Addiction

Do I Have a Sex Addiction?

Before doing a self-evaluation about whether or not you have a sex addiction, it is important to understand exactly what is a “sex addiction.” Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. The four key words are “persistent,” “escalating”—increasing, and “negative consequences.” These consequences interfere with normal living and cause severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.

Sexual addiction, also known as sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity, is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life. Because sex becomes the organizing principle of the addict’s life, it becomes a higher priority than family, friends, and work. A sex addict is willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.

No single behavior pattern defines sexual addiction. In fact, even the healthiest forms of human sexual expression can turn into self-defeating behaviors. Some out of control, compulsive behaviors, which may reflect sexual addiction include:

    • Masturbation

    • Simultaneous or repeated sequential affairs

    • Pornography

    • Cyber sex, phone sex

    • Multiple anonymous partners

    • Unsafe sexual activity

    • Partner sexualization, objectification

    • Strip clubs and adult bookstores

    • Prostitution

    • Sexual aversion

    • Exhibitionism

    • Voyeurism

    • Indecent phone calls

    • Child molesting

    • Incest

    • Rape

    • Violence in conjunction with sexual activity.

Some consequences of sex addiction include:

  • Social: emotional distance from loved ones; loss of friendship and family relationships; loneliness

  • Emotional: anxiety and/or extreme stress are common because sex addicts live with constant fear of discovery; shame, guilt, despair, resentment, self-pity

  • Physical: sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, herpes, genital warts; genital injury, cervical cancer; serious physical wounding or even death due to placing in situations of potential harm

  • Legal: many types of sexual addiction result in violation of the law; loss of professional status and professional licensure

  • Financial/Occupational: debt from the cost of the sexual behavior, legal fees, divorce or separation, decrease productivity or job loss.

So, do you have a sex addiction? The three questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Do I feel like I’ve lost the ability to control my sexual behavior: Have I crossed lines I didn’t think I would cross, set limits that I have failed to meet, made promises to stop a behavior and then continued it?

  • Do I experience a number of the consequences described above because of my sexual behavior?

  • Do I constantly think about sexual activity even when I don’t want to, for example, dream about sexual behavior regularly, spend time preparing for sexual behaviors, dwell on sexual experiences long after they are over?

Recovery is possible! Our treatment recognizes that sex addiction, like other addictions, results in brain chemistry changes; that, generally, there is a family background of addiction and/or a childhood history of emotional, physical or sexual trauma; and that, multiple addictions and disorders can coexist. Asa result, our approach is holistic and comprehensive, including counseling; neurofeedback; attention to establishing healthy behaviors in nutrition, exercise, stress management; and the support of a twelve-step recovery program.

Posted in Addiction

Two-Minute Massage Provides Cigarette Smoking Cure

A study from the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida (Preventive Medicine, 1/99) indicates that stimulating points on the ear may provide benefits for another very common addiction: cigarettes. In their study, self-massage of the ear, as well as the hand, helped 20 men and women reduce their nicotine cravings. The par­ticipants were taught to administer the two-minute massage whenever they experienced cravings. After a month, they cut down from an average of 16 cigarettes a day to just one. They also reported less anxiety, better moods, and fewer and less intense cravings. Here’s how they did it:

Crave-busting ear massage

1.   Use the thumb and index finger to pinch the ear lightly, start­ing at the top, then moving along the outer ear to the lobe.

2.   With the index finger, stroke in and around the middle rim of the ear.

3.   Lightly tug the ear lobe.

4.   Stroke the back of the ear with the index finger.

5.   With the thumb and index finger, massage the upper and outer areas of the front and back of the ear.

 

Anti-craving hand massage

1.   Use the thumb to massage the palm of the opposite hand in a circular motion.

2.   With the thumb and index finger, massage the entire length of each finger from base to tip.

3.   Stretch the fingers by gently pushing them up and back with the palm of the opposite hand.

4.   Use the thumb and index finger to press the web between the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand. Hold for 30 seconds.

Posted in Addiction

Nicotine Dependence and Therapy

Nicotine dependence is dispro­portionately represented among those with comorbid conditions of mental illness and/or chemical dependence. This is because nicotine is a mind altering drug.  Nicotine has been shown to alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia as well as those of depressive and anxiety disorders (Ziedonis, Wyatt and George, 1998). To reduce dependence on tobacco, the help of a counselor may be needed to address underlying symptoms.

Giving up the use of a drug evokes intense feelings surrounding loss as well as feelings associated with physical withdrawal (e.g., depression, anxiety, irritability and anger). A therapist can help a client identify these feelings and relate them to a concrete event, such as quitting tobacco use. The counselor then assists the client in finding coping strategies to deal with these feelings, such as sharing with others, journaling, and using anger management and relaxation techniques.

Confronting the realities of people’s drug use is another  impor­tant part of therapy. A significant majority of people are aware of the serious health consequences of tobacco use, such as heart disease and lung cancer. However, tobacco users fre­quently underestimate their own personal health risks. For example, less than one-third of current smokers believe they have a higher risk of heart attack than non-smokers, when in fact the risk is two to four times greater. Therapeutic  intervention involves personalizing these risks for the client. This can be accomplished through education about the state of current medical knowledge related to tobacco.

Polarization of thinking is treated by addressing both ends of the spectrum through education about the disease of addiction. With cognitive-behavioral therapy clients learn that they do have control over their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Talking to another chemi­cally dependent person who has quit tobacco use can change feelings of hope­lessness. Resentment about having to cease tobacco use can be reframed as excitement regarding opportunities to pursue other interests previously hin­dered by tobacco use. Practicing coping skills for trigger situations, learning relaxation techniques, using oral substi­tutes, and beginning an exercise program teaches the client proactive behaviors for achieving and maintaining sobriety.

If an individual’s self-definition includes being a tobacco user, quitting tobacco use creates a significant void or loss in a person’s self-esteem. With guidance from the clinician this per­ceived loss in self-esteem can be offset by the sense of mastery of having suc­cessfully met the difficult challenge of tobacco cessation.

Source: Martha Dwyer,  Addiction Professional, May 2003

Posted in Addiction

6 Signs of Sexual Addiction

  1. Social Problems: Addicts become lost in sexual preoccupation, which results in emotional distance from loved ones. Loss of friendship and family relationships may result.

  2. Emotional Problems: Anxiety or extreme stress are common in sex addicts who live with constant fear of discovery. Shame and guilt increase, as the addict’s lifestyle is often inconsistent with the personal values, beliefs and spirituality. Boredom, pronounced fatigue, despair are inevitable as addiction progresses. The ultimate consequence may be suicide.

  3. Physical Problems: Some of the diseases which may occur due to sexual addiction are genital injury, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, herpes, genital warts and other sexually transmitted diseases. Sex addicts may place themselves in situations of potential harm, resulting in serious physical wounding or even death.

  4. Legal Problems: Many types of sexual addiction result in violation of the law, such as sexual harassment, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, voyeurism, prostitution, rape, incest and child molestation, and other illegal activities. Loss of professional status and professional licensure may result from sexual addiction.

  5. Financial/Occupational Problems: Indebtedness may arise directly from the cost of prostitutes, cyber-sex, phone sex and multiple affairs. Indirectly indebtedness can occur from legal fees, the cost of divorce or separation, decrease productivity or job loss.

  6. Spiritual Problems: Loneliness, resentment, self-pity, self-blame

These consequences are progressive and predictable. The addict tends to minimize the consequences and tends to blame others for them. Family and friends minimize consequences by believing the addict’s promise that the behavior will change. When blaming and minimizing stop, recovery can begin. The above consequences can become the instruments for change if they can be truly recognized and accepted instead of denied.  A therapist or counselor with experience in addictions can be a vital ally on the road to recovery.

Posted in Addiction

Understanding Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others.  It can also be referred to as sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity.  By any name, it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life.  Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work.  Sex becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives.  They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.

3 basic questions you can ask yourself to see if you are experiencing sexual addictions are:

  1. Do I feel like I’ve lost the ability to control my sexual behavior (e.g., crossed lines I didn’t think I would cross, set limits that I have failed to meet, made promises to stop a behavior and then continued it)?

  2. Do I experience consequences because of my sexual behavior (e.g., miss work or call in late because of acting out, risk my relationships, loss of spirituality, legal consequences)?

  3. Do I constantly think about sexual activity even when I don’t want to (e.g., spend hours cruising for sexual experiences, dream about sexual behavior regularly, spend time preparing for sexual behaviors, dwell on sexual experiences long after they are over)?

Some out of control repetitive behaviors, which may reflect sexual addiction include:

  • Masturbation

  • Simultaneous or repeated sequential affairs

  • Pornography

  • Cyber-sex, phone sex

  • Multiple anonymous partners

  • Unsafe sexual activity

  • Partner sexualization, objectification

  • Strip clubs and adult bookstores

  • Prostitution

  • Sexual aversion

If you are experiencing the above repetitive behaviors and/or answered yes to the above questions the help of a professional therapist or counselor may be needed. Similar to other addictions, help is available.

Recovery is possible and life has joyful potential. Through the help of a therapist, recovery can be replenishing, not depleting; open, not secret; loving, not isolating.

Posted in Addiction

10 Signs of a Problem Gambler

Preoccupation

  • Preoccupation with gambling can include things reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money for gambling.

Tolerance

  • Tolerance refers to the need to gamble with larger amounts of money in order to achieve the desired level of excitement.

Withdrawal

  • When not able to gamble or attempting to cut down on gambling, withdrawal can result in restlessness or irritable.

Escape

  • Gambling is used a means to escape the problems of life or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, and/or depression

Chasing

  • Chasing a win refers to returning another day after experiencing a gambling lose to recover what was initially lost.

Lying

  • Lies are often told to family members, therapist, or others to hide the extent of a person’s involvement with gambling.

Loss of Control

  • Loss of control is evident when one has made repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.

Illegal Acts

  • In order to fund gambling habits, one may engage in illegal activities such as forgery, fraud, theft, and/or embezzlement.

Risked Significant Relationship

  • Gambling has resulted in or jeopardized a significant relationship, job, education and/or career opportunity.

Bailout

  • Financial difficulties resulting from gambling causes reliance on others to provide financial assistance to avoid significant consequences.

If you or someone you know experiences  3 or more of the above symptoms, it may be an indication of problem gambling .  If 5 or more symptoms are present, it may represent a significant problem with compulsive/pathological gambling that needs assistance from a professional therapist.  A therapist trained in addictions can help restore the personal, family, and vocational relationships that have been damaged by gambling addiction.

Posted in Addiction

The 4 Step Progression of Problem Gambling

Most people do not develop a problem with gambling overnight.  Generally, what begins as a fun and social activity slowly spirals downward until one is left feeling hopeless and out of control.  If you find yourself along the downward spiral, professional help is available.

Phase 1: Winning/Social Phase

  • Gambling is done for pleasure, such as seeking action or escape.  It also entails a social element that many people find rewarding.

  • Self-esteem is boosted from early and ‘big’ win experiences.

  • Gradually the involvement in gambling can increase to larger bets, more time spent gambling, and preoccupation with gambling.

Phase 2: Losing

Phase 3: Desperation

Phase 4: Hopelessness

Posted in Addiction

4 Common Behavioral and Substance Addictions

Addictions touch the lives of almost everyone in society.  Whether you personally struggle with an addiction, or know someone who struggles with an addiction, addiction is a reality for us all.  Sadly, many people who experience the negative impacts of addiction may not even be aware that they have a problem that is considered an addiction.

With the help of a therapist, you can assess the impact of any behavior or substance in your life and determine if it is addiction based. Below is a list of the most common behavioral and substance-based addictions that people experience in their everyday lives.

Behavioral and Substance Addictions:

Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia

  • Bulimia

  • Compulsive Overeating (excessively overweight)

Gambling

  • Race Track Betting

  • Table Games

  • Slot Machines

  • Sports Betting

Sexual

  • Excessive Sexual Behavior

  • Illegal Sexual Behavior

  • Pedophilia

  • Pornography

Substance (includes prescribed, street, legal, illegal and everyday)

  • Stimulants

    • Caffeine

    • Cocaine

    • Diet Pills

    • Nicotine

  • Depressants

    • Alcohol

    • Barbiturates

    • Heroin

    • Marijuana

    • Nicotine

    • Pain killers

    • Sleeping pills

If you are experiencing any of these addictions, professional counseling may help.  Confronting an addiction is often painful for you and those who love you.  A trained therapist will be able to help you find the strength and motivation to deal with your addiction in addition to providing practical behavior techniques to assist with recovery.

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