17th December, 2010
Research has revealed sex addicts often struggle with intimacy and suffer anxiety, with some of the relationship issues stemming from childhood.
But treating sex addiction is not as easy as going cold turkey. Addicts must confront the reasons behind compulsive behaviour, much like alcoholics or drug addicts.
More than 880 people participated in an anonymous online questionnaire about their sex life and personal relationships for a Massey University honours project.
Clinical psychology student, Karen Faisandier, said she wanted to delve into the reasons behind out-of-control sexual behaviours (OOCSB).
The online survey questions included whether they engaged in online sex, prostitution, or sex that made them feel degraded.
Many factors played a role in such behaviour, including how childhood relationships with parents mould the way people feel and behave in romantic relationships.
The findings also confirmed previous research that found people with sex addictions were more likely to feel anxious about relationships and avoid intimacy.
Sex Therapy NZ co-director Robyn Salisbury, who assisted with the research, said the findings could help treat sex addiction by dealing with the issues causing impulsive sexual behaviour.
Ms. Salisbury said the sexual escapades of celebrities, Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen, raised awareness of sex addiction, but it didn’t inform the public.
“When people say `sex addict’ they shrug their shoulders and say `it’s out of my control’. It is within their control.”
For an addict, the behaviour is not about sex but more an urge for sexualised relief, she said. “Out-of-control sexual behaviour is not about the sexual drive, just like alcohol isn’t about being thirsty.
“If people are uptight or lonely they will eat, drink or have a drive to have sex. The compulsion doesn’t meet their needs; it’s just looking for a temporary soother.”
Addicts end up getting a “mindless buzz”, which can be heartbreaking for intimate partners, she said.
Often those suffering sex addiction only seek professional help when pressured.
The latest research will help therapists treat the reason for the compulsion. “You don’t go cold turkey… but you have to have a thorough look at what’s going on,” Ms Salisbury said.