Out of Control Sexual Compulsions

Sexual compulsions stemming from childhood trauma

The following sections are from an article I found while researching about sexual compulsion and trauma.


I found this line particularly interesting.

“But this in itself tells us little about the issue of the man’s “real” sexual orientation”

And also this bit.

“You could say that in some situations addiction trumps orientation, and it is only after the person has worked through the unconscious issues driving the addiction and come to some level of sobriety from the drug of his acting out behavior that we can begin to see whether he actually has a gay or bi or straight orientation.”


In some cases the man in question is very addicted to real or virtual experiences of gay sex. In other words assessment will indicate that the behavior and associated fantasies are excessive and preoccupying. Also that he feels bad about how much it controls him, that there have been negative consequences in his life or relationships, that it has had a pattern of escalating over time and that he has been unable to quit. When sex addiction therapists see this pattern they often find that there is some history of trauma that is being played out compulsively in the addictive behavior pattern. Addictive sexual behaviors often mirror early memories and are highly charged by urges that come from deeply buried experiences. Hence they are powerful and can become a drug. But this in itself tells us little about the issue of the man’s “real” sexual orientation. He could be a gay or bisexual man who is a sex addict or he could be a straight man whose acting out behavior scenario is with gay men. As sex addiction therapists we are often unable to answer the question of orientation until the addiction has been addressed. You could say that in some situations addiction trumps orientation, and it is only after the person has worked through the unconscious issues driving the addiction and come to some level of sobriety from the drug of his acting out behavior that we can begin to see whether he actually has a gay or bi or straight orientation. It may be that he would be happier having relationships with men, that he is more likely to fall in love with men. Or he may find that he truly does prefer his relationship with a woman once he has given up his sexual acting out behavior in recovery. Regardless of what his sexual orientation turns out to be, this man may be like all recovering sex addicts. He may feel a pull toward his old addictive behavior, just as any addict would, whether he is in a relationship with a man or a woman. But in recovery this may be something that subsides with time. And that is the point: in recovery we truly have the choice to live in the way that will bring us the most fulfillment.

Taken from this article https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/03/when-straight-men-are-addicted-to-gay-sex/
 
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It frustrates me that the American Psychiatric Association refuses to recognize sex addiction as an official disorder or diagnosis. Actually, the therapy community offers little in the way of sexually-compulsive diagnostic categories. And few psychologists or psychiatrists have much of a framework for dealing with these types of issues.
 
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PRFL

Member
I wish I had known about this kind of stuff when I first looked for psychological help over 30 years ago. I never ever felt that my identity was gay but I had no other way of explaining my attraction to men. It always felt wrong, because though it all I was aware that I was trying to fill a huge void in my male identity by trying to get masculinity from other men, I was using them as a fix. All of this fell on the counselors’ deaf ears and they kept making it an issue of homophobia and denial. To make things more complicated, as a child and early teen I was attracted to women, but underwent so much shaming about it that the prospect of a woman ever finding me desirable was simply unthinkable and off the table. To this day, I find many people have a hard time wrapping their heads around this, not understanding why women were off-limits to me. Since the only explanation available to me at the time was “gay”, that’s what I tried to accept, with the encouragement of therapists and counselors that also saw everything through the filter of “gay” and nothing else.
Since that was the only option that was viable to me, I tried to adapt and managed to have two important long term same-sex relationships, but my difficulty in identifying as gay was always a sore spot with my partners, who couldn’t understand why I felt so uncomfortable in situations like pride parades, gay bars, or similar situations where I was supposed to feel comfortable.
After my partner died 4.5 years ago, I went through a lot of grieving and was assuming that I would find another man eventually. When I started to feel better from the grieving, I noticed that the very idea of having sex with another man was very scary, and I couldn’t understand why. I thought it was because I was still grieving and wasn’t ready. Over the past year, I’ve noticed re-emerging heterosexual feelings and been feeling a lot more like that frightened young teen that desperately wanted a girls attention but was too worthless to get it.
I’ve come to the point that I have no shame or regrets about having had relationships with men, even to the point that I would consider it in the future with the right person. (So much for the homophobia theory). However, I also am aware of a severely wounded, shamed and frightened heterosexual young teen that doesn’t want to be buried and forgotten.
Interestingly, when I was in my 30s I had the opportunity to have 3 girlfriends with whom I was sexually active, and I never felt the discomfort I feel with males. It was just wonderful and life affirming, but sadly I have no concept on how to have a healthy heterosexual relationships so they never worked out. The last girlfriend broke up with me and married somebody else, and from that moment on I started obsessing about men using me sexually. Eventually I started to have multiple anonymous encounters in bathhouses, at the urge of yet another counselor that thought I was just being too puritanical. To me, that sounds like acting out, not an identity. With my partners, I don’t feel I was acting out, but I still didn’t feel comfortable but I figured I had to learn to live with it. Until now, that those repressed heterosexual feelings are waking up and trying to get my attention, but it’s scary and terrifying because it feels I’m re-living the abuse, shaming, bullying and terror from those younger years.
Today, I’m having a huge amount of difficulty even admitting that I have heterosexual feelings, it’s actually terrifying to me to stand up and affirm: “I’m a heterosexual man”. Those are the most terrifying words I can think of and to this day I’m scared out of my mind to say them.
I was not born with that terror. Fear and shame are my wounds, not my identity.
 

Strangeways

Member
I don't believe that sex can be an addiction in the way drugs or alcohol are. It would be like being addicted to eating. You can eat too much, but the behavior isnt an addiction - you still have to eat to live.

Unhealthy sexuality is a disorder, not an addiction. Thats my opinion, and the opinion of many psychologists, I believe.
 

PRFL

Member
Since I have a background counseling chemical dependent and addicted clients, I may be a bit biased. The way I see it is that addictions are not as much about the substance themselves, but about the brain pathways that are affected, involving the pleasure and reward systems and how they can get out of whack. This is usually manifiested by what can be summarized as the 3 C’s compulsion, loss of control, and continued use/behavior despite adverse consequences. Other terms that I see people struggle with is dependency vs addiction. The term “dependency” is about having withdrawal, but not all addictive substances cause withdrawal, like say, stopping cocaine is not the same as stopping alcohol (a lot more dangerous). Typically the addictive behavior is obsessively pursued, needing more and more but getting less and less effects. Addiction can exist without withdrawal and it’s more about loss of control. There’s also the definition of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. There is still a lot that needs to be learned about addiction, and it can be hard to distinguish it from other disorders like OCD, anxiety, PTSD, etc. So, my final take is that a word like “addiction” could have anything from a broad to a narrow definition, but the definition should be an attempt to better understand a problem so it can be best helped. I personally don’t like to use the word “addiction”, I tend to think more in terms of “brain disorder” and that works for me. FWIW, I do consider myself an “emotional addict” as I tend to use people as my emotional fixes, and I feel I just had a relapse around my T. Even though it may not technically fit the definition of addiction, the concept works for me and the recovery model has lots of tools that can also help me as well. Just my take on it.
 

manipulated

Greeter
The first T I saw was a PhD Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. She told me the abuse was way too far in the past and my problems were all sex addiction. Although she was not participating with ANY insurance she was happy to provide a receipt for CASH payments ( no checks or cards accepted) with a Dx of obsessive Compulsive Disorder which of course IS in the DSM so I could try for reimbursement. She also required I attend a 12 week group on how abusive and narcissistic we addicts were with our spouses, and 90 meetings in 90 days of Sexaholics Anonymous- all of which was at least an hour one way from my home and most was 1.5 to 2 hours.

I finally realized she, and the nationally recognized co-owner of their group who of course heads the CSA credentialing were milking me and everyone there. I moved on and finally found a trauma trained T. I continued with Sexaholics Anonymous and did as many meetings a week in person as I could and on line when I could not make a live meeting. Then about 2.5 years in I realized that my “home” SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) group was nothing but perpetrators. I did manage the unnatural act of no sex including with self for 9 months once and the guys were pushing me to tell more about my past so I could keep “sobriety” while they were going home and jollying off on my past. Their stories were as bad, if not worse than the scoutmaster Perp and the majority were admitted pedophiles. Duh! Certainly not a place I belonged! Left that night and have never looked back.

Fast forward I have correctly been diagnosed with ptsd. I am better with appropriate regular T, some anxiety meds prn, healthy adult sexual expression with my partner and alone. She was a quack. The SA group was primarily a cult of perpetrators who do not want help they want to revel and wallow in their own and others stories of predation and degradation. I know others here believe they find support in SA. I found depravity and acceptance of deviates and pedophiles. Your experience may differ but until CSA is a true help and not a bought enough “credential” to con families of money I personally hope the current fraud of sex addiction goes the way of phrenology.
 
Hey Manipulated,
I am really sorry that you had that experience.
Certainly explains some of the reaction to the word addiction.

I went through a sex addiction group for 4 years run by one of my early T. (not an SA group)
I learned a lot and I believe it was the best thing for me available at the time.

I don’t believe that the author of the article was suggesting an SA approach necessarily. It did seem like he was pointing to the underlying Trauma as the mechanism of the compulsion.

After reading your post I can better understand the negative reaction to the concept of Sexual Addiction. Too bad it became such a bad ride for so many. Makes sense why the term has been retired.

I think this post has become something very different from what I was hoping for but I appreciate all of the responses. I will try and find a different article and try to start a new discussion about how sexual abuse can and does create unwanted and intrusive compulsions, fancies and acting out. It can be very disruptive and confusing.

For me the worst part of it was that my brain had learned to “go there” to get that extreme momentary escape. This fixation took over my intrests and sexual focus.

I was caught up in a terrible cycle of shame, fear, self hatred that would eventually lead to acting out then more shame, self hatred and eventually more acting out.

I wonder if this cycle fits into the model of PTSD.

It was definitely connected to my past trauma so maybe so. My acting out cycle was definitely connected to my childhood sexual trauma and the irrational believes that my mind had generated in trying to survive.

The best term I can come up with would be Post Traumatic Sexual Fixation Disorder PTSFD.
There’s probably a better term for it out there somewhere.
 

PRFL

Member
I too had a negative experience with SA although somewhat different. I felt that their "sobriety definition" was excessively rigid because it was (at least on those days "traditional heterosexual", thus excluding anything else like same sex or even masturbation. To be fair, those things can be done compulsively and addictively, but I don't think they are pathological per se. It seemed to me that they were more sexophobics and eventually I decided to give it up. There are four 12-step fellowships around sexual addictions, so I found a much better fit with a different one. Eventually I came to realize that my problem was the CSA, and that acting out was a symptom but addiction was not the primary cause.
Since I grew up in an alcoholic family, I've found a lot of the 12 step approach useful, but it does fall short on many areas, which is why I need therapy specifically addressing CSA and my associated PTSD.
The scientific and professional knowledge around these issues feels like is still very inadequate, and many times I get the feeling that the therapists are also learning about this as they try to work with us, so it's hard for me to feel confident and trust that what they are doing will work in my best interest, but then again, left to my own devices, this is where I'm at today, like I've read somewhere, "my best thinking led me here".
 

Bradley P

Member
Sexual compulsions stemming from childhood trauma

The following sections are from an article I found while researching about sexual compulsion and trauma.


I found this line particularly interesting.

“But this in itself tells us little about the issue of the man’s “real” sexual orientation”

And also this bit.

“You could say that in some situations addiction trumps orientation, and it is only after the person has worked through the unconscious issues driving the addiction and come to some level of sobriety from the drug of his acting out behavior that we can begin to see whether he actually has a gay or bi or straight orientation.”


In some cases the man in question is very addicted to real or virtual experiences of gay sex. In other words assessment will indicate that the behavior and associated fantasies are excessive and preoccupying. Also that he feels bad about how much it controls him, that there have been negative consequences in his life or relationships, that it has had a pattern of escalating over time and that he has been unable to quit. When sex addiction therapists see this pattern they often find that there is some history of trauma that is being played out compulsively in the addictive behavior pattern. Addictive sexual behaviors often mirror early memories and are highly charged by urges that come from deeply buried experiences. Hence they are powerful and can become a drug. But this in itself tells us little about the issue of the man’s “real” sexual orientation. He could be a gay or bisexual man who is a sex addict or he could be a straight man whose acting out behavior scenario is with gay men. As sex addiction therapists we are often unable to answer the question of orientation until the addiction has been addressed. You could say that in some situations addiction trumps orientation, and it is only after the person has worked through the unconscious issues driving the addiction and come to some level of sobriety from the drug of his acting out behavior that we can begin to see whether he actually has a gay or bi or straight orientation. It may be that he would be happier having relationships with men, that he is more likely to fall in love with men. Or he may find that he truly does prefer his relationship with a woman once he has given up his sexual acting out behavior in recovery. Regardless of what his sexual orientation turns out to be, this man may be like all recovering sex addicts. He may feel a pull toward his old addictive behavior, just as any addict would, whether he is in a relationship with a man or a woman. But in recovery this may be something that subsides with time. And that is the point: in recovery we truly have the choice to live in the way that will bring us the most fulfillment.

Taken from this article https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/03/when-straight-men-are-addicted-to-gay-sex/
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing! This answers a lot for me. Although I have never developed a full-blown addiction, and I have never acted out my fetishes through sex, I have had STRONG urges/compulsions for as long as I can remember, mostly towards specific same-sex sexual acts/activity--I have struggled off and on through the years with masturbation and occasionally porn.

Thanks again for sharing this.
 

Bradley P

Member
I don't believe that sex can be an addiction in the way drugs or alcohol are. It would be like being addicted to eating. You can eat too much, but the behavior isnt an addiction - you still have to eat to live.

Unhealthy sexuality is a disorder, not an addiction. Thats my opinion, and the opinion of many psychologists, I believe.
I understand and agree--I prefer the word "compulsion" or "compulsive behavior" because, for example with me, I have never developed a full-blown addiction according to definitions of addictions. I mean, I can go a year without "acting out" (P/M for me), and I often go extended periods of times. But ever since I was maybe 8 or 9, I felt this strong urging, impulse, that made me feel driven to seek out oral sex, though I never actually did, but that was my "thing." I see it as relating back to the abuse, and as an imprint from that abuse. It didn't "develop" in me through exposure to fantasy and porn. It was just--there.
 
thanks
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing! This answers a lot for me. Although I have never developed a full-blown addiction, and I have never acted out my fetishes through sex, I have had STRONG urges/compulsions for as long as I can remember, mostly towards specific same-sex sexual acts/activity--I have struggled off and on through the years with masturbation and occasionally porn.

Thanks again for sharing this.
Thanks for your comments I apreaciate it.

I have have strugled on and off your years as well with the same thing. fetish might be a resonable name for it but I know that for me if it is a fetish it is a trauma related fetish.
 
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