Addiction, with its multitude of presentations, functions as a form of self-soothing, emotional “stability,” or distraction from various sources of anxiety. Addicts attempt to meet their primary emotional and mental needs with a substance or behavior which supersedes reason. No matter how much sex or pornography a person consumes, the core emotion with which they are struggling is unmoved, and the feelings of emptiness are exacerbated by the very “remedy” intended to bring relief. People free of addiction tend to meet those primary needs with healthy physical and relational behaviors that serve as a priority over other forms of connection.
As a matter of denial, those struggling with addiction are able to continue with their self-destructive behaviors despite knowing the adverse effects, because most important for an addict is the unimpeded relationship with their addiction. For those suffering from a Process Addiction such as sex or pornography, 3/4s of their time is spent around planning their next “high.” This alludes to the source of their addiction as being something other than the orgasm, high, or inebriation and further supports the function of their addiction as being emotional stability and distraction.
Why do addicts seek numbing and distraction? Robert Weiss, a renowned sex addictions expert and lecturer, explains that addicts act out as a method of avoiding “The Great Fears.” These fears include: abandonment, criticism, being found unworthy of love, being unable to feel close or safe, feeling in control of relationships, as well as an element of narcissistic self-obsession. Sex addicts tend to be vulnerable and narcissistic at their core, and are often enmeshed with their spouse with whom they draw a sense of self. When a spouse turns ever so slightly away from the sex addict to concentrate on their own body or their children, the sex addict often becomes hurt and may act out in anger.
By confronting the addiction, containing it, holding the addict accountable for their behavior, providing education, relieving their shame, and providing them with hope, a therapist can become an invaluable help in one’s journey to overcoming addiction. www.sexualrecovery.com, www.sash.net, and www.sexhelp.org are three on-line resources helpful for those struggling with sexual addictions.