The childhood of sex addicts are often filled with a memories of being desperately lonely, directionless, and vulnerable. The sex addict’s family-of-origin often lacked nurturing or modeling of how to share needs in a vulnerable but safe environment. The sex addict wasn’t able to rely on, depend on, or turn to the adults in his life to meet his needs so he learned early in life that only he can meet his needs. His feeling of isolation and loneliness led him to seek out something that would make him feel less pain and more pleasure. He discovers that others in his family are not able or willing to be there for him so he turns to things that give him comfort, feels good, that which is dependable, and does what it promised to do. Some kids/teens find alcohol and drugs as the answer. For others it is comfort food. And for the sex addict, he found counterfeit relationships with fantasy partners and sex that costs him nothing, didn’t criticize him, and didn’t abandon him.
He learns early that “my needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others.” A child from a healthy family learns to rely upon his parents, siblings and other family members. They feel cared for, loved, and that they will not be abandoned when they express their needs. Healthy families include loving touch, affirming words, and wise guidance. Trust in others and in himself develops in the healthy attachment within the family.
The sex addict doesn’t have that kind of experience within his family because of the families wounds, divorce, addictions, or other dysfunctions. Addiction is formed when the child’s exploration of sex goes beyond curiosity to self-comforting. Sex becomes infused with coping, comforting, and self-nurturing because the parents are unable or unwilling to do it. The result is the belief that to feel safe and secure is to be sexual.
The consequence of such a childhood family relationships results in replacing human connection with an addictive relationship with a counterfeit such as pornography or other sexual experience. All addictions are a relationship that replaced people. The adolescent replaces real relationship with the false connection he finds in the fantasy partners that will never leave him, reject him, abuse him, or hurt him. This leads to the fourth belief of a sex addict: “Sex is my most important need. I’ll do anything to get it.”
If the family is sex negative, such as “sex is bad, dirty, or shameful,” then the child infuses shame with his most important need. Shame results in the belief that “I am bad because I desire sex.” The child believes that his primary source of feeling good is sex and yet they are told that sex is perverse or evil. Therefore, the child believes that they are evil and perverse for pursuing it. They hide what they pursue, thinking that others would never accept them if they knew. The hid the sexual behaviors or keep them a secret.
In therapy, I help sex addicts identify the distorted beliefs about themselves, others, and the world. I challenge those beliefs and help him change those beliefs to accept himself as “good enough” and lovable. He is worthy of acceptance, love, and grace. As the sex addict shares his sexual history without being shamed, he begins to love himself rather than hate himself. He can then explore how his childhood included abuse, trauma, and pain. The sex addiction was his way of surviving. Then he can begin connecting with others in a loving and healthy way to replace what he was always