While the sexual behaviors differ, the underlying dynamics of sex addiction are the same. There is always an inability to form a healthy, consistent attachment to a cherished loved one. Perhaps there was a mother who was unable to create a bond with her infant/child that provided the attention, recognition, validation and appropriate physical contact needed.

The early environment surrounding the sex addict’s childhood was usually shame-based. This means that the child’s self-esteem was damaged as a result of a dysfunctional family or from traumatizing experiences with peers. A sense of inadequacy and helplessness then colors a sex addict’s understanding of self and the relationship with others. When they grow to adulthood, they may use sexual behaviors to achieve a sense of adequacy, competence, safety and power. Consequently, they feel an (illusory) sense of admiration and recognition that was missing from his childhood.

The Erotic Haze

Every sex addict experiences an immersion in what I have called the “Erotic Haze.” This is a period of time that may last 4-5 hours or longer. The unconscious mind overpowers the conscious mind, making it impossible to make rational decisions. The sex addict fails to account for his own enlightened self-interest or the feelings of others. Instead, the body bathes the brain in pleasure-enhancing endorphins.

Fantasy is the fodder of a person in the “Erotic Haze”. In many cases, sex addicts perform some form of ritualized behavior. This usually precedes a sexual activity. For example, an addict may cruise in a car for hours looking for just the right sex worker. He gets pleasure from the ritual.

When the sex addict is in this mental state, his needs are what matter most of all. He feels no anxiety about responding to the needs of another. There is no fear of closeness, vulnerability or rejection. To him, nothing feels as if it is a compromise. All that exists is the pleasure of the sexual fulfillment. It is the only time in a sex addict’s life that he knows perfect control over the “other,” and this is distinctly unlike what he experienced as a child.

The “Erotic Haze” is a totally compelling state, one in which sex addicts are totally preoccupied.

Dual Personalities

Sex addicts have a private life and a public life. Some report a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” experience with either side of the personality having different and conflicting values and goals.

Secrecy and deceit are the hallmarks of the Mr. Hyde persona.

Uneasiness, shame, guilt and fear of exposure are the constant companion.

Author's Bio: 

Dorothy Hayden, LCSW, has been treating sex addiction for 15 years. With 30 articles and one e-book, "Total Sex Addiction Recovery -- A Guide to Therapy", she is considered a "thought leader" in the field. She has been interviewed by HBO, CNN and "20/20" about cybersex and sex addiction.

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