Archive for ‘sex addiction’

4 June 2012

Sexuality & the beginning of recovery

To stop drinking or taking drug for an alcoholic-drug addict is one thing and to remain sober is another one. Sexuality and affectivity are responsible for 70% of the relapses. For a new recovering addict-alcoholic, to stop the escape routine will be an everyday challenge. The first years are particularly fragile. Depending on everyone, hypersensitivity can last over years of sobriety. The difficulties in the love, sex and relationships domains need to be handled with care.

This article presents some of the challenges with which people are likely to be confronted in the beginning of their recovery.

Information and advice on love, sex and relationships to get  through the 1st year of sobriety:

When a person stops using, the first year is filled with first times. Several common points define a new life without using: work, housing, physical health, finances, etc.  However, because the history of each individual is different, the stakes with which each one is confronted will require different knowledge and abilities. For example:

  • Those which stop using will live a first year under the sign of  change and the rediscovery of oneself and others. For several, the discovery of a new sensitivity, an unknown shyness or a difficulty in communication with people  will be areas to be explored.
  • Where the products offered an asylum to distress, anger or loneliness, the individual learns how to compose with these negative affects in order to stay sober. It is an enormous challenge. Some will have the courage and put the efforts. Others will give up or start again the course on several occasions.

Québec psychologist Dollard Cormier (1) proposed an explanatory model of drug-addiction. Using as a way to feel adapted to life’s events.

… to regard drug-addiction as a mode of adaptation privileged, which answers a given existential context. While being based on the principles of the systemic approach, it poses alcoholism like a life style. To prove to be effective, any intervention must thus be delayed with various dimensions which make this life style, that is to say physiological, psychological and social dimensions.

According to Cormier, drugs are used to balance the moods and a way to get over different life situations. Depressed, stressed, a little cocaine? A little `speed’ to feel strong ? Too excited? Some beers or pills will calm the anxiety. While using, the person does not have access to her depressive, maniacs or anxious tendencies. With the new sobriety, one  finds itself suddenly with having to compose with those by new means. The same phenomenon is similar to sexuality.

Sexual desire

Alcohol is a depressant that affects behaviour. When using or drinking, a shy person may not have any more trouble smiling, talking or proposing anymore. Another which does not like its body becomes daring and does not have any more embarrassment to be naked and to have sex when in a state of intoxication.

For those whose sexual desire was exacerbated by taking stimulants, it will be difficult to start again to live a sexuality without any product. This  may include a new understanding on how to awake and stimulate sexual desire. In this situation, people may have to go through a mourning period about sexual desire as well as the enormous «highs» from the days of sexuality under psychotropics. This mourning is necessary otherwise, it may always pose a risk for turning over to use again. This situation is particularly risky for relapsing.

Concerning  women in particular, some women had sexual desire instantaneously without any efforts while using cocaine. They find that sexual desire is not automatic any more. They don’t recognized themselves any more and must learn how to desire as well as becoming and putting themselves in a desirable mood.

Some others may have been without sexuality for many years prior to recovery. Their relationship to their body is almost nonexistent. They rediscover their body and physical feelings. They realize now they can be attractive, beautiful and sexy.  They start  to take care of their body, they dress and rediscover their femininity and their masculinity.

There are those which arrive to the program after many years of loneliness.  The bottle was their first comfort,  it didn’t  matter if they were lonely and isolate. The bottle filled these needs. They will have to learn  to know their limits, to communicate, to be assertive and how to face their feelings and emotions without escaping them anymore.

Others have been confronted with physical or psychological violence in their relationships.  They might be stuck with doubts and mistrust and it might continue to harm their possibilities meeting healthy and safe people.

There are also those which worked in the sex industry  which do not know any more what is a balanced and respectful relation, not being able to communicate without seducing or unable to receive and let go while having sex anymore. We often see men particularly confuse about their sexual orientation.  Because they had being doing sex work mostly for men, they may question themselves about sex and love for a long time.

Finally, there are those which arrive with childhood traumas of  violence, sexual abuse and negligence. They will start to remember these painful memories. The beginning of sobriety and the work ahead to stay sober will be a priority. People addressing childhood traumas need a supportive network around and many will start to cut off old relationships that are not emotionally healthy.

Because people do not arrive at same the levels, the needs and the abilities  to develop will be different for everyone.

Addicts are often extremists. For some time now, we know that using a product hides some other addictions or addictive behaviours. It’s not transferring one addiction to another, it’s about bringing the new ones to light.  For example:

  • To rediscover the feeling of being attractive can update compulsive seduction, shopping addiction ;
  • To rediscover being physical and to have difficulty to commit in a loving relationship can bring a sex addiction, co-dependency;
  • To want to be liked at any price: co-dependency;
  • To become without  sex: sexual anorexia, eating disorders, workolism, etc;
  • To be skilful sexually but unable to live the love can lead to the hypersexuality

Addiction to a product or a behaviour locks up the person in a pattern from which it can escape only with help and many efforts.

Seduction:

What attracts our glance  at first is the physical appearance: the colour of the hair, the colour of the eyes, the size, the weight, the curves of the body, how people hold themselves, their mimicry, etc. This part  belongs to the non-verbal part of the seduction.

The second level, of seduction is the verbal level: The verbal part gives us much information on the emotional state of a person and on its capacity to be assertive. Is the tone of voice loud, fast, or is the tone warm, confident and posed? The choice of  words also account much, are they reassuring or hurting? Does the person always speak as if frustrated or angry? The choice of the words we use can attract or push back people.

The 2 levels of seduction in the choice of a  partner are equally important. They are indicators about what one may lack when trying to attract someone. To adopt a welcoming attitude but to be neglected  physically may repel  a potential partner or push away an old one in the long run.  To choose somebody only by its physical appearance can be misleading and it is necessary to seek for more. With this information, one can look at themselves and create a better balance between what you look-alike and who you are.  It ‘s ok to be attracted to the perfect beauty but its even a  better choice if she or he  is tender, accessible and cordial. Again, if the woman you choose is the ideal image of beauty but she is cold, distant and criticizing , the quality of your sexual desire, the  quality of love and  even your erections or sexual desire are likely to be affected with time.

One of the components of love is admiration, if you are ashamed of your partner, the relation could be dedicated to the failure.

Red flags:

A new recovery is fragile. You start to live your emotions without using, you need to be aware in your search for love. Some people are not made for you and the contexts could harm your recovery. Here a small list of red flags, do not hesitate to add some with your personal list:

  • A compulsive seducers;
  • Somebody who’s not available emotionally or physically;
  • Someone who says they are not ready for a relationship;
  • Someone with too many unfinished business: housing, work, health, etc;
  • Someone with a prior history of violence who does not take care of it, someone doing illegal business;
  • Someone who would need to take medication but chooses not to;
  • Someone already engaged;
  • Someone who talks madly about their ex’s without admitting any responsibilities;
  • Somebody who neglects his or her  parental duties

Showing some interest

Okay, you finally see someone you like and you would like to meet her-him but you have the jitter.  This is where you will need courage to go forward. Having a low self-esteem may be for someone who has talent, skills and knowledge and still sees themselves has weak or unable to do something. Be careful, don’t give up before you try. The worst that can happen is a No for an answer. A No is a No for a date, not a rejection of your whole self.

Someone ask you out:

You are not interested and that makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t know what to answer or if you tend to answer automatically and then regret it later, take some  time to think about it before you answer. When one is afraid or if  you tend to do a lot of self-sabotage, giving yourself time to sleep on it  is correct. Be vigilant about your motivations and be clear and honest when you give your answer. To take a few hours or a few days to think of it before answering is completely correct.

You said yes!

Remain calm and  be yourself.   A first meeting into is often stressful. Remember that you are not meeting a priest,  there is no obligation to tell your life in its least details. In addition to being inappropriate, it can scare the person away. If you drown people with your stories without giving the other the opportunity to place a few words,  you might not see them again. A first rendez-vous is an occasion to know a little more about someone: sports, hobbies, readings, studies, family? Remain light and give you two the chance to get to know each other. If he or she declares her interest for more, be honest and allow yourself to say where you stand: you don’t know yet? You don’t want the relationship to take that direction? You are not sure?  Be honest to yourself and to the other.

You want only sex for sex?
You want to have a real relationship?

Be careful not to begin a relation which is not in harmony with what you really want wishing it will change with time.

Your time is precious so are you! Don’t be afraid that you will lose the opportunity for love if you say ‘No’ to that relationship.

Ok, you’ve been doing activities together and it seems that you two would like more.  Its time for an honest talk.

Before you have sex:

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): If you meet someone and you are about to have sex without wearing a condom, you expose yourself to catch  STDs.

For example,  1/5 person in Quebec is carrying the virus of the herpes. When you are ready to have sex for the first time with a new partner, would you like to know if they have it? If you have it yourself, will you tell your new partner prior to having sex?

You are starting a new life without using you may want to start it by being responsible for your act. If you are carrying a virus, speak with your new partner before your first sexual intercourse. If 1/5 person has herpes, it is possible that they also have it or they might ask questions about it and they may agree to have safe sexual intercourse  in spite of your herpes.

It is also possible that the person will refuse to go further. Is it bad? No, it’s not fun but you are carrying a virus, you need people understanding and supportive around you. You have a reputation to build, it’s better to be known as someone who is responsible. You may sleep alone for a while but you’ll sleep better.

You are starting a new a relationship:

What kind of couples do you want to be? What kind of partner do you want to be? How do you deal when a problem arise?  Reevaluate your beliefs. What do you expect from your partner? What are you able to offer? Be realistic, don’t try to be perfect.

If you seem to have too much difficulties, do not hesitate to ask for help and to seek professional guidance. Be a good consumers, choose your therapist wisely and carefully. To tell your history to another person will help you to tackle your problems differently and to get a different way for you two to solve it. Pay attention not to tell your problems to everyone. Be discrete, the more you talk to about it, the more you’ll be confused.

In sex therapy, people consult quite often for relational difficulties which end up harming their love and sexual life. To be in relation requires many efforts, flexibility and courage. It is not because you are in recovery that it is different, it is sometimes because you escaped with drugs and alcohol many years and that you are not accustomed to face unpleasant emotions.

If you wish to consult for sexual difficulties, several problems are treated very well. For example: premature ejaculation (PE). Its men #1 problem and it is one which is treated easily. If you fear to enter a relationship because of PE  get some help instead of remaining alone. PE is often a misunderstanding about the mechanic of ejaculation. Once the understanding and the practice is done, its like riding a bike, you don’t need to think about it constantly. The more one flees a problem, the more it is likely to intoxicate the mind.

Reminiscence of sexual abuse:

The amount of people sexually molested in childhood is high.  When people quit using, they start to remember these memories. Using was a way to escape or avoid  these painful memories.  It may become a priority to seek help for childhood abuse without going back to drugs. Several organizations are there to assist you in this process. Now that you decided to live without using, your duty towards yourself is to heal.

When one is confronted with stories connected to childhood, one tends to revive them with the mind of a child. You are now an adult and it is with eyes and a mind of an adult that you will pass through this.

Patterns connected to childhood:

Some people had difficult childhoods. When you are a little kid, the only way you can live and go through life is by developing patterns that will make the insanity in which you live in more acceptable. At time it was the best solution you found. The problem with these maladaptive schema is that you might keep them and bring them into adulthood. It is necessary to be vigilant when these  patterns appear, one can tend to confuse reality with patterns and tyranny with love. Co dependency is very often connected to childhood and this one leads the person to remain in relationship in spite of insanity and to distort reality in order to accept the unacceptable. To choose recovery and sobriety it is to face emotions to which one is not accustomed to deal with. Your story will not be erased but its effects will decrease and it will cease dictating your life. To take care of oneself is to have maturity to ask for help  and to accept receive it.

To live without using is a great freedom. You are released from obsessions and compulsion and you can choose a better life for yourself. Take care of yourself, you  are an important person. You start to live and you will become the person  you wish to be, a person who stand up, a person who does not flee  her shadow any more.

(c) Mériza Joly

(1) Cormier, D. (1984a). Toxicomanies : styles de vie. Chicoutimi : Gaëtan Morin Éditeur, 175 p.

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26 April 2012

Women: Fear of commitment & Hypersexuality

We all know women who seem to have what they needs that to be in relationship but who are single for a long time. They do not miss sexuality, they have a lover (or some) here or there but rarely a stable relationship. When they meet a new promising man, the passion and the shivers are there but the story often ends with : ” Yes, but… “

Women and the fear of commitment

Generally, in the popular belief, the men(people) are afraid of the commitment and the women always look for a reassuring, stable and serious relation. The women do not seem to have of difficulty finding a good match and making a commitment. To strengthen these comments, the anthropology says to us that because the woman carries and sets care of the children, her best strategy of survival will always be the commitment. When a woman is alone for a long time, we may start to wonder what is faulty in her … Until the day when it is herself who asks this question.

Why women are afraid of commitment?

Fear of commitment can come from painful past experiences:

  • A nasty parental divorce;
  • A break that ended badly;
  • A previous relationship imprints of violence;
  • A physical health problem: dyspareunia (pain in the vulva during penetration), an STI (Sexually Transmissible Infections) one does not want to reveal;
  • Rape or incest in childhood that complicate sexuality;
  • The fear of being hurt, being abused, deceived;
  • Etc…

When fear of commitment is unconscious it can occur insidiously in several ways:

Self-sabotage and the fear of commitment:

  • Self-sabotage of  love : fantasize an ideal of  a love relationship that does not exist;
  • Pushing away men or the new boyfriend by complaining or being downright rude;
  • Loss of libido: to avoid being vulnerable and to protect themselves;
  • Self-sabotage by neglecting their appearance, their weight: self-image becomes negative and the person no longer feels desirable;
  • Repel the other to protect its habits, its secrets and sensitivity or weakness
  • Do not get involved or show little interest;
  • Focus only on th negtiv aspect of the partner;
  • Etc..

The auto-sabotage can also result from diverse messages conveyed in the advertising. Indeed, if we follow messages advertising uses, we, the consumers really deserve only the best. We should not content ourselves with crumbs. Others should be always ready for us. Our tolerance level to imperfection  is very low and we all silently agree when one is not meeting perfection to reject the potential lover.  ” I deserve the best! ” The goal is not to meet a good man but to meet the perfect one. The goal is a law to be respected.

Several myths about romantic relationships are scattered with pitfalls love research. The idea that if true love exists in a couple, there can be no conflict. If true love exists, sex is easy and satisfying instinctively. If true love exists between us, everything is…

Fear of commitment is closely related to fear of intimacy. If I do not approach you too close, you will not see my imperfections. If I keep a certain distance, you will not see my moments of weakness or deception. I will be able to pretend that I am perfect and you’ll love me because I will be perfect.

Despite this fear of commitment, emotional needs and sexual needs do not disappear. A woman may be afraid of commitment without being immunized against her needs of physical closeness and her sexual desires. Sex is fun and offers an effective way to avoid the distress that may cause the fear of commitment and provide sort of a socially acceptable love life and even a sexual life one may envy. “Take the best, leave the rest” may offer some relief. Unfortunately, hypersexuality as an antidote to the phobia of commitment does not fill the deeper emotional needs. Hypersexuality remains a temporary relief and the search for new partners will continue to ensure that the anesthetic effect lasts.

The basis of intimacy implies the self-opening and self-disclosure to the other. This issue may prove to be an extreme anxiety factor. To recognize their fears related to commitment and accept that there is a period of discomfort is a  first step. Losing one’s usual landmarks is a difficult but necessary step to be done.

There, where formerly the woman erotized the mystery, the unknown, the novelty even danger, she has to find new domains of her life to be sexually invested. Erotize love and a long term partner, the stability a secure everyday life partner. Recognize her fragility and remind herself that the commitment, we make is to herself and no matter what will happen, we shall not let ourself down. And if ever we fall, we shall get up and grow by this experience.

20 March 2012

Porn

Porn is in our lives and its not going away. Whether you are for it or against it doesn’t matter.  If porn is here to stay,  learn to deal with it in a mature and responsible way. If you don’t want to slip into a porn addiction you might have to consider a  few points. I separated porn uses in three categories. Find out where most of your porn use is and see if you have to be careful and manage better your use of porn.

Green light: The Good use of  Porn

  • To find new ideas.
  • To wake up sexual desire.
  • To set the mood.
  • To have access to images of genitalia.
  • To see humans perform sexual activities.
  • To see what you can do to a man sexually.
  • To see what you can do to a woman sexually.
  • To be sexually arouse faster.
  • To show our sexual preferences to the partner.
  • To masturbate watching erotic scenes.

There are plenty of positive sides to porn.  Do you decide when you want to use porn or you lost the ability to choose to watch it or not? Don’t let porn become the center of your life.

Yellow light: Monitor yourself and adjust (now):

  • Believing that porn is reality.
  • You prefer to watch porn than have sex with your partner.
  •  You ask constantly the partner to perform things seen in movies. Ignoring her lack of enthusiasm,  harassing her even when she refuses.
  • You spend more time than expected on the net looking for the perfect picture (or clip) to masturbate.
  • You are  tired at school or work because you spend the night on the Net.
  • You begin to decline gatherings with friends and family to spend more time on the net watching porn.
  • You smoke more cannabis, take more cocaine or drink more alcohol, to watch porn.
  • Your girlfriend complains because you don’t go to bed together anymore.
  • You lye  about the amount of time spent on the Net watching porn.
  • You  injured your penis while masturbating but you dare not go to the doctor or talk to anyone.

Porn can be very addictive. If your porn use is in the yellow light, you have 2 choices, either you modify your porn habit or you develop a full blown addiction.

Red light: You need help:

  • You fell on child porn and even if you were disgusted at the beginning, you started to go back regularly. You begin to fear the police will come for you soon.
  • You begin to miss days of work because you spend the night on porn sites.
  • When you are on the net and watch porn, all your needs are met, you do not need anyone or anything.
  • When life goes wrong and you watch porn, you forget all your worries and problems disappear. The next day you feel hopeless when you have to face your problems.
  • Your partner threatens to leave you or left already.
  • You have several academic failures.
  • You watch porn at work even if it is forbidden.
  • Your job performance has attracted the attention of your superiors.

Porn is adult entertainment. Actors and actresses are paid to entertain you. A porn movie will make you to believe that sex is easy when its more complex than a porn scenario. Be sensitive to the fact that the more you will watch porn, your tolerance level will rise.   You will go from soft to harder porn, it will change over time. Try to remember that no everyone has the same level of understanding towards porn. If you have it on your phone, be respectful by not imposing it on others. Remember that it is forbidden by law to watch porn with minors. If you watch it in your workplace, you may be accused of sexual harassment if others witness it without their consent. There is time for porn and there is time for everything else. Be smart.

If you have children in the house, do not let them have easy access to your porn. On the Net, make sure to protect your files with a password. When your children will start to become interested in sexuality, they will tell you and then you can present them with age appropriate material. Porn is not suitable for children and its not sex education material. It is design for adult.

If you started to download and watch child pornography, you have to know that in Canada (1), if you have not been subject to criminal prosecution, you may, under certain conditions, ask for help without fear of being denounced. There are 3 conditions for that:

1. No specific child is at risk of being abused by you.

2. You don’t have any children at home.

3. You are not working with children.

Under these conditions, the information shared with  your therapist will remain confidential. Before meeting with the therapist,  ask these questions over the phone.

There are many varieties of porn. Some people enjoy it a lot while some others do not like it at all. It is a matter of personal choice.

1.  Another Gold-Star Pedophile. Dan Savage March 7, 2012

29 January 2012

Limits, avoidance & secret

We all have our share of frustrations every day. How we deal with it is very personal. Sometimes we learn by “trial and error,” we talk to someone, we get some advice, other times we “sleep on it” in order to avoid making mistakes, we can go out partying to forget our worries for a short while. We adopt a variety of strategies to try to be okay despite the events that life brings us. Human interaction can bring much pleasure and satisfaction but it can also be a major source of conflicts. For various reasons, when life is not going well, people adopt ways of dealing with it that are not always positive in the long run. I am not talking about behaviors that are used from time to time, but mechanisms that are used consistently, every time we find ourselves in a frustrating, unpleasant or uncomfortable situation.

Avoidance
Rare are those who have never been in a situation where all you want is to forget what happened. The action taken then was more to avoid the unpleasant feeling than solving the problem so one went for: shopping, partying, watching TV, spending hours in front of the computer, over-eating, etc.  That’s not bad in itself, what could become a problem is when the avoidance strategies would be the main way the person would act upon displeasure.

For example: I fight with my wife *, I let myself be overwhelmed by her demands, I don’t argue,  I am frustrated but I do not say anything…. I stay quiet, but in my mind, I know that later on I could either: 1. Go for a ride and search for a sex worker. 2. Connect to the Net and masturbate for hours, etc. 3. Grumble all week making it clear (telepathically) that I am frustrated to my partner by having an attitude.

In sex therapy, when you look at the events prior to episodes of hypersexuality, you can often find stressful situations, unpleasant circumstances, conflicts with the partner, etc. Another thing that we can observe when one analyses further the previous events is the lack of assertiveness of the individual when dealing with the spouse.  Sometimes,  the person has adopted a secret sexuality as a mean to cope with unpleasant feelings.
At first, the secret activity helps maintain a certain psychological balance. Even if the situation is not satisfying, one knows he can always go back to that secret activity. Somehow along the way, all the secret surrounding the illegal activity may become a perverse incentive in itself reinforcing the benefits of the secret activity and  the lack of assertiveness in the communication skills.

Not being able to set your limits in a relationship can be frustrating. In the present situation, the lack of assertiveness causes a lot of issues that could be avoid. Issues related to the lack of assertiveness are legion, but the benefits associated with assertiveness and good communication allow both partners to grow and evolve within the relationship.
Learning to be assertive and to set limits can be scary in the beginning: «If I say who I am, if I say no, if I do not agree, maybe the other will reject me? » Maybe yes, maybe no, but you have to try and give yourself a chance to grow. In the area of romantic relationships, bad habits can appear very quickly in the beginning of the relationship. Beware of extremes. As they say, we must learn to “Be neither an hedgehog nor a doormat.” (its cuter in french, sorry)

Some tips

• Choose an appropriate time together to address a sensitive topic;
• Say what one has to say  and avoid opening up on too many thorny issues at the same time;
• Avoid insults (you are stupid, you always-you never,  lazy, etc.).
• Do not to speak for too long before you let the other one talk;
• Make a step towards each other, think better for the 2 of you, not the best for only you.

If you want to learn more about communication skills, you could check under «assertiveness»  on the web.
Have a good week and  feel free to leave me a comment or to give me some suggestions.
Mériza

* The term wife is use here but the dynamic can be present with any other significant relationship: parents, family, friends, etc.

22 January 2012

Nymphomania or female hypersexuality Part 2

This is Part 2 of an article about hypersexual women. These days, we hear more and more about women with hypersexual disorders. This is a reminder  to be careful in the assessment and not to confuse women who have a strong sex drive from those who suffer from hypersexual disorder. This article give some information on these differences. Sexual desire is fragile and women with strong sexual desire must remain free from random bias.

Kaplan multimodal approach(1)  (1995)
Kaplan described hypersexuality as «dysfunction or a lack of control over the sexual  motivation ». The hypersexual women have sex frequently and they often have several orgasms a day. They have fantasies, sexual thoughts to the point where they can interfere with their functioning at work or in their relationships. They meet with a wide range of stimuli.  This sexual urge  can be felt at any time, even in the absence of a partner or  external stimulus.
People with a sexual hyperactivity disorder consider sex as extremely pleasant and sexual activity provides in itself a betterment of the mood. The presence of their sexual desire is so strong that they will seek to satisfy it. Due to their inability to control their desire and their imperative need, they will find the gratification of their hyper desire without any consideration to their work, family or health. When trying to stop their behavior, they become tense, anxious, and dysphoric.  Hypersexual  can be demanding to their partner which can become, in the long run, a problem in the couple.

The continuum of sexual desire by Kaplan provides an idea of the difference between a hyperactive sexual desire and a high-normal sexual desire.
High-normal sexual desires: sexual needs and sexual fantasies are intense and spontaneous. They manifest a proactive sexual behavior by initiating sexual intercourse. The frequency of sexual intercourse is high.
Hyperactive sexual desire: sexual needs are intense and spontaneous. Fantasies and  sexual behavior is compulsive. There is a high frequency of sexual activity, the impulses sex are inadequate and people live in distress.

The control of sexual motivation

Men and women who have no sexual conflict handle instinctively psychosexual stimuli to prepare for an erotic encounter. A person tends to accentuate the positive aspects of the partner, to idealize him or her when it’s the right person, the right place and at the right time. They put aside thoughts that tends to diminish or kill sexual desire. The lover is anticipating the erotic pleasures that will follow creating a sexual script that enhance and maintain the sexual desire.
On the opposite side, people who struggle with hyposexual disorder would tend to put the emphasis on the negatives aspects of an erotic encounter. Unless there is a clinical disorder, people with a  lack of sexual desire  tend to only see the negative aspects in the other which contributes to prevent an exciting and inviting vision of the partner. The erotic encounter is then perceived as a disadvantage, a threat to the well-being. This psychosomatic vision shows that the mechanisms of sexual desire are sensitive both to biological factors and  psychological stressors.

People who have high sexual desires have a proactive attitude to sexual pleasure. They have sexual activities similar to the hypersexuals in terms of frequency, amount of difficulty to concentrate when the desire is rising  but also in terms of frustration when they cannot find  an outlet to their desire. However, they are able to make the difference when sexual activity is inappropriate or would be to their disadvantage.  She does not live distress to her condition and her spouse neither. The intense sexual life they have tends to be a source of enrichment for their relationship and to their love life.

Sexual addiction according to Carnes (2) (2001)

Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior that interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.

Sexual addiction has also been called hypersexuality, 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 over family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the governing principle of an addict’s life. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.

No single behavior pattern defines sexual addiction. These behaviors can take control of addicts’ lives and become unmanageable.  Common behaviors include, but are not limited to compulsive masturbation, compulsive heterosexual and homosexual relationships, pornography, prostitution, exhibitionism, voyeurism, indecent phone calls, and anonymous sexual encounters. Even the healthiest forms of human sexual expression can turn into self-defeating behaviors.

Carnes reminds us to be careful in the assessment by not mistakenly confuse sexual addiction with hypersexual episodes. Indeed, periods of change can cause a temporary hypersexual episode like: being newly single; the beginning of adulthood, compulsive masturbation in adolescence, periods of intense stress, etc. Some people will engage in compulsive sexual activities during a short period in their life and life their sex life in a more balance way afterwards.

With all the pleasurable sensations involved in sexuality, we can say that it  has an impact on the mood. Some masturbates when they are stressed out, others to help fall asleep, to release tensions, because one wants to be sexual , etc.  Sexual addiction is a way the person uses to escape unpleasant moods, affects or situations.  After some time, sexuality betrays the person, where she once had the appeasement, pleasure and comfort, it leaves shame and guilt. Pain becomes stronger than the expected relief. The addict then consider themselves harshly. They recognize the problem, but they believe that if someone knew who they really were, they would be quickly rejected and abandoned. The fear is legitimate.  To disclose the problem would imply to reveal previous situations they’ve lied about. When the secret identity becomes more important than the public identity, family, friends, colleagues know a false identity. To reveal it can mean losses and social judgment. For the hypersexual, the  relationship is with sex and not with the person and the secret serves as a strong stimulant.

Where are the hypersexual women ?

Ferree (3) (2001) noted that female sexual addiction is not recognized because of several myths about women like:
(a)  Generally, women are not dependent on sex, they lack sexual desire.
(b) Women are emotional or romantic, not sex addict.
This distorted view (romantic and idealized) of women would blind several clinicians to consider the possibility of sexual addiction among female consultants and not to address the issue. However, when women are clinically sex addict, judgments are strict. To deny the reality of hypersexual women is a sexist attitude which does not recognize the despair and the need for help for hypersexuals. many years ago, this double standard was identical with the alcoholic woman and/or drug addict wife. The latter was still considered more depraved than the alcoholic man. In equal conditions, women is found to be judge more severely than men. As mentioned in Coleman(4)  (1988)a man will leave his alcoholic wife more often than a woman will leave her alcoholic husband. Schneider and Schneider(5)  (1991) made the same observation in a relationship where the woman is hypersexual.

According to Carnes(6) (2006) during several years, sexual addiction was seen as a phenomenon typical to male behavior. While there was the same man/woman ratio in drug rehabilitation facilities (3 men /1 woman), the latter notes that in recent years, the number of women in therapy  equals men and sometimes exceeds men in therapy. We are far from the finding made by Kaplan(7) (1995) when she mentioned that out of 2336 women evaluated, only 2 women could be classified as sexually addicted. Fortunately, the new version of the DSM-V expected  in 2013 will include this new diagnosis of hypersexuality. If you want to look at it, here it is: Hypersexual disorder.

This is only a small overview of how hypersexuality is describe by some clinicians in the field of sexual addiction. Several authors present characteristics of hypersexuality that are easy to identify but the most  important warning is to be aware of our own bias as clinicians.

Female sexual addiction is a reality and more women start to seek help. After a few years of active sex addiction, many are unable to develop a committed intimate relationship or they are close to loose a long term one because  of  unstopable infidelities or seductive behaviors.

When women seek help, don’t expect them to disclose the situation right away. They will start by testing whether they can speak up or not. They are very sensitive to shame and judgmental remarks.

The clinician who receives hypersexual women should remember that  seduction and sexual behavior are automatic  mechanisms that won’t go away when she passes through the door. If the attraction is too high, if the clinician begins to fantasize about the client, he-she must recognize it and refer the woman to a colleague before it becomes unhealthy to both.

Breaking  codes of ethic, losing neutrality or victimize the hypersexual women by having sex with her are possible situations that one must be aware of. As a counselor,  seek help if the attraction is too high.

1. Kaplan, Helen S. The sexual desire disorders. New York, 1995, p. 332
2. http://www.sexhelp.com/sex-education/what-is-sex-addiction-faqs
3. Carnes, Patrick. Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (3rd Ed) Hazelden, 2001, 219 p
4. Ferree, Marnie, C. Female and sex addiction: Myths and diagnostic implications. Sexual addiction and compulsivity. 8287-300. 2001
5. Coleman, Eli. Chemical Dependency and Intimacy Dysfunction. Coleman, Eli Ed NY: The Hawthorn Press, 1988, 268p.
6. Schneider, J., & Schneider, B. Women sex addicts and Their Husbands: Problems and recovery issues. American Journal of Preventive Psychiatry & Neurology, 3, 1-5, 1991.
7. Carnes, Patrick. Women and Sex Addiction. Counselor, The Magazine for Addiction Professionals, June 2006, v.7, n.3, pp.34-39.
8. Kaplan, Helen S. The sexual desire disorders. New York, 1995, p. 332
13 January 2012

Nymphomania or female hypersexuality Part 1

On October 21, 2011, an article signed Silvia Galipeau in the french cyber magazine Cyberpresse made me react negatively. Femmes avides de porno (Women eager for porn). It shocked me because I realized that hypersexual women do not exist in the media,  they are  invisible. They don’t exist because a woman cannot be hypersexual, she can only be a whore, a B*tch, a mentally ill person or a victim. Victim of a far away past or victim of whomever you want.  Hypersexual women do not seek help? Who would want to ask for help with that in mind?  According to the article, there ain’t really many hypersexual women. Big news, female sexual addict exist, just open your eyes, push your fantasies out of the way and open your mind and your definition of sexual addiction.  Female sex addiction is not better than men sex addiction. Shame, guilt, self-loathing and temporary relief is female hypersexual dynamics.

If men can express with pride their sexual explorations and conquests, a woman knows early in her life that she better  be discreet if she enjoys it a lot.  This article explains the view society had on  women sex life through different periods of time and the way hypersexuality is explain by a few experts.

Nymphomania:  Part 1

Female hypersexuality or nymphomania is a social phenomenon difficult to identify because of double standards attached to women for centuries. Often defined by the rules and standards of an era or religious dictates, it is still difficult today to recognize a woman who lives a real disorder related to sexual obsessions and compulsions from another one with a high sexual drive.

Part 1 of this article is an overview of the various definitions and explanations of female sexual desire and female sexual addiction through time.  It also presents the definition of female sex addiction according to Albert Ellis.

What is important in any work in sex therapy is to understand the client and to be able to propose a model where they can identify themselves and with whom we can  built a therapeutic plan together. A plan that will respect their values, beliefs and their intelligence to act  towards a solution.
The more someone can identify with a model, the lesser the resistance. Sexual desire is fragile. A clear definition of sex addiction is definitely a must. Professionals need a standard definition of sex addiction to assess this growing phenomenon and to protect the public from personalized definitions.

In the Middle Ages, a woman with exaggerated sexual desire was seen as possessed by the devil. If the exorcisms prove ineffective, they would burn her alive. Described by De Bienville D.T. (1) in 1772,

Nymphomania is a real disease of sex, uterine fury, bringing those who were living in the yoke imposing and glorious of decency and to seek from anyone their insatiable desires. Nymphomania is an exaggeration of female sexual desire, an attitudes leading to seduction and provocation that do not conform to the female role as is generally expected in society.

At the time of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), it is clear that no woman considered normal must have felt no desire and no sexual pleasure. More recently, in 1930, Magnus Hirshfeld(2)  described nymphomania as the result of excessive masturbation

Nymphomania develops on the ground of neurasthenia and serious brain disease and mental illness.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy,  Albert Ellis(3)  (1962)
According to Ellis, the addiction is:

A substance or activity that seems to be necessary to face conflicts or discomfort. In the case of female sexual addiction, it is easy to confuse a woman for whom sex takes a prominent place in its activities. It is in the cause and effect that we can distinguish the two. A woman may have several lovers, correctly select them and be able to control carefully the times when she will live her sexuality. Her sexuality is experienced in a balanced mode, it is a pleasure of life and if she were a man, she would be judged as normal or lucky.

Nymphomania is defined by four characteristics:
1)    Loss of control: The nymphomaniac desires are uncontrollable; she refuses to live according to a rational mode where sexuality is sought and lived in a sensible pattern. When desire takes hold her, she must quickly satisfy them, without regard for the consequences: job loss, loss friendships, broken family ties, etc.
2)    The constant need: An insatiable desire. Repeat the experience of orgasm. Even when it is experienced many times, she remains unsatisfied. The need to repeat the experience when tensions reappear.
3)    The compulsivity: The woman is driven to action or to seek to have relationships in spite of her desire to stop. Even when the compulsion leads to the act, she remains unsatisfied for reasons that remain obscure even to her. There is an absence of choice.
4)    Self-contempt: Because women’s sexuality has long been stigmatized in Western society, the nymphomaniac is judge severely by those around her. As a result, she is judging her conduct harshly.
The nymphomaniac seeks to escape the anxieties generate by her sexual activities not only because they are disturbing or demonstrate a serious emotional problem but because they lead her to feel even more self-contempt. She is caught in a vicious circle in which her conduct deeply affect her and lead her to denigrate  even herself more. These tensions again led her to seek sex. It may result that the judgment  she holds against herself becomes more important than the original sexual disorder.

Because of the double standard that characterize women’s sexuality, a significant number of them can feel troubled to seek sexual activity with a higher frequency then other women around or she might be label as such when her libido is higher than her partners. Being led to believe she is hypersexual when she is not. What characterizes the nymphomaniac is compulsion and self-loathing.

Still according to Ellis(4) (1992), a sexual addiction disorder starts in irrational ideas that are maintained by the people. Thoughts creates emotions which in turn causes the action. In transforming the beliefs that contribute to the addictive act, the person is given the power to move away from its destructive pattern. Once they removed the irrational thoughts, they can work on problems more efficiently.

The client learns to put into perspective the benefits and losses associated with his irrational beliefs and disruptive behaviors and the losses and gains associated with change. REBT promotes long-term autonomy for patients actively involved in their therapy because the gains are transferable to all other areas of life.

Part2 will continue with the definitions of  nymphomania according to Helen Singer Kaplan and finally according to Patrick Carnes.
  1. De Bienville, D.T. La nymphomanie ou traité de fureur utérine. 1772
  2. Gellman, Charles & Gellman, Josette. Les thérapies sexuelles. Les éditions ESF, Paris, 1983, 130 p.
  3. Ellis, Albert. Sagarin Edward, Nymphomania, a study of oversexed women. New-York, 1962.
  4. Ellis, Albert. Harper, R.A. L’approche émotivo-rationnelle. Edition de l’homme, 1992.
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