Dr. Rory Reid of UCLA did research in 2007 and 2011 in which groups of men in treatment for sex addiction were assessed for ADHD and in which 23%-26% were found to meet the criteria for adult ADHD. Almost all of these (97%) were of the “predominantly inattentive type” rather than being predominantly hyperactive. (The prevalence of ADHD in the general population is 3-5% according to Reid.)
Can impulsivity or low self-concept explain the correlation?
Dr. Reid also gathered evidence about whether ADHD might be “driving” sex addiction due to the impulsivity of people with attention deficit as children.
Picture a woman kneeling down to measure a hem. This sight could cause a sex addict to have immediate and raging fantasies about prostitutes and oral sex. A temptation for a sex addict often involves a cue that creates a powerful drive toward their addictive behavior. New research findings offer possible ways to understand how sexual cues work.
The sexual cue need not be sexual. It is not the suggestive image on a screen or the stripper in front of you. It is what leads up to that. It is often the sight of the computer itself, or the act of driving down the street where the strip club is. For women addicts it can be putting on make-up and trying on clothes.
To understand temptation in addiction and relapse we look at the experiences that have come to be associated with the rewarding addictive behavior.
I am always taken aback when insightful people can’t seem to relate to the out-of-control aspect of someone’s addictive behavior. Even when they have addictions of their own people can be at a loss to relate to someone else’s addiction. I believe this is a really common occurrence. So here are my observations about this phenomenon.
Some real life examples
Have you heard of Viagraholics Anonymous? Well it seems it exists. Tens of millions of people have used Viagra (a registered trademark of Pfizer) and other ED drugs. Young men in their 20’s and 30’s are reportedly becoming dependent on Viagra. Is there a connection to sex addiction?
Stigma and shame are part of the same process. In a way stigma is shame. It is attributing something shameful to the sex addict. And the sex addict obliges by feeling ashamed and keeping their addiction a secret.
“Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions” (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
By the same token affirming that something is a real, treatable disorder begins to break down the tendency of people to stigmatize the condition and empowers people to seek help.
The psychiatric community which effectively legislates what is and isn’t a real, treatable disorder has been hesitant to designate sex addiction as a real mental disorder, even though other similar behavioral compulsions are included.
The new findings
Many people try hard to stop their sex addict behavior but can’t seem to get any “traction,” as they often put it. They may go for a few days, a week or a month without engaging in their sexually addictive behavior but then they fall back into it.
This can be equally true for people who are trying to quit any of the sexually addictive behaviors such as internet porn, exhibitionism, affairs, prostitutes, cybersex and so on.
They are committed to recovery, they see a sex addiction therapist, go to meetings regularly and try to use all the tools of recovery (journaling, group support, phone calls) but they just can’t stay sexually “sober.”
Could part of the problem be as simple as mistakes in the way they are thinking about sexual sobriety?
“Nobody gets through childhood unwounded.” This is a saying in trauma and addiction work. We are all one in this experience of survival, we all have our own life journey and so we can all understand the process of recovery.
Recovery is the new mental health model that has emerged in my lifetime. Prior to the “recovery model” mental disorders were addressed with “treatment” and “rehabilitation.” Treatment attempted to relieve symptoms in one way or another such as lessening hallucinations or phobias. Rehabilitation took a step beyond the relief of symptoms in attempting to find ways to allow the patient to return to a more normal level of functioning in the affected areas of life.
The Recovery Model
Helping people recover from damaging experiences, whether they were serious traumatic events or the lack of appropriate validation in childhood, means guiding them on a journey to a level of functioning they have never achieved before. This goes way beyond the medical model of restoring lost functioning.
Ask yourself what makes pornography pornographic. The usual answer is that it is intended to sexually arouse people. This is true but it is circular. The question is: what elements are essential to pornographic material?
Given the unprecedented proliferation of porn catering to every possible individual preference, it is difficult to describe the essence of what is pornographic.
I have tried to describe what I see as key features of all the myriad pornographic images and scenarios. I call these the three O’s.
Should they go to couple counseling right away? I say no. After an initial “couples” session in which the addiction is brought out into the open, each partner needs their own therapy and treatment program.
In the early stages of discovery and crisis surrounding sex addiction, couples counseling is not the answer and is not even a good idea.
Sex addiction is not a couples problem
Sexually compulsive behavior is not a result of problems in a relationship; it’s much more likely that it’s the other way around.
Sex addicts can be addicted to one or more of a wide variety of “acting out” addictive sexual behaviors, and there is no one behavior that is addictive for all sex addicts.
Recovering sex addicts decide what behaviors are addictive for them (their “inner circle” or “bottom line” behaviors). As recovery proceeds, addicts sometimes change their definition of addictive behaviors.
So when is masturbation a bad idea for a recovering sex addict?