When discussing the topic of addictions, most people will envision what they know of drug or alcohol addiction. However, addiction can come in the form of different behaviors. Addiction, as a term, is defined as the compulsive engagement with a thing, person, or activity. It typically known as a disruptive behavior that prevents a person from fully engaging with the world around him or her. It can be devastating to relationships and friendships as it is likely to interfere with a person’s ability to be present and connect with others.
1. Lack of self-esteem
Many people who suffer from an addiction to sexual activities or images have low self-esteem. This lack of a positive self-image may not always be rooted in childhood rejection, abuse, or neglect. Some people grow up in healthy households yet are never able to establish a positive view of their bodies and minds. This lack of confidence can make a person more vulnerable to addictive tendencies. In particular, those who lack self-esteem usually have a negative body image; this can lad them to the path of sexual addiction if physical gratification is sought as fulfillment of a personal void. Other risk factors include, but are not limited to, disordered eating, exposure to unhealthy relationship patterns, and other addictive behaviors.
2. Early exposure to sexual imagery
Though this may seem to be the most obvious risk factor or cause of sexual addiction, it is most certainly not the most common. However, early exposure, especially during childhood, to sexual imagery or sexual behaviors increases the risk of addictive behavior tremendously. This might include exposure to promiscuity by a parent or sibling, pornography, sexual abuse, overt sexual behaviors by parents or siblings, and exposure to adult content before being at an age-appropriate maturity level. Early exposure does not necessarily mean someone will be addicted to sexual activities or images later in life; it simply increases the level of risk. This kind of exposure, even if it does not lead to addictive behaviors, can be damaging and in some cases traumatizing for a child.
3. Addictive personality/behaviors
While addictive behaviors or disorders can come from “out of the blue,” many people who suffer from sexual addiction are predisposed to this kind of behavior. This is by no means an excuse for misconduct of any kind. It does, however, seek to offer another explanation for those who feel powerless as a result of their addiction. Addictive behaviors are typically present in people who will become fully immersed and engaged in an interest; often this engagement is short lived and disappears as quickly as it begins. This does not mean that someone with a tendency to hop from one hobby to another is at risk of addiction. But this kind of behavior indicates a deeper personality trait which can increase the risk of addiction. Those who suffer from sexual addiction will often seek physical satisfaction without forethought of the risks involved.
4. Difficulty establishing emotional intimacy
Many willing participants of addictive behaviors have an inability to establish and maintain emotional intimacy. While many factors may play into this incapacity, such as family life, exposure to sexual deviance, and sexual abuse, a person can become more adept in emotional intimacy with practice. It is important if this is identified early so that the individual can be trained how to connect appropriately with others. Establishing the process of emotional intimacy can, in turn, have a positive effect on the above risk factors by increasing self-esteem, creating an ability to recognize unhealthy behaviors, and an understanding of appropriate relationships regardless of past exposure.
In reality, there are no thorough enough responses for why a person might choose to engage in sexual addiction. As with other addictions, at some point the individual becomes seemingly powerless. Satisfying the physical desire becomes the most important activity to accomplish and prevents a person from being fully engaged with friends, family, co-workers, etc. There is hope, though, for those who find themselves in the grasp of addiction – just as with addiction to drugs or alcohol, there is help available for those who choose to seek it. At that point, it does not matter why someone has become addicted, rather it is now about how a person can become well and move forward.