Sexual Addiction May Be Rooted in Fear of Intimacy

In the complex study of sexual addiction and sexually compulsive behaviors, experts now believe people who suffer from these conditions may have as an underlying cause a fear of intimate relationships and a deep insecurity, compared to others without this disorder. New Zealand researchers surveyed more than 600 adults with sexually compulsive behaviors and reported similarities, especially in terms of a tendency to avoid intimate emotional connections with others and a sense of anxiousness and insecurity regarding personal relationships. The study, conducted by New Zealand’s Massey University, was part of the psychology program and came as a response to student observations that sexual addiction didn’t receive as much research and concentration as other types of addictions, such as drugs or alcohol, as well as other mental disorders like depression. Phrases like sexual addiction, hypersexuality, sexual compulsivity and sex addict have been used for more than three decades, but have gained recent popularity and emergence into literature with celebrity acknowledgements of the problem, including actor David Duchovny and golf superstar Tiger Woods. The actions of the sex addict are complex and typically laden with misinterpretations, say researchers, and may also be called “out-of-control sexual behaviors.” The condition remains under study, and a definitive cause is still unknown. Specific treatments also remain in investigation. The Massey University study focused on anonymity by using a web-based series of questions to learn about the sexual habits of more than 600 people. Of the study group, 407 admitted to having a sexual addiction and 214 said they did not have the behavior. In addition to questions about their sexual habits, such as having sex in strange places or with several partners, the survey asked about their alcohol consumption and how they felt about themselves. The respondents who said they did have a sexual addiction showed stronger feelings of insecurity toward forming close relationships with others, and viewed close personal relationships as a source of anxiety or something to be avoided. Those who did not have a sexual addiction, however, said they did not have an aversion to close personal relationships and felt they could trust their partners. While treatment centers and clinics for dysfunctional sexual behaviors and addictions have become more available in the U.S., the majority of treatment for sexual addiction in New Zealand centers around support groups like Sexaholics Anonymous. Like other addictions, people with sex addiction or sexual dependency lose the ability to control their behaviors, despite the consequences on family life, workplace performance and finances. They may experience uncontrollable thoughts or compulsions toward a sexual behavior, such as Internet sex, public nudity, or risky sexual behaviors. Contrary to most public perception, sexual addiction is rarely about the sex itself – but rather becomes a way to escape negative feelings and a deep sense of low self-esteem. Researchers hope further studies into the complexities of sexual addiction will lead more people to recovery and encourage increased formal recognition of the disorder.

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