Addiction recovery help by replacement

contributing author: Katie McGrath

It’s easy to see why some people search for ways to escape their everyday life. Daily obstacles and challenges are common, and sometimes, life can seem like a difficult, if not impossible, test of wills. Addiction recovery help is about finding another option.

People turn to many different coping methods, including addictive behaviors such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, or gambling (1). But many other behaviors that aren’t considered as deviant as those just mentioned can also develop unhealthy patterns, including excessive work, promiscuous or risky sex, and high adrenalin activities like car and motorcycle racing, skydiving, rock climbing, and other forms of “extreme sports.”

In fact, researchers have found that drug users and extreme sports athletes rationalize their respective involvements in very similar ways (2).

Unfortunately, if the activities are used for escape, people usually find the relief they get to be temporary. When the “high” is finished, they find their problems alive and well as life comes back at them full-force. A temporary distraction, no matter how exciting or effective (like extreme sports, alcohol, or drug use) is just that – temporary.

The idea of “switching addictions” has come up in psychological research in the past (4). The question is: Can addicts substitute their choice addiction for a behavior that is actually beneficial?

Some research suggests that they can.

Yoga is one of he activities that may help drug addicts refocus their attention

Activities like exercise (running, yoga, and such), art (painting, photography), and other hobbies (such as gardening), may provide a source of comfort for drug users looking for a way to “fill in” the void left by drugs and/or alcohol. Each of these activities may provide the repetitive, mindful, pursuit that people who are prone to addiction may seek without many of the harms and dangers.

When I stopped getting high, one of the hardest things was figuring out what to do with my free time that didn’t involve using drugs. It was what I was used to doing when I was happy, sad, or bored. Now, I would be all those things, but the drugs weren’t there. It took me more than a year to get comfortable with movies, the gym, and books as replacements for what I knew how to do best – using drugs.

Running and other forms of exercise can be useful in recovery

In future posts, we’ll go over some specific ideas for changing behavior that may be useful for addicts trying to stop. We’ll also suggest specific strategies to keep from developing unhealthy habits even in these new, more constructive habits, while keeping them long-term. Addiction recovery can be tough, but actively replacing activities can help.

Question of the day:
If you’ve quit drugs or other addiction, do you have any suggestions regarding new habits you picked up that helped you in developing a new, healthier life?

Citations:

1. Hart, A. D. When coping becomes addiction.

2. Larkin, M., Griffiths, M. D. (2004). Dangerous sports and recreational drug-use: Rationalizing and contextualizing risk. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 14, pp. 215-232.

Internet Porn Addiction – Why is free porn so irresistible and what can love addicts do?

online-porn101In a recent post on Internet addiction, we briefly mentioned addictions to internet pornography. There’s no doubt that the easy access, and anonymity, of online access to any and every sexual whim conceivable is at the heart of online porn’s draw. Here we will take a more in-depth look at how Internet porn addiction develops.

The internet porn addiction connection

Excessive use of online porn can be thought of as a manifestation of both Internet addiction and sex addiction. In fact, porn addiction is one of the most commonly reported sex addiction problems, especially among younger individuals and among what Dr. Carnes calls “Phase 1” sex addicts, or the lighter version of sex addiction that doesn’t involve others.

Porn addiction develops much like a drug addiction. After an initially rewarding experience with pornography (a common experience given the cycles of sex we’d mentioned in an earlier post), individuals may experience uncontrollable urges to obtain sexual satisfaction through that form of entertainment (1). The connection between internet porn and sexual gratification is positively reinforced, and the urges become more frequent and more powerful. These connections can become so strong that simply sitting down at a computer elicits a sexual response.

Like in drug addiction the problems arise when urges to view porn conflict with an individual’s daily responsibilities. Instead of leaving for work on time, the addict may decide to stay at home and watch porn – Some porn addicts report staying at home for porn sessions that can last as long as 8-10 hours. The shame and guilt that often accompany these compulsive sexual experiences are also thought to greatly affect the experience of sex addicts and to reinforce the positive experience they receive from their shameful act. Many porn addicts report that they end up in a distressing situation where their shameful sexual release is the only positive experience they get to have.

It should be noted that the majority of people who use online pornography do so recreationally, with little ill effect (2). As is the case with drug addiction, it is only a sub-group of people that become “addicted” and suffer serious consequences from their porn addiction (e.g. lost jobs, disturbed marriages).

Whether we are talking about pornography, gambling or shopping, our golden rule for diagnosing behavioral addictions has been: no impairment, no addiction.

The toll of porn addiction and the refuge of he internet

Internet Porn Addiction can also bring about a different psychological toll than the shame we discussed earlier. As tolerance develops, individuals with porn addiction may also begin to need more deviant material to achieve the same high. This is again similar to the increased quantity and variety need experienced by many drug users and it’s where rape fantasies, fetishes, and child pornography often come into play. Exposure to such material can grossly distort beliefs about human sexuality and ruin interpersonal relationships. Patients that progress in this fashion often report feeling unsatisfied with their sexual experiences and unsatisfied with their partners (2).

We noted that in addiction, shame is a major component of the addiction cycle. This is especially true for sexual addiction. Social norms tell the sex-addict that there is shame in buying an adult magazine (like playboy or hustler) and that there is shame in soliciting a prostitute. Internet porn substantially reduces the risk of getting caught, and therefore of being shamed. Many individuals who experience porn addiction are able to hide their activity from their partners and remain completely anonymous on the web. Online porn is easily accessible, it’s available all the time, and getting free porn is easy. When you add complete anonymity into the mix, you get a recipe for a potentially serious addiction (2).

Porn addiction help – Some Advice

Relapse is common during recovery as patients often experience withdrawal symptoms when their normal consumption of pornography is reduced. In this case, like in many others, relapse is to be thought of as a misstep, and not a failure. See our post on treatments for sexual addiction to see how porn addiction is usually dealt with. In addition to these standard methods, patients can often benefit from the use of Internet filters and “accountability” software that sends a report of their online activity to a partner or therapist. Again, it’s important to recognize that although porn addiction is serious, there are solutions out there and sex addiction help resources in general are growing with the recent jump in awareness brought about by high profile cases like that of Tiger Woods.

Citations:

1. Griffiths, M. (2001) Sex on the internet: Observations and implications for internet sex addiction, The Journal of Sex Research, 38(4)

2. Cline, V.B. (2002) Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children

Facebook, E-mail, Games, and Porn – A glimpse at Computer addiction

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

Computer addiction, including social networking and porn  addiction, can lead to serious dysfunction in some peopleThe idea of the internet being addictive may draw a chuckle until you realize that compulsive video gaming has been responsible for some horrifying deaths across the world, including examples from China and South Korea of addicts playing for 50+ straight hours before going into extreme cardiac arrest.

With 1.5 billion Internet users around the world today, the Internet has become an integral part of our society. With the huge success of the Internet, researchers have become interested in the possibility of a new disorder, Computer addiction (or internet addiction disorder).

What is internet addiction?

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a controversial term being used to describe problematic use of the Internet. IAD is not a recognized diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Many wonder if excessive Internet use really counts as an addiction. Excessive Internet use could just be a symptom of other underlying factors such as depression, anxiety, or occupational need. (1)

Those that believe excessive Internet use is a unique phenomenon have modified the criteria for diagnosing pathological gambling to diagnose IAD. For someone to have IAD, they must demonstrate five or more of the following:

1. Is preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session).
2. Needs to use the Internet with increased amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction.
3. Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use.
4. Is restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use.
5. Has stayed online longer than originally intended.
6. Has jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity
because of the Internet.
7. Has lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet.
8. Uses the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e. g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression). (1)

Who gets computer addiction and to what?

Despite early beliefs that Internet addiction was most prevalent among introverted young males, new studies have shown that Internet addiction can affect people of any gender, age, and socioeconomic status (1).

People are most likely to develop unhealthy Internet habits using online social applications such as e-mail, instant messaging, and networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Myspace). Chat rooms and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) are especially addicting as they allow a user to instantly communicate with hundreds if not thousands of other users (2).

Online social interactions may help a person fulfill unmet real life social needs and thereby reinforce prolonged Internet use.

It should be noted that most studies of Internet use rely on self-report measures. This method undoubtedly leads to an underreporting of Internet pornography use. According to the AVN Media Network, people in the United States alone spend around three billion dollars on online porn. Aside from social applications, online porn certainly plays a significant role in Internet addiction.

So, does excessive Internet use truly characterize an addiction? That debate is not likely to end anytime soon. Either way, the Internet is here to stay and many individuals who have problems controlling their Internet use could benefit greatly from help, especially if their use involves a financial cost.

Citations:

1. Beard, K.W., Wolf, E.M. (2001) Modification in the proposed diagnostic criteria for internet addiction, Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 4(3)
2. Young, K.S., (1996) Internet addiction: Emergence of a new clinical disorder, Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 1(3)

The many different options to getting sex addiction help

We’ve talked about the fact that sex addiction (or love addiction) is defined by the inability to regulate sexual behavior despite negative consequences. We also mentioned already that it affects millions of Americans. But how does one get sex addiction help?

Addictive sexual behaviors can range from compulsive masturbation and porn watching, to compulsive cheating, to pedophilia. If left untreated, sexual addiction can severely interrupt daily functions and prevent meaningful relationships from forming. Fortunately, specialized treatment centers for sexual addiction are becoming more and more available. In fact, David Duchovny, an actor known to have sexual compulsion issues, just checked himself into one of those treatment centers.

Sex addiction help options

There are a number of behavioral and pharmacological therapies that are commonly used to treat compulsive sexual disorders. This review of sex addiction help options is not exhaustive by any means, but it’s long, so take your time:

Individual therapy can help patients address any underlying issues that may be contributing to their abnormal sexual behavior. Surveys of sex addicts show that up to 40% have anxiety disorders, 50% have substance abuse disorders, and 70% have mood disorders (1). Resolving these issues can greatly increase a patient’s chances for a successful recovery from sexual compulsion. There are many different forms of individual-psychotherapy, including Freudian, humanistic, and object centered. The important thing is to find a therapist that fits the patient’s individual style and that makes them feel comfortable.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very common in treating sexual addiction. CBT teaches its patients to correct irrational thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that lead to addictive sexual behavior (1). In practice, this is often done by role playing, journal keeping, and actual workbook homework. By adopting a healthy mindset, patients can better understand their urges and prevent relapse into unhealthy sexual behaviors. CBT can be practiced within individual sessions or as a form of group therapy.

Group therapy and 12-step programs based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model provide a non-hostile environment where patients can share their experiences and provide support for each other during recovery. Shame, a major issue for sexual addiction, is often best dealt with in a group setting. (2)

Family counseling and couples counseling are also common during recovery. Counseling can help rebuild trust and intimacy that has been lost as a result of compulsive sexual behavior (3). Like individual therapy, these forms of counseling allow for a slightly more tailored, personal approach.

Drug therapy may be used in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat sexual addiction. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and lithium have been reported to reduce the frequency and intensity of urges to engage in addictive sexual behaviors (2). In more serious cases of sexual addiction such as sexual predation, gonadotropin-releasing hormone and chemical castration agents may be administered to reduce sexual drive. These forms of therapy can allow a reduction in the compulsions that drive the behavior, sometimes allowing the patient to better focus on the therapeutic efforts.

Sex addiction bears great resemblance to substance abuse. However, the goal in treating sexual addiction is not abstinence, but the development of healthy sexual practices (who wants a life without sex?). Compared to substance abusers, it generally takes longer for sex addicts to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

What to expect from sex addiction help

The first year is the most turbulent and poses the greatest risk for relapse as the patient is often experiencing difficulties with their occupation, relationships, or health as a result of their addiction. From the second year of recovery and onward, patients begin to regain the ability to form meaningful relationships and move forward in their personal life (4). However, patients often find that the struggle with their addiction is ongoing, at least for the first few years of their “recovery.” Considering how long it took for the unhealthy habits to develop, it’s no surprise that a substantial amount of time is often needed to reconfigure them.

The important thing is to have support and to take your time. My wife and I work with couples and individuals who struggle with sex addiction and intimacy issues and often times, in addition to the work, it requires patience and the passage of time. Success often comes on the 2nd, 3rd, or even on a later treatment attempt. If the motivation is there, the chance of beating sexual addiction is good. Keep your focus and try different options or combinations.

If you’re interested in working with us, please contact us and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Citations:

1. Briken, P., Habermann, N., Berner, W., and Hill, A.(2007) Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Addiction: A Survey among German Sex Therapist, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity,14:2,131 – 143

2. Schneider, J.P. & Irons, R.R. (2001) Assessment and treatment of addictive sexual disorders: Relevance for chemical dependency relapse, Substance Use & Misuse, 36(13).

3. Salisbury, R.M.(2008) Out of control sexual behaviours: a developing practice model, Sexual and Relationship Therapy,23:2,131 – 139

4. Goodman, A. (1998) Sexual addiction: Diagnosis and treatment, Psychiatric Times, 15(5)

What does it mean to be love addicted? Sex addiction explained.

What do you think of when you hear the words “sex addict“? Do you imagine someone who has sex dozens of times a day? Someone who owns a lot of sex toys? Someone who spends all their time immersed in pornography?

While all of these scenarios, and others, can identify someone with a sexual addiction, the crucial part of identifying an addict has to do with the consequences of the behavior and the person’s inability to control them. That being said, sex addiction is a relatively recent idea. In fact, it’s sometimes called love addiction instead.

So what is sex addiction?

A sexual addict experiences the same type of uncontrollable compulsions that others feel in different forms of addiction (like substance, alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc). In his book (Out of the Shadow: Understanding Sexual Addiction) Carnes talks about the compulsive sexual behavior as guiding a misperception of the self.

In simple words: Sex addicts’ view of themselves depends on their relationship with sexual behavior. Since they often find themselves unable to control the behavior, they often have trouble with their self-image.

What is sex addiction NOT?

Let us look at some of the NOTS of sexual addiction. Sex addicts are not people who are just hypersexual and get satisfied with their sexual behaviors; rather, they are often not satisfied with the sexual activities that they engage in. Sex addicts are not necessarily Casanovas, but are often normal functioning people who find themselves having to hide their compulsive sexual urges.

While some sex addicts do pay for sex, others are compulsive about watching porn and others simply struggle with monogamy. The point is, the stigma of sex addicts as predatory child molesters needs to be put to rest.

How common is sex addiction?

Sex addiction is a major problem in our society. Some estimate that as many as 15 million people in the U.S. are sexual addicts (roughly 8% of all men and 3% of women). Easy access to porn offered by the internet has most likely increased the prevalence of sexual addiction in the past decade. In fact, for most people getting porn addiction help specifically is the problem.

The costs for those suffering from sex addiction are also numerous: Relationships and families are disrupted and destroyed, the addict’s self-esteem diminishes as they are unable to be productive in other areas of their life; illegal activity (like prostitution) ends up causing arrests, and health is often affected through the contraction of diseases.

Am I a sex addict?

Now, don’t immediately assume that you are a sex addict because you fantasize about sex a lot. But how does one know if they are addicted to sex?

The simple rule is: no impairment, no addiction.Sex addiction

On the other hand, if day to day functioning is affected by the behavior (in this case, something sexual), this may be an indication of a problem. So, whether it be having sex often, thinking of sex, or even just being extremely horny, if it’s making a person’s daily activities or relationships dysfunctional and if they are unable to control their behavior they may be defined as a sex addict.

In future posts we will look more into the symptoms, forms, theories, and treatments related to sex addiction. In the mean-time, keep reading, and if you feel brave enough, share your story; who knows, you may be able to help someone else who is love addicted!!!

Sex addiction help from All About Addiction

If you need help finding treatment for your own, or a loved one’s sex addiction, make sure to give our Rehab-Finder a try: It’s the only evidence-based, scientifically created, tool for finding rehab anywhere in the United States!

My Friend the sex addict part 2 – The ups and downs of sexaholics

As you may recall from an earlier post, a friend of mine, Brian, has been struggling to get some control over his sex addiction.

I had referred him to a number of clinics that treat sex-addiction specifically, and to Sex Addicts Anonymous (sometimes known as sexaholics anonymous) as a starting point. I’m not at all surprised that he hasn’t followed up with either of these for now, since his addiction has only recently become an issue he recognizes and though the costs are obvious, they’re not staggering, yet.

The concept of addiction to sex is relatively recent (see 1st citation, in 1991). Still, it’s relationship to substance-use and dependence in terms of predictors, determinants, and progression have been mentioned from the very beginning and are still being examined today.

The issue for most people here is the absence of any drug that’s being taken in, which makes them doubt the validity of looking at the two conditions as one.

In my earlier posts on the pharmacological actions of cocaine and meth, I talked about how it is that those drugs activate that neural systems that control rewards in ways that are unnatural. There is little doubt that the “help” provided by these chemicals makes the link between their initial use and later, compulsive use, easy to follow.

ProstitutionStill, repeated exposures to a rewarding stimulus (like sex) can themselves set up behaviors that seem reinforced, but that are maladaptive (as in bad for them). The search for internal reinforcement through repeated sexual encounters, pursuits, and preoccupation would be the pattern common to many sex addicts.

By consistently making them feel better (sexual release results in more dopamine in the brain as well), a pattern develops that may lead certain individuals to seek the reward whenever they need reinforcement. Once such a pattern develops, the road to compulsion, is not too long. This is especially true for those who already have low impulse control, for whatever reason, as I discussed earlier.

Brian’s issue is certainly his need for ego reinforcement, and his brain has learned that the attention of a woman provides that in bulk. The problem is, as I’d pointed earlier, that many areas of his life, including his ego when he ends up not keeping up with other responsibilities, end up being damaged in the process.

This sets up the all too familiar cycle of ups and down common to many addicts. To those who know him, the fact that Brian’s priorities are “screwed-up” is no secret.

Brian at least recognizes his pattern now and perhaps, if the roller-coaster ride become too extreme, he may decide that it really is time to do something about it. One thing is certain, he recognizes that he is likely a sex addict.

In the meantime, the age of the internet has provided immediate access to sexual content, which makes relapse all to easy for sex addicts. I recommend putting a lock on your own computer that is controlled by someone else if that is part of your sexual addiction. Having someone to talk to that you feel comfortable enough to share urges when they do come up can be of great help too. This is where 12-step groups come in handy for most people. It’s hard to talk to most people about things we find shameful unless they too have had the same problems…

Question of the day:
If sex-addiction is your problem, what have you found can help you in best resisting the compulsive urges?

Citation:

Schneider, J. P. (1991). How to recognize the signs of sexual addiction. Asking the right questions may uncover serious problems. Postgraduate Medicine – Sexual Addiction, VOL 90 (6).

My Friend the sex addict – When looking for love goes too far

I have this friend, we’ll call him Brian, who has recently realized that he may be addicted to sex. Being an addiction specialist, he obviously came to me for advice. I told him that I would look into some of the treatment centers specializing in sexual addiction, and that in the meantime, there are support groups (like sex addicts anonymous) he can turn to for help.

Still, his revelation was not a surprise to me or the few other close friends who were let in on his problem.

Brian has been chasing women for a while, and even though he is young, many of us have noticed that the lengths he’ll go to, and effort he will sometimes put in to getting these women into bed can be astounding. From elaborate schemes of heavy partying, to lavish dinners, long weekends, and outright lies and deceit, Brian would essentially stop at nothing to get a woman to become his lover.

Owning a successful business, this has meant bedding some clients, as well as clients’ wives along with assistants, assistants’ friends, and colleagues. While this may be impressive in an “Animal House” sort of way, Brian has come to realize that his ways may be sabotaging all aspects of his life other than the average number of orgasms he is experiencing.

He often gets little sleep, at times is forced to drop accounts due to precarious personal relationship, and has no doubt that few of his clients ever refer him for fear of affairs being discovered, jealousy, or for other reasons.

Brian has realized that much like a drug addict, his “using” of sex often leaves him feeling empty and wanting. Probably as importantly as all the trouble above, Brian has been unable to get involved in any serious romantic relationship for a few years now. Like a drug addict, he craves the comfort of the “normal” life but feels empty without the constant rush he gets from his sexual escapades.

Brian and I share many of these attributes, and so our conversations in these last few months have helped us both understand the origin of this seemingly insatiable need for sex, love, and intimacy. Still, Brian finds himself “relapsing” and setting out on sometime week long sexual “binges” whenever he loses his resolve. For those familiar with sexual addicts, narcissism, a constant need for validation and attention, as well as bouts of depression are very common. Still, I believe that there is more to sexual addiction than personality traits and a need for social validation.

Some of my own recent research has centered on understanding the neurological mechanisms that may drive what are called “natural” addictions, as in sex, food, gambling, and even video-game addictions. I believe that as far as the brain is concerned, there really is very little difference between “natural” addictions and drug addiction. While I believe I’m on the right track, my theories are involved and so I will reveal them in future blogs, slowly unraveling what I believe to be the common brain mechanisms that are shared by both drug and natural addictions.

I will keep telling the story of Brian along with stories of other friends and acquaintances who suffer from addictions and addiction related problems. I’d like for all of you to feel free to share with me similar stories, whether these involve yourselves or other around you. I am here to offer my help and guidance.

Question of the day:
Do you know anyone who suffers from a similarly insatiable need for affection? What are the characteristics of this need? Can you try to see what may be behind the “chase”?