Understanding the Link of Sexual and Chemical Addiction

For a long time, the concept of addiction was reserved for various forms of substance abuse. Thanks to research and open minds, we understand a form of dependency called “process addiction.” Among this type is sex addiction. In addition, the frequency with which substance abusers also experience sex addiction has more recently come to light.

What is Process Addiction?

Think of these as behavioral addictions in which the action is the most addictive factor. With substance abuse, the result of the action typically matters most. Therefore, people with process addictions are dangerously drawn to activities like:

  • Shopping
  • Gambling
  • Internet usage
  • Exercise
  • Eating
  • Sex

General Signs of Process Addiction

Most fundamentally, the person is unable to disengage from the addictive behavior — regardless of proven consequences like:

  • Related mental and/or physical health problems
  • Disruptions within personal and work relationships
  • Lying, covering up, and making it look like they’re trying to stop
  • Major issues spring from the process addiction, e.g. financial woes due to gambling or legal issues from pursuing sex addiction-related activities like prostitution

Specific Signs of Sex Addiction

  • Relentless pursuit of sex or sexual release without limits, boundaries, or concerns about danger or risk
  • Decreased emotional attachments and increased use of impersonal methods (Internet pornography, prostitution, etc.) to seek sexual fulfillment
  • One-night stands, public sex, anonymous sex, multiple sex partners, high-risk sex
  • Compulsive masturbation — oftentimes in very inappropriate settings
  • Unchecked, sexual addiction can possibly lead to illegal and violent actions — ranging from stalking and harassment to sexual assault and rape.
  • Continuing the behavior despite intensifying feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing

The above behaviors (and many more) are displayed even as they lead to consequences.  Poor outcomes like job loss, financial ruin, divorce, and arrest are common. Personal obligations pace a distant second to the sex addiction. Additionally, all attempts to stop seem to inevitably lead to relapse.

Understanding the Link Between Sexual and Chemical Addiction

Of course, any such addiction is cause for concern and a daunting challenge to address. However, it is urgent for mental health practitioners to factor in the strong likelihood of co-addiction. Unfortunately, process addictions are routinely minimized in the medical community. Professional focus remains locked on substance abuse. This makes it all the more crucial that anyone dealing with any addictions is given a thorough assessment. Some factors to consider:

  1. Process addictions commonly serve as “back-ups” by substance abusers during addiction recovery.
  2. Sexual addiction is often present with chemical addictions, but it can also be the cause.
  3. The driving force behind all addiction is compulsion with the goal of stimulating the brain’s innate reward system.
  4. Sex addiction is not an issue of morality.
  5. Sex addicts may turn to substance abuse as a method of “soothing” their emotions.
  6. They may also seek out the perceived benefits that drugs can offer, e.g. intensified feelings, prolonged performance, etc.

Treatment is Available

On a basic level, the link between sexual and chemical addiction may lie in their roots. Addiction is not about making moral judgments. It is a disease. It can grow from deep emotional distress and trauma. Addicts begin by desperately searching for an escape. However, they ultimately lose control of their impulses. This may sound depressing but it can be a source of hope.

Understanding the underlying reasons for addictions often clarifies the truth. Change and recovery are very possible.

Finally, as difficult as an addict’s anti-social behaviors may seem, any person with the disease of addiction needs help. And they most certainly need compassion.  If you or someone you care about is suffering, reach out. A skilled therapist can offer assistance and support in a safe-space setting. Help is just a phone call away. Please read more here about addiction. Contact me as soon as possible for a consultation.