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I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most of us have probably heard the song – Addicted to Love. I don’t think Robert Palmer, the singer-songwriter that recorded this classic 80’s tune, was thinking about love being an ACTUAL addiction; however, he definitely stumbled onto a concept way ahead of his time.
I once heard the term “sex and love addiction” and immediately thought, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. How can a person be addicted to sex or love? Well, time has passed, and knowledge has been gained. Today, I’d like to share just a few things I have learned in my journey as a therapist who works with those suffering and battling this struggle we have come to know as sex and love addiction.
The first thing that really stand out to me is that sex and love addiction is NOT really about sex or love; but, instead, it is an intimacy problem. It is about a desperate search for emotional connections, often not experienced during childhood. This addiction is most often driven by attempts to satisfy unmet emotional needs. John Bowlby, a pioneer in attachment theory, states, “we’re only as needy as our unmet needs.” What this means to those experiencing sex and love addiction is that they are searching for something outside of themselves to provide them with the emotional comfort and stability they lack, more specifically, they are trying to “fix” themselves. Unfortunately; though, the bond that forms is not with the other person, but it is formed with the experience of being in love. As a result, as with alcohol and drugs, the “high” of being “in love” will eventually dissipate, resulting in void and empty relationships.
Secondly, there are signs and symptoms commonly experienced by sex and love addicts. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), a 12-step program for this particular addiction, identifies those symptomatic behaviors as:
While each of these symptoms may be experienced in healthy romantic relationships, with sex and love addiction, there is a consistent pattern of behaviors that tend to escalate into negative life consequences. Consequences may include, but not limited to: anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, risk of STD’s, legal problems, financial problems, and inability to experience genuine intimacy.
Another interesting aspect regarding sex and love addiction is that withdraw symptoms can and do occur. Those who experience sex and love addiction struggle with real physical and emotional distress when letting go of relationships. “Falling in love” and “falling out of love” impact oxytocin and dopamine levels. A drop in oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” can cause a person to feel lost and confused. Subsequently, a drop in dopamine, our pleasure and reward neurotransmitters, acts like heroin withdraw in that a person will no longer feel pleasure and will likely become depressed. Symptoms can also include irritability, emptiness, confusion of “what’s next?”, shame, guilt, and grief. Grief is experienced much like any loss; only, they also grieve the connection, the relationship experience, and the loss of their self-identity as they typically identify themselves through the eyes of the partner.
My last, but certainly not final, observation in my studies and work with sex and love addicts is that HOPE is possible! Healing can transpire through strong recovery work by creating and implementing healthy boundaries, exploring early childhood attachment injuries and negative core beliefs, exploring fantasies and unmet needs, and learning about healthy relationships. Seeking professional help will be beneficial: a trusting, safe relationship will create a framework for recovery. Additionally, 12-step programs, sponsors, church/ support groups, and accountability partners are often important components for a healthy recovery plan.
In my work as a licensed marital and family therapist and certified sex addiction therapist, I can attest that people often recover from sex and love addiction. The wounded find healing. The hopeless find hope. The distraught find peace. If you are wrestling with compulsive behavior and/or addiction, please don’t wait any longer. Find a therapist who can help you. You deserve peace; you deserve happiness; and you most definitely deserve to feel a genuine, lasting love and the depths of intimacy that grow out it. Blessings.
Licensed Marital & Family Therapist
Certified Sex Addictions Therapist
There are many ways infidelity can impact a relationship – a single affair, an emotional affair, an online relationship, and even sex addiction. However, despite what form it takes, it typically creates a deep wound in the couple relationship. Left unattended, this wound likely will fester, creating more problems and conflict in the relationship. We hope these videos will help give you more insight and direction as you navigate the wounds of betrayal. Please contact us for more information on our services regarding affair recovery and sexual addiction.
In this 40 minute video, Carrie and Josh, discuss several important aspects that a couples often experience after impacted by infidelity.
In this brief video, licensed therapist, Joshua Nichols, has an important message for spouses or partners that have been wounded by a cheating spouse/partner.
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE OVER!! In this video, licensed therapist, Joshua Nichols, addresses a few misconceptions people often have concerning infidelity.
In this video, licensed therapists, Carrie and Josh, discuss this unique service for couples who are suffering from the impact of infidelity, chronic infidelity, and/or sex addiction.
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Many people who are in recovery for various reasons – drug addiction, infidelity, alcoholism, sex/porn addiction, etc. – are having a hard time experiencing success in their efforts. They often feel discouraged because they continue to relapse and/or simply struggle with an ever present darkness that had made its home within you; kind of like a parasite that has embedded itself within your flesh consistently causing discomfort and disarray.
If this describes you, then, when it comes to your recovery efforts, you are probably experiencing feelings like discouragement, helplessness, hopelessness, and maybe even despair. From my experience as a licensed therapist that specializes in helping people be successful in recovery, the main obstacles that are preventing people from having success in their recovery are (1) the lack of structure, and (2) the lack of focus. It’s important to note that the lack of focus is often due to not having the appropriate structure or direction in place. THAT STOPS TODAY!!
In this article, I will address what we, at Family Solutions Counseling, call THE 5 PILLARS of RECOVERY SUCCESS. When you implement these pillars in your recovery, I believe you’ll find yourself progressing in ways you haven’t experienced.
PLEASE BE SURE TO READ THE BONUS TIP AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE!!
This is often a hard step for people to take, but it is an important one. It is often very hard to see the forest for the tress when you are in recovery. A professional counselor is trained to pull you out of the forest and help you take a look from above you can see bigger picture, which will help you develop points of intervention.
Yes, if you are married or in a relationship, then you’ll eventually need to consider couples therapy. We highly believe in treating all entities involved; thus, when a client that’s in a couple relationship enters into recovery and takes part of our program, we consider there to be 3 entities that need to be tended to – the client (e.g., the addict), the wounded spouse (e.g., partner of the addict), and the couple relationship.
Don’t let this overwhelm you (see bonus tip at the end of this article), simply begin with finding a therapist that specializes in the recovery issue you are specifically dealing with.
There is a strange magic that is involved in group therapy. It is HIGHLY important for recovery success in my opinion (article: The Magic of Group Therapy by Joshua Nichols, LMFT, CSAT). After you find a therapist that you feel comfortable with, ask him/her to help you find a quality, well-ran group that you can be part of. In my practice, we specialize in sex addiction treatment and recovery; thus, we run several groups for our clients (and clients of other therapists’). As a facilitator of these groups, I, personally, have seen progress and change in ways that I simply have not seen with clients in individual therapy.
Support groups are different than therapy groups. The biggest difference is that they are peer-led group, while therapy groups are facilitated by a trained therapist. Also, most recovery support groups follow a 12-step model. These groups include, but not limited to, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, S-Anon, Recovery Couples Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery.
This is often where most people start their recovery journey, but sometimes they fail to add in the other pillars. Support groups are highly valuable and should be a part of your recovery plan; but support groups alone often don’t provide you with the structure and focus you need to be successful in your recovery. Therefore, DON’T give up your support group, but simply look at adding another pillar to your plan.
The great thing about the first three pillars is that accountability is built in to those processes. You are scheduling counseling appointments and attending your groups (therapy and support), doing your homework assignments, implementing your newly learn skills, and actively developing new habits. You can see how the first three pillars can hold you accountable to your recovery. However, more is needed. You’ll need to ask your therapist to help you develop accountability outside of these meetings or events. You need to understand, for example, the differences in slips and relapses. You need to understand what boundaries should be put in place to help you in your recovery as well as your couple recovery. I know this sounds overwhelming (again, see bonus tip), but a trained therapist can help you develop this as part of your recovery.
Information is power. Start reading quality literature on the issue of concern. When you can see there is a science behind the development of your struggle, and there is a science behind the patterns you, yourself, are caught up in, then you’ll begin to see there is a science behind successful recovery. THERE IS A WAY OUT!! Here are some reads I recommend for recovery of sex addiction, which is my specialty in working with recovering clients:
Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes
Always Turned On by Rob Weiss & Jennifer P. Schneider
Sexual Anorexia by Patrick Carnes
Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers
Stop Sex Addiction by Milton Magness
This is very important. From my experience, people tend to drop out of recovery because they feel overwhelmed with all that is involved in successful recovery. I can’t express it enough – START with ONE PILLAR; once that is established, then move on the next. If you try to implement ALL FIVE PILLARS at once, then you will likely get overwhelmed and over-worked. Please be kind to yourself as you start this process.
I wish you well in your recovery journey. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about this article and/or the recovery program we have developed for sex/porn addiction treatment here at Family Solutions Counseling. Blessings.