Why Do Sex Addicts Do What They Do?
Often, as women work through their betrayal trauma, they ask, “Why do sex addicts do what they do?”
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, discusses this question with Coach Laura, Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist at Betrayal Trauma Recovery.
When women ask this question, Coach Laura digs a little deeper to find out what they’re really trying to find out.
“What I find is that they are usually struggling with fear, sadness, and overwhelm around the meaning of their husband’s behavior, the reality of their relationship, and feelings of self-worth.” -Coach Laura
Coach Laura has learned that when women are asking why, there are three reasons they want to know and that there are underlying questions behind those reasons.
3 Reasons Women Want To Know Why Sex Addicts Do What They Do (and the questions they really want the answers to)
- The meaning of their husband’s behavior.
- Can a person really be addicted to sex?
- Why my husband, why this addiction?
- Isn't this just an excuse for their bad behavior?
- The reality of their relationship.
- Was any of it real?
- Does he love me?
- Is there any hope?
- Why they aren’t good enough for their husband.
- Is this my fault?
- What does this say about me?
- Aren't I enough?
- Can I fix it?
Why Are Sex Addicts Abusive?
Coach Laura says that this particular addiction causes wives to ask, “Why this? Why sex addiction?” because it feels so personal. These questions come from a place of pain.
Coach Laura continues, “And it’s completely understandable, because a long-standing sex addiction usually ends in abuse and neglect of the wife in its various forms.”
The various types of abuse inflicted by the addict can be physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, and sexual in nature.
Each sex addict has their own drug of choice and each abuser abuses in their own way. However, some of the most common signs of abuse that are seen among addicts are lying, manipulating, gaslighting, deceiving, and blame-shifting.
For more information on sexual abuse and coercion, check out this post here. For more information on gaslighting, you can find it here. For more information on other signs of abuse, read this post here.
Why are sex addicts abusive then? We learn from the people around us and from the media we watch, read, and hear.
Sex addicts have spent their time learning erroneous “truths” from pornography, usually from a young age.
7 Reasons Pornography Use Is Abuse
- Pornography teaches them that women want sex as often as they do.
- Pornography teaches them that it’s okay to abuse a woman.
- Pornography teaches them that women like to be abused.
- Pornography teaches them that women want the same kind of sex that they do.
- Pornography teaches them that they deserve to have the kind of sex they want.
- Pornography teaches them that they can get that sex any way they need to.
- Pornography teaches abuse.
Pornography use is abuse.
The things the addict learns from pornography creates errors in thinking, which helps the addict justify their abusive behavior. To learn more about how pornography use is abuse, please read here.
Sex and pornography addiction are abusive, but we believe abusers can change.
Can A Person Really Be Addicted To Sex?
Coach Laura addresses the questions behind the first reason women ask why sex addicts do what they do, the desire to understand the meaning of their husband’s behavior.
First, and foremost, Coach Laura wants women to understand that, “Sexual activity outside of what is supposed to be a committed, monogamous relationship is wrong and painful, and not your fault.”
“If you’ve been betrayed, the one who betrayed you is 100% responsible for his actions, his lies, and the damage he has caused. The presence of his addiction does not change that. Betrayal is betrayal.” -Coach Laura
Though there are many who dispute the evidence, it is present. Sex addiction is real. Some women are not ready to accept that it is an addiction, and may believe that it is just an excuse. Coach Laura addresses the question of sex addiction being just another excuse in another post, which you can find here.
When identifying addictions, treatment facilities consider certain diagnostic criteria. There are anywhere between 7 and 15 of these criteria. All of these diagnostic tools seem to contain seven of the same criteria, only three to five of which are necessary to make a diagnosis.
7 Diagnostic Criteria of Addiction
- Concept of “tolerance”—the amount of a substance or behavior needed to achieve the same desired effect increases over time, or there is a decrease in the effect of the substance or behavior if the amount does not increase over time.
- Withdrawal phenomenon—when the substance or behavior is taken away, definite withdrawal symptoms occur.
- Time lost to the behavior increases—time spent engaging in the behavior itself, time spent in the cycle of behaviors (time engaged in the behavior, time recovering, and time thinking about the next opportunity) occupies an increasing amount of the person’s day, and spending more time engaged in the behavior than intended.
- There is a persistent desire or compulsion to engage in the behavior.
- There is a reduction in healthy or socially accepted behaviors, roles, etc. (such as time spent engaged in hobbies, household chores, family time, etc.)
- Use continues despite severe negative consequences—loss of job, arrests, physical effects
- Repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop.
Not everyone who engages in harmful, extra-relational sex is an addict, though many men and women who seek (or avoid) treatment exhibit these characteristics.
How Does Sex Addiction Happen?
Many people understand how drug, alcohol, and tobacco addictions develop, but how does a sex addiction happen?
Like any addiction, sex addiction happens when a chemical dependency is created. As with other addictions, a feedback loop must be created.
Coach Laura explains, “Any time an individual engages in something that feels good, makes them excited, happy or proud, dopamine is released as a reward. The release of dopamine increases the ‘feel-good’ experience and strengthens the neural connections between the behavior and the ‘feel-good’ result.”
This connection causes the individual to seek out the “feel-good” experience again. Each time, they reinforce the positive feelings that come with the experience, creating a feedback loop that gets harder and harder to break.
Over time, the brain rewires itself to seek out these “feel-good” behaviors compulsively. Dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain, released during these experiences creates the “chemical dependency” required to form an addiction.
Why Does Sex Addiction Happen?
As with any addiction, there is no clear-cut answer as to why sex addiction happens. Two children who grow up in the same home with the same parents could take two entirely different paths.
While there is speculation as to what makes one person more susceptible to addiction than another, there is no conclusive evidence
Coach Laura talks about one school of thought behind the cause of addiction, “Early experiences, family of origin, trauma, or childhood events may all play a role in the development of sex addiction.”
She continues explaining that addiction is a sign of emotional immaturity. “Once sexual behaviors reach the level of addiction, they are then being used as a coping mechanism. The level of emotional maturity that an addict has is usually no greater than the level that he was at when the addiction took hold.”
Coach Laura explains this phenomena, “In other words, if a young boy is exposed to pornography at the age of 10, and at the age of 12 begins to use it as an escape from stressful life circumstances, then that is when he stops developing emotionally.”
She goes on to say that the addiction that takes hold usually depends on the substance that is readily available to them during that period of their life.
While the addiction stops emotional development, it does not excuse the abuse that the addict inflicts on others, especially their husband.
Will A Sex Addict Always Be Abusive?
All this talk about sex addiction and abuse probably has you thinking, “Well, that’s depressing. If it’s an addiction, can they even change? Can they really stop the abuse?”
At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we believe that people can change, even abusers and addicts.
The mission of Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to help you find safety and healing. We believe that the more information a woman has, the better equipped she will be to identify when she is safe and when she is not.
Many women have witnessed the changes that come with sobriety and recovery. Unfortunately, sobriety and active recovery does not mean the abuse stops.
There is hope, however, because many abusers have been able to find qualified help and end the abusive behaviors completely, if they choose it.
Even if they don’t choose change, women can find their own hope and healing from the abuse and betrayal.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery provides guidance and education for women seeking safety from abuse and healing from betrayal trauma. For more information on Individual Session topics, read here. For more information on Group Sessions, read here.