What causes sexual addiction?
This is a difficult question to answer as the cause will differ from person to person however compulsive behaviours are often fuelled by mismanaged anger or fears of intimacy, and have their roots in the sexual shame of one’s family of origin.
Incest, avoidance of sex education, double-standards, sexual secrets, or sexual acting out by a parent (such as affairs or pornography use) can all lay the foundation for later sexual compulsivity.
Sexual acting out can be used for various reasons, including to medicate emotional pain, manage stress, or as a substitute for true intimacy. As with other addictions, there is usually an escalation of these behaviours due to tolerance, as the addict continues to pursue the needed “high” regardless of the escalating costs.
Unfortunately, many individuals struggling with sexual addiction do not seek help, due in large part to the high degree of shame associated with a problem in this area.
The brain and the chemistry
We now know for certain that sex addiction is a behavioural addiction which produces a chemical reaction in the brain very similar to street drugs.
Pornography, for example, is powerful because it takes advantage of and taps into intense emotional, biological and chemical connections throughout the brain and the entire body. We are born with many of these pre-wired or pre-sets to switch on at certain times in our development. Its goal is to ignite, excite and exploit these natural built-in urges and desires.
During sexual process, the brain begins narrowing its focus as it releases a tidal wave of endorphins and other neurochemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and serotonin. These natural drugs produce a tremendous rush or high.
Many would agree that we live in the most stressful time, there are more than enough pressures to push us to seek escape through many forms of self-medication; both healthy and destructive.