Sex and Porn Addiction: Avoiding Bad Therapy

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Unfortunately for sex and porn addicts, the process of locating a qualified treatment specialist is not always easy. For starters, a basic understanding of sex and porn addiction is not a standard part of the training for most psychotherapists. As such, sex and porn addicts often encounter therapists who are unfamiliar with sex and porn addiction but knowledgeable about various related and co-occurring issues—most notably depression and anxiety. Such clinicians tend to correctly diagnose and treat these secondary issues without ever considering or even talking about the addict’s primary problem of addiction.

It is actually relatively easy for therapists who are not trained to deal with sex and porn addiction to misidentify the issue as a mood disorder or an early-life trauma reaction. This is because mood disorders (depression, anxiety, and the like) are far more common than sex and porn addiction, and therapists are generally well-trained when it comes to diagnosing and treating these common side effects of sex and porn addiction. So things like depression and anxiety are often thought to be a sex or porn addict’s primary issue.

This can occur even when a therapist knows about the addict’s out of control sexual activity. Typically in these cases, the addict will be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a dissociative disorder, or even attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—any of which can manifest with an element of sexual compulsivity.

To avoid this, many sex and porn addicts will go to a sex therapist, thinking that surely someone who is certified as a ‘sex therapist’ will understand and be able to address the pain and consequences of compulsive sexual behaviors. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. This is because sex therapists are generally trained to be fully ‘sex positive,’ meaning their primary goal is to help people feel better about their sexual interests or patterns rather than trying to eliminate those interests and patterns because they’re out of control and causing problems.

This type of validating, supportive, nonjudgmental treatment is useful when managing many common sexual issues, such as feeling uncomfortable about same-sex attractions or a fetish of some sort. It is not, however, helpful for sex and porn addicts. These therapists tend to offer advice like, “You should really just loosen up and try to become more comfortable with your sexuality.” Needless to say, that is the exact opposite of what a sex addict needs to hear. Imagine, if you will, a therapist telling an alcoholic with two arrests for driving while intoxicated to loosen up a bit and drink without shame. Well, this is what sex therapists often do with sex and porn addicts.

At the other end of the spectrum we have therapists who will label a person as sex or porn addicted as a way to marginalize and pathologize sexual behavior that does not mesh with their personal or religious belief system. These therapists are basically trying to be the sex police, imposing their personal moral, cultural, or religious values on human sexuality. Many such therapists routinely misapply the sex/porn addiction label, using it to ‘diagnose’ homosexuality, bisexuality, non-addictive porn use, casual sex, non-monogamy, fetishes, and a wide variety of other sexual desires and behaviors that fall well within the boundaries of normal and healthy adult sexuality (even if the client is uncomfortable with those desires and behaviors).

In actuality, sex and porn addiction have nothing whatsoever to do with who or what it is that turns a person on. Instead, sex and porn addiction are about using the excitement and intensity of sexual fantasies and behaviors to emotionally numb out, and experiencing negative life consequences as a result. Sex and porn addicts engage in their addictive patterns of sexual behavior as a means of escape and dissociation from life stressors, emotional discomfort, and the pain of underlying psychological conditions, and they do so regardless of the problems this may cause. So, when talking about sex and porn addiction, whether a person is gay or straight or into bondage or turned on by spiked heels or leather or whatever is irrelevant.

Needless to say, finding the right therapist is imperative for sex and porn addicts because the wrong therapist can do more harm than good. Next week, we will look at how sex and porn addicts can find a therapist capable of helping them in an effective way. If you cannot wait until next week for this information, please call us at 747.234.4325 or email us at this link.