her that it was a once-off thing and that he would never do it again. He noticed, however, that he could not break the pattern that he had for years so easily.

He says: “I could not stop myself. I thought about sex all day and used every possible moment to look at sex in some way. I looked at pornography on my computer at work and then masturbated in the bathroom. I was very stimulated every time and the orgasm was wonderful, but afterwards I always felt guilty. I sometimes spent up to twelve hours a day collecting pornographic material – then I also had to ensure that nobody would find it on my computer.”

They both experienced that it was going worse with their relationship. “I felt suspicious about Herman and woke up at night with anxiety and wondered what he was doing. I also started acting less spontaneously when we had sex. I felt cheated and embarrassed. I was convinced that he was fantasising about the sexy women he saw in the pictures while we were having sex.

“We could not talk to each other properly anymore – it was as if he lived in a world of his own, and I didn’t really want to get close to him.”

How do you create an intervention?

How do you differentiate between a healthy sex drive and so-called sex addiction? The concept that we all battle with is balance, and it comes into play: Too much sex becomes a problem when you start to experience the following symptoms:

  1. You feel “I can’t stop myself/I don’t have control over it”. In other words, you get the impulse, need or thought and you feel obsessively the need to react on it, until you experience the intense stimulation and climax.
  2. You don’t concern yourself with the possible consequences. You can get fired (because you look at pornography on your computer at work), you can lose or damage your relationship with your loved ones (if you neglect your children, your wife disagrees with your actions and she doesn’t trust or respect you anymore), you have an unplanned pregnancy, you continually have sexual relationships with strangers, you have already been exposed or caught out and can still not stop.
  3. You spend a lot of time on sexually stimulating actions that you are shy about and try to hide.
  4. You spend your time fantasising about it, stimulating yourself sexually or collecting material that stimulates you.
  5. You have complete and repeated problems with controlling your sexual thoughts and behaviour.
  6. The sexual experiences that you had in the past have been purely physical in nature: You don’t really show an interest in binding yourself emotionally to another person.

Herman never doubted that his behaviour was not normal. He knew that his wife, his boss and some of his colleagues had already caught him and gave comments that he was going overboard. He had been warned that he must be aware of the risks: he could lose his job, other people’s respect and his life partner. In other cases there is sometimes doubt whether the person’s behaviour is normal, and if it could be described as sex addiction.

Here are a few examples of sexual addiction:

 

  • Compulsive masturbation. Regular masturbation is a primal sexual release, even within a stable, intimate relationship (often once a day at least).
  • Promiscuity: A pattern of relationships with people whose only aim is sexual satisfaction. Examples include prostitutes, one night stands, repeated short sexual relationships and repeated visits for sexual massages.
  • A dependence on pornography: A pattern of dependence on explicit visual pornographic material (the Internet, magazines, DVD’s).
  • Telephonic, sms or Internet sex: a dependence on sexual flirtations, stimulations and orgasms by means of discussions via sms messages, telephone conversations, Internet websites etc.
  • Serious sexual desire differences within the relationship. One person has an overpowering desire for sex and puts pressure on the other person, who has a normal sex drive. It causes tension in the relationship.
  • Other types of hyper sexuality: Repeated harassment towards colleagues or other people, continued and time-consuming fantasising, prostitution, repeated pathological being “in love” and an obsession with the other person.
  • Sexual experiences are often not paired with an emotional bond or experience.
  • You might look for sexual stimulation that is more and more intense. The escalating might also expose you to the more serious negative effects of the behaviour.


 

Who does this: men or women?

Sex addiction is more common in men, but it’s not a problem exclusively among men. One out of every five people who suffers from this condition is female. Women often say that they experience a sense of touch, intimacy and physical acceptance by this behaviour. Some women also get satisfaction out of tempting a man and then conquering him: this is where they get their high for their addiction. Even if they have a need to form an emotional bond, they don’t get it right.

What causes it?

Many factors can play a role and factors that affect one person are not necessarily the same for everyone. The general idea is that sexual deeds are done through several motivating processes. Sex addicts often experience a very intense satisfaction through chasing the experience, through chasing a person, or through the sexual experience and the orgasm. Research has shown that chemicals are released into the brain that create a feeling of euphoria and chemical ecstasy, the same as the ecstasy that is released by drugs. Some sex addicts talk about a feeling of anxiety when they have the need to perform a sexual act, and then the relief when they have done it (the same as obsessive compulsive behaviour). Others feel guilty after the sexual deed and some feel a severe depression between episodes.

Some sex addicts have a history of emotional trauma. The type of trauma that can play a role is molestation, exposure to upsetting sexual deeds or material before puberty, or sexual and emotional abuse. Other people’s trauma was on a purely emotional level and includes loss, rejection, a poor relationship with an adult and broken security.

A person can therefore see that the reasons which are identified can never lead to definite sex addiction: everyone who experiences emotional trauma does not as a rule develop a sexual addiction.

Facets of our modern lifestyle may make it easier for some people to get addicted. The availability of sexual material and the exposure and availability of sexual partners also play a role in the types of activities that sex addicts choose.

Sex addicts can’t resist the easily available, explicit visual material that is available on the Internet, and they can remain anonymous and private behind the computer screen while they use it.

Young people are learning less direct communication skills because most of their social interaction includes playing together on the computer or play station. They don’t communicate as much as when they sit next to each other busy with the activity happening on the screen. They are also exposed to entertainment which models that young people are happy when they live a life with fewer morals. They are exposed to many images containing laughing young people with alcohol in their hands and sexy bodies. When they are young adults, they don’t really know how to communicate effectively, but they experience that sexual communication happens easily. It thus becomes an easy, shallow way in which they can be together and express their emotions.

How do you cope with sexual addiction?

If you are indeed addicted:

  1. Admit your problem to yourself.
  2. Be aware that your behaviour may be out of control and that you most likely won’t be able to overcome the problem by yourself. Get professional help.
  3. Also be aware that your behaviour is destructive for you and the people close to you. Your relationships can’t improve while you continue with your behaviour. You are going to spend more and more time on it, or look for more explicit material (that can expose you to material that is shocking and traumatic for you). It may lead to you living out your fantasies that you wouldn’t have done earlier. You may get caught and lose your job and relationships with your loved ones.
  4. Realize that the problem of sex addiction, like with addiction of a chemical substance, is difficult to overcome and that you will be tempted to fall back until your inner and physical conflicts are really solved.
  5. Your behaviour may have already influenced your relationship with your spouse negatively – then you both may need relationship therapy.

If your partner is addicted:

  1. Share with your partner that you are aware of his behaviour. Reassure him of your support if he wants to work on his behaviour.
  2. Get as much information as possible about the nature and pattern of his addiction, so you can understand his behaviour and your possible reactions better.
  3. Get professional help for your relationship.
  4. Get professional help for yourself. It is essential that you get perspective about your own worth and the boundaries between your emotional needs and those of your partner.

Herman initially regularly came for psychological therapy. He had to identify the hurts from his childhood and had to see how the wounds were made deeper later in his adult life. He had to identify the impact of the wounds on his life and get healing. He found that analytical therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and medication helped to control his obsessive tendencies. These helped him tremendously.

He says: “The most difficult thing was to stick with the therapy. The memory of the intense pleasure that I experienced so often created a very strong drive within me to give up and to rather go back to it. I had to be honest with myself and about myself.

“A few things helped me:

·         “To put my child in bed and to feel the respect that he felt for me – I knew that was very precious and I didn’t want to lose that.

·         “To feel lighter and to learn what impact hurts in my younger days had on me.

·         “To tackle the problem a piece at a time – one day at a time.”

When do you know you have a problem?

Keep in mind that any addiction is not going from zero to 100% overnight: It develops over time. You may feel at any time that you need help. Should the need increase for sexual stimulation over a time period, if you experience that for six months you spend too much time thinking of stimulants, if you feel uncomfortable with what you are busy with, if the feelings of guilt become very intense, then it may be better for you to seek help from a professional.

It is not necessary for you and your partner to try to keep your heads above the water. There are rescue boats in the form of professionals who are trained to solve the problems of sex addicts and their life partners.