How Sex Addiction Affects the Brain
Sex addiction is a serious psychological disease that has only begun to be understood in recent decades. Where uncontrollable and even self-destructive sexual compulsions were once thought to be the result of genetics, demonic possession or dark magic, mental health experts now see direct parallels between sex addiction and substance abuse.
Understanding the Basics of Sex Addiction
Tiny bursts of “feel good” chemicals like endorphins and adrenaline are naturally released into the bloodstream during various activities such as the following:
- Physical exertion
- Thrilling or dangerous situations
These chemicals provide satisfaction and a sense of well-being and comfort. This causes individuals to desire to repeat such behaviors. In a healthy person this reinforces positive behaviors such as the following:
- Healthy appetite
- Telling the truth
- Working hard and delaying gratification
- Sleeping soundly and waking refreshed
- Forming relational bonds that last a lifetime
However this system does not always work as planned. Some individuals have chemical imbalances or genetic or environmental predispositions to addiction. Individuals with underlying psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, self-esteem deficiency or personality disorders may feel relief from during and immediately after sexual activity. This relief fades quickly, and this can lead to increasingly unsatisfying and even life-threatening sexual compulsions including the following:
- Obsession with pornography
- Frequent and uncontrollable masturbation
- Sex with prostitutes
- Repeated infidelities
- Dangerous sexual habits including autoerotic asphyxiation or cutting
- Child sexual abuse or rape
As opposed to feeling comfort, companionship and intimacy following sex, addicts feel depressed, ashamed and alone. Suicidal thoughts and actions are possible.
Effective Treatment of Sex Addiction
The effects of sex addiction on the brain are remarkably similar to the effects of chemical dependency. The brain becomes addicted to the bursts of naturally-occurring chemicals, and individuals will feel a compulsion to continue the behavior even in light of major consequences such as the loss of an important relationship, legal problems, compromised physical health or substance abuse.
Sex addiction recovery follows many of the same patterns as drug or alcohol addiction treatment. First the addictive behavior must be stopped, so the patient can detox and restore a natural chemical balance. Individuals must reprogram their brain to its pre-addiction settings and patterns. This requires education, emotional support and the development of healthy new coping and avoidance skills. The entire experience is rewarding, as patients often discover aspects of their overall emotional health that had never occurred to them. Treating any underlying or co-occurring mental or physical health concerns is crucial, if long-term recovery is to be realized.
Find the Best Help for Sex Addiction Today
If you would like more information on how sex addiction affects the brain, or, if you are interested in effective recovery programs, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our counselors are ready to help you find the treatment you need. The call is free and anonymous, so you have nothing to lose. Call now.
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