Sex Addiction: What is Guilt and Shame

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Is Sex Addiction RealI recently responded to a comment/question asked on an earlier blog, Sex Addiction: Why Can’t You Just Stop Acting Out?.

It got me thinking about how guilt and shame play a role in the addiction cycle.

Now guilt and shame may be part of the original cause of the addiction, but that isn’t what I am talking about. I mean the guilt and shame that comes from acting out and feed that addiction cycle.

What makes someone an actual “sex addict” is the use of sex, or sexual behaviors, to cover up bad feelings, to help deal with emotional turmoil, and fill a void in one’s life. An addict will use, or act out, to feel good thus medicating or numbing the pain and bad feelings he or she is experiencing, and thus ignoring the problems that caused the feeling instead or dealing with life’s challenges.  A sex addict may also act out in order to ignore or fill a void or a yearning for something missing.

Orgasm releases dopamine and other chemicals in the body that make you feel good. This is the strongest chemical reaction created by our bodies. And it serves a purpose. It is the incentive to procreate our species. A sex addict uses that high, the release of chemicals, to alter his or her emotional or mental state – the same way an alcoholic or drug addict would use his or her drug of choice.

This becomes a pattern and soon the addict no longer knows how to deal with emotions in a healthy way. And even if that person then gets into, the day-to-day challenges of life, the feelings of anxiety, stress, pressure, fear, worthlessness, being not good enough, etc. do not just go away. The addict has to learn how to deal with these problems without turning to the addiction.

It takes time for this to happen. He or she must work through the steps. It takes time to learn what caused the addiction, what things trigger cravings, and how to work through these cravings without acting out.

Because of this learning curve there are bound to be some setbacks, some relapses. When in incident occurs in a sex addict life’s life he or she may not yet know how to deal with the emotions that spawn from the incident. Most addicts never learned how to properly express those emotions and feelings, and if they did the addiction may have robbed them of these coping skills. Rather than allow those emotions and feelings to take their normal course, they stuff them and those feelings build up inside and the only way for the addict to get release is to act out sexually and have an orgasm.

This is where things become more problematic. After acting out, they begin to feel shame and guilt about what they did. After the high of orgasm, the release of those feel good chemicals, they may start to feel bad about what they did, about failing and falling back into their addictions. Guilt builds, and they feel bad that they have once again participated in a behavior they swore they would not do again or did not want to do again – shame.

So how does an addict deal with these feelings of guilt and shame? They act out again to make the bad feeling go away. And thus the cycle of addiction repeats.

In recovery from sex addiction it is necessary to learn how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way. It is necessary to learn how to deal with the guilt and shame of a relapse so that the cycle cannot repeat. This usually includes calling someone else in the program or a sponsor, and learning how to re-program the patterns that have formed throughout years of addiction.

Regular attending “S” meetings is a one way to learn new skills and coping techniques. Getting a sponsor and working the 12 steps are also helpful tools in a recovery plan. Many recovering addicts also work with a therapist trained in sex addiction therapy.

Recovery from sex addiction is a process not an event. It takes time and unfortunately relapse happens in early recovery. The addict must find the causes of the addiction and deal with those issues before he or she can move on and learn to deal with them in a healthy way.

With substance addictions the point is to never use again.  But with sex addiction this is different.  Sex is part of a healthy lifestyle, and necessary for a healthy relationship/marriage. But the addict must relearn what sex is, and no longer use it to self-medicate.

There is a saying in recovery…Progress not perfection.

To see the blog that inspired this post click here.

 

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