The Neurobiology of Addiction

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The only significant difference between substance and sex addictions is that substance addicts ingest alcohol or drugs to create an emotionally escapist neurochemical reaction, whereas sex addicts rely on an intensely pleasurable fantasy or activity.

Addictive substances and behaviors trigger the same basic neurochemical pleasure response—primarily the release of dopamine, along with adrenaline, oxytocin, serotonin, and a variety of endorphins—resulting in feelings of pleasure, excitement, control, and, most importantly, distraction and emotional escape. Over time, some of us learn that the easiest way to avoid feelings of stress and emotional discomfort is to ingest an addictive substance or engage in a highly pleasurable (and therefore potentially addictive) behavior (like sex). Eventually, we begin to use these substances and/or behaviors not to feel better, but to feel less (i.e., to control what we feel). This is a sure sign of addiction.

Just for Today
Think about the real reason you compulsively turned to sex: to “numb out” emotionally.