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Posted by on in Other Addictions

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

Recently, while having a discussion with a colleague, the topic of sex addiction was raised. After a brief explanation of what he considered to be normal sexual activity, he innocently inquired, “I don’t know, is that normal?” Conversations such as these are quite typical in the lives of Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (otherwise known as CSAT’s). As much as many of us would like to consider ourselves experts in the field, a specific assessment utilizing the Sexual Dependency Inventory (SDI) must first be administered before the diagnosis of Sex Addiction can be applied. It is true that sex addiction is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but years ago, neither were many of the disorders which are included today.

It is imperative that we do not diagnose ourselves, partners, or friends, without first consulting a specialist who has been educated in the proper assessment tools and knows how to interpret them. Sexual activity is a very personal and private area of our lives; therefore, those who may actually benefit from tailored interventions are remaining undiagnosed, while those who readily ascribe themselves the label tend to proceed haphazardly of their own volition, or under the direction of an untrained, yet well-meaning clinician. It is true that professionals are free to make claims that they are ‘qualified’ to treat these types of dysfunctions. However, without proper training, the possibility of inflicting more damage is significantly increased. 

Early warning signs that sexual compulsion has advanced to addiction are included within other process and behavior addictions. Here are a few examples of the symptoms of sex addiction:

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

  1. Turning to the sexual behaviors in spite of negative consequences, such as lost relationships, jobs, productivity, or physical injury.
  2. A multitude of failed attempts to stop the sexual behaviors utilizing sheer willpower alone.
  3. A decrease in pleasure due to an increase in previously sexually pleasurable activities.
  4. Requiring more exposure to sexually pleasurable activities in an effort to elicit the same physiological response.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any one or more of the symptoms of sex addiction, please visit the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professional’s website to locate a CSAT near you. This website provides many resources and information for those who are looking to find relief. The assessment, “Am I a Sex Addict,” is available online and can be taken before meeting with your CSAT. The results can then be measured as a preliminary assessment to ascertain if the SDI is, indeed, necessary. As it is with substance addiction, involvement within a twelve-step program (such as Sexaholics Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous) and therapeutic support groups have the potential to relieve the suffering and heal the brain of dysfunctional cycles and patterns. For more information, please visit the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP) at www.iitap.com,  Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S at www.robertweissmsw.com, or www.sa.org 

Kamrin Carver, LMFT, CSAT for Brighton Recovery Center in Utah.

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

One thing I have found to be common among recovering addicts is that, when their primary coping source (drugs) is taken away, they turn immediately to physical intimacy for coping. This can lead manifest itself in sex and love addiction along with codependency. Recently I had the chance to film two wonderful podcast/vodcast episodes on both the topic of sex and love addiction and the topic of codependency and addiction. Both are a great source of information, but I wanted to include some of the highlights here for this amazing community at Addiction Land. 

I didn't exactly understand codependency until author, therapist, and recovering addict D.J. Burr put it in these simple words. 

“Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship with yourself that is typically manifested with other people.” – D.J. Burr, LMHC, NCC, S-PSB

He gave an example of being in a conversation with someone you just met, but in the back of your mind you are only thinking of all the negative things this person might be thinking about you. Of course, that person is probably not thinking anything of the sort, but that's a codependent behavior.  D.J. is a great resource for more information on this topic and I highly recommend hearing what he has to say on the podcast. 

On thing that really stood out to me about sex and love addiction was something that John Taylor said in his podcast episode. 

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

The first part of this two-part series dealt with four behavioral disorders, termed ‘addictions’. We discovered that many of these activates, sex and gambling, activate the same receptors and regions in the brain as drugs and alcohol. This second part discusses four more common behavioral addictions and their impact on the lives of society.

Video Game Addiction

Much like internet addiction, this addiction is a relatively new trend brought about by the popularity of video games. Video game addiction seems to affect mostly males, usually between age 13-29. This addiction is characterized by a compulsive need to play video games and can consume up to 8-12 hours each day. These ‘out-of-control’ gamers tend to start ignoring their responsibilities and duties in order to continue playing the game. Certain games even have higher rates of addiction among them. Gamers most prone to video game addiction play games like League of Legends or World of Warcraft, both multiple-player RPG type games; ‘Role Playing Game’. These games have huge followings and are intensely competitive, requiring enormous amounts of time to be an expert. Gamers often begin to lose their sense of reality and the fantasy video game begins to become their reality. Video games offer a person a way to escape the realities of life and immerse themselves in a digital world where they can be whoever they want; a superhero, a wizard, or a king. Treatment for video game addiction requires separation from video games, along with counseling or behavioral modification.

Plastic Surgery Addiction

Although not as common as some of the other addictions, plastic surgery addiction is certainly a dangerous reality for some. So what exactly is plastic surgery addiction? It can be defined as an obsession with changing their appearance through surgery, resulting in dozens and even close to a hundred separate surgeries. They become obsessed with changing their appearance to match an ideal image in their head of what they should look like. Although friends and family tell them they are beautiful or flawless, the addict is not satisfied with their own body. This addiction often goes along with other mental disorders, such as body dysmorphic disorder and chronic low self-image. People who become addicted to plastic surgery will pursue surgeries even when they can’t afford it and it begins to negatively affect their health and appearance. A very interesting case study can be found here.

Food Addiction

It is widely debated whether food obsessions are true addictions or it is closer to a disorder. Recently it has been shown that binge eating disorder that affects around 3 percent of the adults in America. Often the eating process about which a person binge eats is similar to a drug addiction.foodaddiction First a craving occurs, in this case hunger. Then an emotional trigger happens, such as sadness, anxiety, or guilt. The ‘food addict’ then eats, often to ease emotions and find a sense of relief. Food, like sex and drugs, also releases dopamine. This occurs because eating is necessary for survival, so it creates pleasure in the brain in order to motivate us to eat and replenish ourselves. While the issue of whether overeating is a true addiction still remains, millions of Americans struggle with it. There is even a 12 step group, OA, or Overeaters Anonymous.

Risk/Adrenaline Addiction

Does thrills or risk really get you excited? Thrill seekers share many of the same symptoms as drug addicts; they get a rush from skydiving or rock climbing, but after a while, they seek out even more dangerous adventures to feel that same level of excitement. And studies show that these “thrills” release the same flood of brain chemicals released by addictive drugs.

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Posted by on in Other Addictions
In our society the word ‘addiction’ is strongly associated with drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. When people think of addiction they picture illegal substances and narcotics. In the last couple decades’ addiction has really gained national attention, with SAMHSA estimating over 25 million American have a significant problem with drugs or alcohol. However, are not the only things can people can become addicted to. Recent psychological research has created a new class of addiction termed ‘Behavioral Addictions’. These habits produce a psychological ‘high’ that can become so strong that the addict loses control and seeks the activity despite the dangers and consequences. People with drug or alcohol addiction or recovery from substance abuse problems are at a much higher risk to developing a behavioral addiction than an average American. That’s because these activities can produce dopamine, the so-called ‘feel good’ chemical, which is the same neurological transmitter involved in drug addiction.
 
Gambling Addiction

People addicted to gambling may most closely resemble people addicted to drugs and alcohol, because they impact the brain in similar ways. The risk and reward of gambling produces euphoria in the gambler. The thrill of winning, pulling a bluff, and getting lucky can create an intensely pleasurable experience. Gambling can become a behavioral addiction when the person starts to impulsively gamblegambling-addiction despite recent losses, lack of money, or disregard for responsibilities to family or work. Gambling addicts can become so obsessed with gambling that they will steal and even rob to get money to continue their habit. When they win a big sum of money it does not satisfy them and they continue gambling, often eventually losing all their winnings. This addiction is so common that there are even 12 step groups for it and the APA includes it in their classification system.

Sex Addiction

Like gambling addiction, sex addiction is one of the more acknowledged behavioral addiction, with its own 12 step groups. What causes people to become addicted to sex? Dopamine; the same brain messenger chemical involved in drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction. Many sex addicts also have some form of other mental issues, such as body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, and hyper-sexuality. When a person becomes addicted to sex they begin to seek intercourse with different people, often complete strangers. Severe cases of sex addiction involve having sex with 4 or more people in a single night, sometimes without even exchanging names. A sex addict will begin to put their health, career, and relationships in jeopardy to achieve the ‘high’ that they get from having sex. Risk, such as sexual infections or unwanted pregnancy, is not enough to stop their habit.

Internet Addiction

The advent of computers and the internet have resulted in increased communication, sharing of knowledge, and technological advancements. In 2016, it is obvious we live in a digitally wired world. Internet addiction occurs when a person becomes too attached to their computer and specifically the internet. This addiction is a little more controversial than the previous two cases. Many psychologists andcomputer-addiction-2doctors aren’t convinced that internet addiction is a true disorder. However, some research has shown that an addiction to the Internet involves loss of control, as well as negative consequences at work and at home comparable to more standard addictions. One study even found that compulsive use of the internet may occupy up to 11 hours out of an “Internet addict’s” day and it is estimated between 6 to 11 percent of internet users may be affected by compulsive internet use.

 

 

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

In the days of my drinking and drugging, resentments were my trusty tool, my reliable excuse. Resentments were my fuel for going on a spree or a bender. In a state of self-pity, it was easy to justify my need for numbing my pains and sorrows. When I got sober my resentments did not automatically vanish, instead it required some dedicated and thorough work to remove them. In 12 step groups it is said that “resentments are our number one offender”, which means that resentments are one of the most common things that keep us miserable and cause us to relapse. It has been said that a resentment is like “drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Whether you are in a 12 step group or not, resentments are something that need to be addressed to maintain sobriety and serenity.

What exactly is a resentment?

Simply, a resentment is a feeling of angry displeasure at a real or imagined wrong, insult, or injury. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” Resentments are most commonly against other people who we believe have screwed us over or hurt us. These commonly include family, ex’s, bosses, co-workers, policemen, etc. When drinking, I often took everything that other people did personally. Some of us hold on to resentments that stem back to our childhood or ex-marriage. Other resentments include bitterness towards institutions and principles, such as religion, government, or the IRS. Some of these resentments are more justified that others, for instance if you’ve been cheated on or unjustly fired from a job. Whether the resentment is real or imagined does not matter, both types of resentments are equally deadly.

Identifying and Removing Resentments

The first step in cleansing ourselves of resentments is to identify our resentments. For some people, their list of resentments is a page long and for others it can be up to a dozen pages. The generally rule of thumb is that if something is still causing you to be bitter or angry then it is important to come to terms with. We do not have to write down every person who cut us off in traffic or the bully from first grade, unless it is causing us to still be bitter and ill-contented. Once we have identified our resentments there are a few ways to remove them from our lives. It is suggested that we look for our parts in the matter of the resentment. In matters such as divorce, it is fairly easy to find our part in the issue. Maybe we were insensitive, selfish, dishonest, hurtful, or unfaithful. It is important to put aside what has been done to you and instead focus on what you could have done differently. Once our roles in all our resentments have been identified, we then pray or ask our higher power to remove these resentments. We ask forgiveness and blessings for the people in our life and slowly our resentments diminish.

The principles behind working through our resentments and putting them behind us is about breaking the pattern of self-pity and to stop playing the victim. We learn to take responsibility for how our life has turned out and stop blaming people and things around us for our misery or misfortune. When we take ownership of our lives and our happiness we experience a sense of empowerment and freedom. Those old resentments no longer have a control over us and won’t weight us down with pity. We are freed from the shackles of the past and can focus on what is in our near horizon.

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