The origins of sexual addiction

While there is no exact known cause for a sexual addiction, there are known biological and psychological factors that lead to the development of a sexual addiction. This post will explore the reason for a psychological-based sexual addiction.

In a 1995 study, Ralph Earle discovered that traumatic childhood incidents often play a part in contributing to a sexual addiction. Trauma is a distressing experience that causes a negative emotional response. Trauma survivors can have emotional responses to one-time incidents such as accidents, natural disasters, crimes, and deaths to name a few. Or they can respond to repetitive experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, violence, and deprivation. Painful childhood experiences rooted in trauma cause abandonment fears, blurred boundaries, mood disorders, dehumanizing sexual attitudes, distrust, escape strategies, isolation and profound loneliness. It is not uncommon for children who have been sexually abused to re-enact the trauma that was inflicted on them when they become adults. In a situation where a young man was lured in to have sex with an older woman for example, such a situation can cause that young man to later seek out relations outside his marriage with older women, hence replaying his first sexual encounter over again. His psyche is rooted within that trauma and his brain has created a pattern for pleasure around it.

When the adolescent, who was neglected by his alcoholic parents, feels isolated and alone and stumbles upon pornography, he is stimulated by the images. The newfound feeling creates such excitement that he has never known or is very familiar with. When he feels neglected by his parents again, he remembers how good looking at the pornography made him feel and he masturbates to the fantasy image he can recall from the last time he looked. He’s hooked. His brain has created a neural connection to the arousal pattern.

These two scenarios are only examples. Insert a trauma, throw pornography in at a formative time, and you have a combination ripe for a potential addiction. The immediate accessibility that the Internet provides has only added fuel to the fire.
If you believe that you might have a pornography addiction, find specialized care in your area. Search for counselors who have the acronyms of CSAT or SRT because they specialize in sexual addiction therapy. They will certainly want to know more about your childhood (and your potential trauma) as a root cause of your addiction. As researcher Earle said, “sex addicts are made, not born.”

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