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Trauma and Sex Addictions


Whether it be with chemicals or without chemicals, addictions can reel you in and get you hooked before you even realize it. Just like with substance use disorders, a sex addiction will disrupt your life as you know it. If you are struggling with sex addiction, as well as trauma, The Guest House can help. Continue reading to learn more.

How It Works

As more research has been done into addictions, scientists now understand that much of addiction revolves around the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine relates heavily to pleasure, learning, and memory. These things are directly tied to someone becoming increasingly addicted to something.

The rush of dopamine that someone gets when they do a pleasurable activity teaches you to repeat the behavior so that you receive that dopamine hit. What’s even more difficult with behavioral addictions, such as a sex addiction, is that these things are often necessary for human survival. When you add trauma into the mix, things only get more complicated.

A Sex Addict’s Story

Erica Garza spoke with TIME Magazine for their Special Edition on Addiction. As an adolescent Garza had a difficult relationship with sex. She thought about it constantly as a pre-teenager. Once she became sexually active, Garza says that sex was always tied up in shame for her.

“There was always something to feel bad about. I felt empty and anxious, waiting for the next round with someone new,” she says. Thus, shame and sex became intertwined. She needed shame in order to feel pleasure. This led her to engage in “risky, unhealthy behavior.” She remembers one particularly traumatic evening where she left a man’s apartment in “bloodied, ripped clothing.” This was the breaking point for Garza.

After that, she was able to hear the voice in her head that was urging her to stop hurting herself and others. She entered a therapeutic retreat and did a short-term 12-Step program. This helped her move forward with a healthier and more positive mindset when it comes to sex.

Trauma and Sex Addictions

According to a study done for the National Institute of Health, trauma is found to increase the “vulnerability to the development of addictive disorders.” The study says that “psychological traumas are negative life events or situations that have the potential to cause an extraordinary amount of stress to the individual overwhelming their ability to cope and leaving the person in fear of death, annihilation, or insanity.”

Thus, studies have suggested that those who have experienced trauma “have a greater risk of developing specific addictive disorders than others in the general population.” For another person who had a sex addiction, he wound up in jail after exposing himself to an off-duty police officer.

He got a thrill out of exposing himself to women while driving around town. For this person, the trauma happened because of his time spent in jail due to the consequences of his sex addiction. Once he was released, he entered a recovery program that has helped him enter recovery.

How to Treat the Disease

Behavioral addictions can be a difficult thing to approach, says Barbara O’Dair, writer for TIME Magazine. This is due to the fact that the behaviors that are often linked to survival do not lend a space for abstinence to take place. “Plenty of people go their entire lives without drinking or smoking or doing drugs, and those who start can often stop,” she says. “That’s true too of behavioral addictions such as gambling and video gaming.

But there’s no such thing as swearing off eating or shopping or sex. They’re fundamental parts of human life.” Thus, the people with the latter addictions “live in a state of gray,” says O’Dair. They must find a happy medium between a little but not too much. Those with addictions, O’Dair reminds, are not very good at living in a state of gray.

To help these people live in the gray, treatment methods are vast. For some, 12-Step programs and group therapy work well. For others, antidepressants or other psychotropic medications help to relieve some of the depression, anxiety, or emptiness that comes from refraining from engaging in sex. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also proven to be beneficial for those who need help challenging and reframing their thoughts associated with the disease.

O’Dair also mentions that although everyone’s addiction is different, there are some similar treatment protocols that can help, such as:

  1. “Detox support to achieve initial stability.
  2. Diagnosis and evaluation to address co-occurring disorders.
  3. A treatment plan with a trained specialist, appropriate therapies, and goals for
  4. Ongoing peer support and accountability, such as a 12-Step program with people
    in similar situations,
  5. Family support, including support groups for family members, education, and
    family therapy.”

The Guest House knows that healing from a sex addiction and related trauma takes time. What has developed over months and years will not just take days or weeks to resolve. You must be willing to work at it for the rest of your life. This can be overwhelming, so it’s important to take it one step at a time. You can recover from your sex addiction and trauma. It isn’t too late. Call The Guest House now for more information at (855) 483-7800. We can’t wait to speak with you and help you get the help you need. Call us now. You won’t be disappointed by the programs we have to offer.