3 Reasons Why Sexual Addiction Is So Challenging


Conquering a porn or sex addiction is challenging to say the least.  Once we are accustomed to certain choices that fulfill us, even for a moment, it is difficult to withstand the temptation to give in just one more time.

Slips and relapse are a reality for those who wage the war against the sexually deviant behaviors that seek to destroy relationships, career, finances, health, and wellbeing.

Most people caught in a sex addiction want to stop, but there are forces against them that lure them back for another defeat.

Why is it so difficult to stop a behavior that is ruining your life?

There are at least 3 reasons why sexual addiction is so challenging to overcome:

1.  The Challenge Of Neurotransmitters

The National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) has done extensive studies and research on the role of brain neurotransmitters in the process of drug addiction.  

Dr. Valerie Voon, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, has conducted studies showing that these same neurotransmitters propel sexual addiction.

  • Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit nerve impulses that act as signals (messengers) from a neuron to another neuron or target cell.
  • Neurotransmitters affect mood, appetite, anxiety, sleep, heart rate, temperature, aggression, fear and many other psychological and physical occurrences.
  • Neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, Norepinephrine/Adrenaline, GABA, Glutamate, etc. all play a significant role in maintaining and increasing compulsive sexual behaviors.
  • Neurotransmitters form pathways in our brain, much like ruts in a muddy road.  The more we choose to give in to the signal messages, the more we will continue to follow the brain’s plea for action.

The only way to reroute the brain’s signals for unhealthy behavior, is to reroute the neurotransmitter’s pathways, replacing them with new routes towards healthy need fulfillment.  

In other words, forming new habits.

Just as it takes a lot of seemingly small choices to develop a porn or sex addiction, so it takes many corrective choices to change the neurotransmitter routes in our brain.  

Forming new habits require adequate time, persevering patience, a specific plan, encouraging support, and focused vision for a better future.  

2.  The Challenge Of Secrecy

When it comes to telling the truth about what is really going on inside of us, as well as sharing the things we do in secret, most of us fear truly being known.

Most of us are willing to reveal about 90% of our life with another person.  

Unfortunately, it is the 10% that we don’t share that controls us.

Robert Weiss, in a Psychology Today article, “Why Secrets Can Ruin Relationships”, attributes secretive behavior with a false sense or need for privacy.

He points out that while privacy is important on many levels, it is not the same as secrecy.

Secrecy, he points out, 

Is the active state of intentionally keeping information hidden from one or more people. In general, beyond professional requirements for confidentiality, if you keep something secret it’s because you fear the impact (on yourself or others) that the information might have if it were openly known.

Secrecy is powerful because it makes us feel safe from adverse consequences of rejection, punishment and pain. 

  • The fear of being ostracized keeps people living in secrecy.

When people admit that they have an alcohol or drug problem, an eating disorder, or a compulsive shopping problem, the admission is often met with compassion and support towards the person admitting their need for help.

Sexual addiction, however, carries severe social consequences of rejection and banning, especially in religious circles.

When someone gets caught engaging in “immoral” sexual behavior, the tendency is to kick them out, instead of supporting them with community and a plan for freedom and wellbeing.

  • The fear of punishment keeps people living in secrecy.

Certainly, the consequences of deviant sexual behavior are deserved, and appropriate, but when a person is ostracized as a perverted monster, it deters others from coming out of hiding to get the help they need, for fear that they will be ostracized as well.

We need to create safe environments for people to become vulnerable in sharing their sexual struggles, and get the help they desperately need.

3.  The Challenge Of Shame

The way we value ourselves will directly affect our ability to change destructive behavior, and live in personal and relational wellbeing.

Brene Brown, a research sociologist at the University of Houston, does a great job describing the affects of shame, and how to live wholeheartedly in wellbeing.

In her three books, The Gift of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong, she delineates many principles of becoming shame resilient, as she chronicles her own journey out of shame.

The bottom line…

  • Shame drives us into hiding, isolation, and relational disconnection because we are afraid of being exposed in our behavior and person, thus minimizing our intrinsic and perceived worth.
  • Shame says that if we are vulnerable, we will not be accepted and loved.
  • Shame convinces us that we are not enough, which creates a driving demand to compensate for the feelings and self-thoughts that incessantly scream out a lack of self worth and respect.
  • Shame tempts us with pleasurable and comforting sexual substitutes for authentic connection and intimacy. 
  • Shame leaves us feeling helpless and hopeless, which sabotages our efforts towards freedom and wellbeing.

Too many times in sexual recovery, the focus is on the symptoms instead of the driving influences of the behavior.

Freedom from compulsive sexual behavior (sex addiction) must include a plan to root out shame at every level of our lives.

Having a sense of self worth, value, significance, and hope is key in overcoming the challenges of sex addiction.

The good news is that we can be free, and begin to live wholeheartedly in wellbeing.  

As we learn to re-route our brain’s neurotransmitters, share our secrets in a supportive community, and silence the shame, we will have a great foundation to overcoming the challenges of sexual addiction.

Let us know how we can further help you in your journey.

Live well, 

Freedom U Team


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