Are you someone who finds yourself repeating the same unhealthy sexual behavior even though you know it’s not good to keep doing it? Do you make plans to stop, swear it off, or tell your partner “I’ll never do it again” only to wind up in the same mess time after time? Well, you may very well be dealing with sexual compulsion, and I’ll explain why it can be so hard to break out of it.
Sexual Compulsion is a Very Big Problem These Days
If you think you’re the only one who struggles with compulsive sexual behavior, you clearly haven’t been watching the news or talking to others about it. With the explosion of internet pornography by way of the smartphone there has been an acceleration of the use of porn and a decreasing age at which individuals are exposed to porn. The problem of sexual compulsion has gotten so bad that the World Health Organization has recently decided to finally make an official diagnosis of sex addiction next year so the problem can finally get the attention it deserves.
So Here Are the Reasons Why It’s Hard to Break:
The Reward Circuitry in the Brain: Once someone has gotten hooked in internet porn, or any sexual compulsion, the reward circuitry in the brain gets well established. It’s kind of like driving in a rut on a muddy road, the more you drive in that rut, the more well worn it gets. The thing that makes this so insidious in the brain is that there are chemicals, namely dopamine and opiates, that help it get set in.
There is often a feeling you’re trying to get from the compulsion that would otherwise be met in a more healthy way, called a Feeling-State. It’s kind of like when someone starts smoking at an early age to get approval from the ‘cool kids.’ They’re not really smoking to get a nicotine hit, but they’re really just trying to be cool. The need to belong really drives the behavior of smoking before a nicotine addiction sets in. It can be the same way with compulsive sexual behavior.
Denial: It’s the voice in your mind that goes against clearer thinking that tells you something is wrong. When you have thoughts that go something like “It’s really not that bad,” or “I can stop anytime I want,” you are experiencing denial. Especially when experience has taught you that this really is a problem and you keep having the minimizing thoughts, you can safely say denial is part of the problem.
Shame: This emotion is subtle, and can be hard to recognize. It is the emotion that tells you that you can’t talk about this with others and need to keep your behavior a secret. Sure, you wouldn’t be wise to go tell everybody you know about it, but it is important that you tell at least one person you trust about it. This brings me to the last reason…
Isolation: It doesn’t matter if your sexual compulsion is done with other people, you can still be very isolated emotionally because others don’t know about your inner feelings and experience. If you do engage in the behavior alone, this can be especially painful because you literally are alone.
What To Do About It
The main thing is to start by finding someone you trust and talking to them about the problem. If you don’t have anybody you can trust, then call or otherwise contact a professional who treats sexual addiction or out of control sexual behavior to help figure out whether you really do have a problem, and then what to do about it. There are many support groups, both in-person groups and internet based support groups (mainly for porn addiction) that can be helpful. Educate yourself about this affliction as well. Good information is one big way that many people get a better footing for eventually overcoming this problem.
I have helped a lot of men get out of sexual compulsion in professional work, and can attest to how treatable this condition is. If you would like to find out if I can help you, I urge you to call me at 512-374-0100, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the form below to get a reply from me so we can set up a free 45-minute screening. I will then be able to point you in the right direction as far as getting the help you need, either from me or from someone else who is qualified in treating the problem. One thing I know for sure is the more you leave the 5 reasons unaddressed, the more you will struggle. So do the right thing, for yourself and those who care about you!
About the author: Scott Kampschaefer, LCSW is a private practice therapist in Austin, Texas. He has an extensive background in working with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder at a clinic for older adults with these disorders in Austin. He now works with adults and adolescents of all ages in private practice.