Archives for November, 2012
If you are not a sex addict, your mind may roam to a million different places during sex with a partner, including being completely “into” the experience of your partner. You may be completely devoid of thoughts or fantasies during sex at some times but have wildly erotic images flashing through your head at other times. This is what a colleague of mine refers to as the “fuel mix” in sexual arousal. For the non-addict this fuel mix can vary a great deal from time to time without being problematic in any way. Sex addicts get hooked on particular sexual fantasies For a sex addict, the sexual fantasies that lead to arousal and orgasm can be quite predictable and relate to the particular kind of sexually addictive behaviors that the addict most prefers. It’s not necessarily that the fantasies are deviant but rather that they become rigid and predictable.
As clinicians we know that the sex addict doesn’t fall too far from the family tree. Or as a friend of mine put it: “Sex addiction comes barreling down the generations like a locomotive!” So addictions run in families, but what part of this is due to genetics, to life experiences, and to other personality variables? And can the genetic research on other addictions be applied to sex addicts? Researchers have been investigating the genetic factors in drug and alcohol addiction for many years using identical twins vs. non-identical twins. It is reported that approximately 50% of the predisposition to addiction was accounted for by genetic factors. More recent studies use brain science and genetic factors to help understand why addiction is heritable.
I love it when my sex addict clients go to family gatherings, even though they sometimes dread it! I tend to view a concentrated exposure to members of your family of origin as an unparalleled growth opportunity. Here are some of the challenges and some positive ways to respond to the experience.
For sex addicts and addiction prone people generally, the incapacity of a spouse or partner can cause a kind of stress that they are not good at handling and that can put them at risk of relapse. Illness or disability in one partner of a couple is bound to be stressful or difficult, but it will not necessarily bring about intimacy challenges. In fact it may bring a couple closer together in some cases. But for an addict, the illness of a spouse or partner can be a train wreck.
Is there good porn? Take a look at this statement from an article called The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research. “Increased access to the Internet by adolescents has created unprecedented opportunities for sexual education, learning and growth.” (Owens, E. W., Behun, R. J., Manning, J.D. and Reid, R.C. (2012). Journal of Sexual Addiction and Compulsiviy, 19, 99-122) Writers and researchers seem to feel obligated to acknowledge the potential benefits of pornography when in fact their own research as well as the vast majority of everyone else’s shows no such thing. The above authors go on to document the damaging effects of internet pornography on adolescents. For example that youth who view porn develop unrealistic sexual values and beliefs, and that viewing violent porn is related to higher levels of sexually aggressive behavior. Also that viewing porn leads to body image problems with girls and performance fears in boys and so on. Certainly research on the negative effects of porn is important. But there is always an opposing view out there that porn serves the useful functions of freeing men and women, reducing shame around sex, aiding couples, and educating the young. The reporting of scientific evidence often seems to be an attempt to escape the good vs. bad debate about porn so as to avoid being seen as moralistic. Just the facts. And indeed that is what science does. But proving that porn can be a harmful, addictive drug fails to address a larger issue that I think is given less attention.
If you are reading this you probably grew up before there was any Facebook, or YouTube or Twitter or iPhones. That all started after the year 2000. A number of recent articles have presented findings that link the use of social media to a variety of psychological problems including low self-esteem, social aggression and narcissistic personality disorder. Recent generations have apparently become increasingly narcissistic and have made increasing use of social media like Facebook. The data show a correlation between Facebook use and narcissistic personality traits but the consensus seems to be that rather than causing young people to become narcissistic, social media provide a platform that enables their narcissism.