We need to talk about Sex Addiction

A recent TEDx talk by Paula Hall, a specialist in treating both men and women who experience sexual addiction, is well worth watching.

In it she stresses the need to recognise and talk about the increasing problem in our society of sexual addiction.

What she means by that is an addiction or compulsivity where a person’s sexual behaviours have grown beyond their control.

This can manifest itself for example in the use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, the need for affairs, multiple one-night stands or cybersex. It is not the amount of sex or any particular way of having sex that is the issue; it is where these behaviours have become out of control and interfere with a person’s ability to form relationships or are having other unwanted effects on their lives. For instance these could include a lack of engagement with a wider social circle, poor concentration and performance at work, anxiety or depression.

As is well known the Internet and smart phones have led to an increase in the availability of pornography, which is now accessed by so many. That is in itself is not a problem, but when the use of porn is being used for example to numb some deeper emotional distress, or to alleviate boredom, this can lead to an addiction. As with alcohol and drugs, a cycle of addiction develops leading to distorted thinking and self-justification coupled with a desire for secrecy and feelings of shame.

Paula Hall argues that the easy access of pornography compounded by the lack of education of the risks that involves is what is leading to an increase in sexual addiction. To counteract these she says that people need to be able to talk more openly about these problems and to be less judgmental and more compassionate about those who experience these difficulties.

Coupleworks counsellors often come across clients for whom these issues are a problem either to an individual or within a relationship. From our experience we would strongly agree that naming the problem can provide the starting point for real healing.

Sarah Fletcher

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