Sexual Compulsivity – Addictive, Problematic, or Reasonable Behavior??

At a local methadone clinic a counselor interviews a newly admitted client discovering that he is not only addicted to narcotics but that he also reports facing a daily struggle with internet pornography use which he asserts to be greatly affecting his relationships and academic performance.

Meanwhile a nearby chapter of a group called “Sexaholics Anonymous” meets weekly to work on their “recovery” from compulsive sexual behavior and “addiction” which they believe has dominated their thinking and lives so much it has destroyed important relationships costing them jobs, families, and their sense of livelihood.

A pastor faces inner turmoil and extreme emotional distress because of his secretive sexual activities that include pornography use and meetings with other men for anonymous sex. The pastor, whom views himself as responsible for knowing all the right moral answers to life problems knows of nowhere or no one he feels safe enough to seek help from without losing his job, family, and sense of livelihood.

Meanwhile at another nearby local Church, under the guise of a “recovery” ministry program, a self-help group meets regarding similar issues of “sexual integrity” or a habitual inability to practice healthy sexuality in light of their own moral and spiritual beliefs.

At the local university a couple of pastors are debating one of the pornography industries top actors about the morality and effects of pornography use.

Meanwhile, down the street at a local counseling center a group of men meet for a weekly group therapy session specifically geared toward the idea that they face an addiction to sexual processes or pornography They believe this issue has became unmanageable for them greatly affecting their relationships and ability to function in all areas of living

In light of recent headlines regarding a county commissioner who was arrested for “indecent exposure” in connection with a police sting at a local park where reports of regular meetings for anonymous homosexual behavior has been occurring, it seems time that the root issue regarding the manifestations of compulsive sexual behavior is discussed and begins to be addressed. Although the preceding stories are true accounts of events that occurred in one entity, this story is about anywhere and everywhere.

In the same manner that alcoholics and drug addicts have been addressing their respective problems through self-help and treatment programs, people have also, for a number of years, been seeking help related to their own sexual behavior they feel has caused significant and detrimental consequences for them and others whom they have relationships with. While residential and outpatient treatment programs, multiple twelve-step fellowships, and an array of therapists whom specialize in the treatment of “sex addiction” have existed for several years, there is still a certain level of minimization or outright denial that sex can be used in an addictive manner by our society. Recently there have been famous athletes, popular football coaches, unsuspecting teachers, and beloved celebrities discovered to have struggles with compulsive and problematic sexual behavior. Most of these discovered in unethical sexual ventures were going to great lengths to keep their problematic sexual behavior hidden from any place other than private knowledge. These cases have been heavily publicized with the alleged wrongdoers being heavily scrutinized by the public on blogs and in street corner discussions, yet there continues to exist persistent reluctance to label problematic and compulsive sexual behavior a type of addiction and major societal problem reducing it as isolated occurrences by people whom could not keep their sex drives or needs for power and pleasure in check.

Considering the history of other addictions and the struggle toward acceptance of them as a reality to individuals in need of help to overcome them through societies resources and concern, it can easily be seen why compulsive sexual behavior continues to be minimized even as it continues proving to be a significant and prevalent problem. Oxycontin and other prescription addictions still do not receive the attention needed by society as addictive problems though these addictions have reached epidemic proportions costing countless people their lives, careers, and ambitions of living well. Prescription addiction has something in common with the idea of describing sex as addictive which plays a significant role in the reluctance to label it as addictive and to enlist more help. That is that prescribed drugs and sexuality can both be used in healthy ways as helpful components of living and improving quality of life. It can be difficult to see the negative aspects of otherwise positive things that normally lead to great health and pleasure while it is easy to just label certain people who do not control their sexual appetites and live according to acceptable standards as merely immoral and self-centered.

Many argue that classifying compulsive sexual behavior as an “addiction” would invite excuses for bad behavior or an unhelpful application of the “disease” model enabling people to believe they are just plagued with an illness that is not their fault. Others, many mental health professionals included, believe that compulsive sexual behavior aside from the filters of moral and religious beliefs is a perfectly natural or reasonable response to factors such as upbringing, culture, and biological needs that just needs to come with a healthier set of limits or a tweaking of it’s appropriate manifestation. These views leave it to the individual to determine what is right or wrong for themselves in context of their societal roles and moral beliefs.

It is apparent that the upcoming fifth version of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, the primary resource used by mental health professionals and insurance companies to classify abnormal psychology and mental health disorders will not include any definitive classification of compulsive sexual behavior as addictive. Though previous editions of the DSM included references to pathology of compulsive sexual behavior as being left to interpretation by the individual regarding the distress it caused them personally, current proposals include recommending “hypersexual disorder” for further study in which the proposed criteria is similar to previous proposed criterias for sexual addiction including specifiers about whether the behaviors pertain to masturbation, pornography, sex with consenting adults, cybersex, telephone sex, adult entertainment or other venues, or other specifiers not indicated.

While problematic sexual behavior is mostly not addressed by the government until it either infringes on legal statutes in the form of illegal sexual conduct or ethical expectations of political office holders in the form of sex scandal, it is also largely ignored as an issue for religious institutions in the same way. Even the authors of the current wikipedia entry on sexual addiction seem to minimize the idea of it by declaring it: a popular “model” to explain hyper-sexuality, sexual urges, behaviors, or thoughts, that appear extreme in frequency, or feel out of one’s control. While there are some programs addressing problematic sexual behavior and a few treatment centers nationwide, there is still a refusal to recognize its existence, its significance, and its prevalence.

Many researchers and writers concerned with problematic sexual behavior and addiction have observed that the emergence of internet pornography with it’s easy accessibility and capacity for secretiveness has given rise to the prevalence and addictiveness of sexual behavior amongst persons whom it may have not otherwise have became problematic for. While pornography is available free of charge to the average internet user, the pornography industry, reportedly, still generates more revenue than Wal-Mart in the United States. Software which blocks inappropriate internet use has became commonplace amongst employers and schools. Men and women are reporting to treatment and recovery programs with problematic sexual behavior related to the internet including pornography and online pursuits of anonymous sexual encounters.

So with the differing views and paradigms about what compulsive sexual behavior constitutes, how do those concerned with it as a problem help address the idea of sexually addiction? Certainly individuals who continue to experience problems associated with their sexual behavior and consequences similar to substance abusers will continue pursuing and finding available avenues for help such as twelve-step fellowships and treatment providers. One thing that could prove helpful to gain wider acceptance of help for problematic sexual behavior as addictive is for people whom have struggled to come forward about their personal progress and recoveries. Though threats of public ridicule, shame, and intolerance make open admission of past or current problems with sexual behavior seem unwise or improbable. It seems this may be the way to bring the attention necessary to the matter for the right help and resources to emerge. Books titled Out of the Shadowsand Porn Nation describe the problem of sex addiction and recovery in explicit detail. The full realization of consequences of sexual addiction as it affects the profits of businesses, and missions of educational and religious institutions could help propel the issue to a higher level of awareness and legitimization as a true addiction where more resources can be utilized. When people begin to see how compulsive sexual behavior affects academics, work productivity, religious belief outcomes, and livelihoods of people, then they will truly see its significance and prevalence in their local communities. Only then will the right education and treatment come full circle in being able to recognize compulsive sexual behavior as a true addiction, and not something which is just problematic for a few or reasonable responses for some people according to their past experiences, overactive sex drives, and lifestyles.

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It’s the pain o…

“It’s the pain of living that creates a hunger for healing that only God can satisfy”

When I began my counseling career working with drug addicts I was given some information by a seasoned counselor on how the twelve steps were the best tool to use when working with addicts. Secretly I began to contemplate how these steps made sense in application to my own life. Though I did not have a history of drug addiction or alcoholism, I was moved by the prospective sense they made out of my own spiritual beliefs. Though I had certain religious convictions and spiritual practices, the steps helped me reconcile my experience of living with my spiritual ideals. There was some sense that eventually I would somehow come to experience the twelve steps as my own spiritual practice. Through a recovery ministry leader in my church and the discovery of a book by J. Keith Miller called A Hunger for Healing I actually did begin applying the twelve steps to the practice of my faith. Though I had felt connected to God before and sensed his presence in very personal ways before, the steps seem to provide a much needed structure to my faith. It was through “steps work” that I came to see principles of effective living that almost seemed to be archetypal truths about the way life was supposed to be lived. Though I have yet to find a surefire way to convey the message found in the steps to clients  who struggle along their own journeys, I am certain that because of my own practice of the twelve steps I am able to address other peoples problems with them much more effectively than I would have been otherwise. Through steps work much of the need for a counselor to be addressing their own issues through personal psychotherapy prior to attempts at helping others is being accomplished.

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July 8, 2013 · 1:29 am