Sexual Shame and Substance Abuse

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Understanding Sexual Shame

No shame is more powerful than sexual shame. Often, sexual shame is linked to unresolved early-life sexual trauma. People who experience sexual abuse, neglect, violence, verbal abuse, narcissistic parenting, and other types of early-life trauma, especially if that trauma is somehow sexual in nature, often struggle as adults with poor relationship choices, chronic infidelity, sex/porn addiction, and substance abuse, among other issues. With this post, we examine the link to substance abuse.

What Does Sexual Shame Look Like?

Ways in which sexual shame drives drug use include:

  • Using to enjoy (or tolerate) sex.
  • Using while re-enacting various forms of unresolved sexual trauma (as an attempt to master it or take control over it).
  • Using to numb shame about specific (often hidden and unwanted) sexual desires like same-sex or transgender attractions.
  • Using to numb shame about sexuality in general, as if sex is something dirty and to be avoided.
  • Using as a way to disinhibit oneself sexually.
  • Using to escape the emotional discomfort that (for some) sets in after sex.
  • Using to overcome chronically low self-esteem – to feel empowered and more attractive in the pursuit of sex.

Identifying and Overcoming Sexual Shame

Whatever is driving the behavior, the pairing of sexual shame and substance abuse can become a serious issue requiring specialized treatment, as offered by Seeking Integrity, especially when it escalates into paired/fused substance use and sexual activity. If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with sexualized drug use, we suggest you take our anonymous 25-question substance use and sexual disorders screening test. You can also contact us with questions via email or phone us at (747) 234-HEAL (4325).