Dr. David Fawcett

In a previous post to this site, I write that individuals who struggle with compulsive sexual and romantic behaviors tend to also struggle with cross, co-occurring, and paired addictions. The question this fact raises is why. Why are cross, co-occurring, and paired addictions so common among sex and porn addicts.

The answer is actually relatively straightforward. Moreover, sex and porn addicts are not the only addicts susceptible to cross, co-occurring, and paired addictions. The simple truth is that addictions of all types are driven by the same basic factor – a desire to avoid, numb, or otherwise control stress and other forms of emotional discomfort.

Addictions are not about feeling good, they’re about feeling less. And addictive substances and behaviors all happily oblige by altering brain chemistry in ways that temporarily distract people from feelings of stress, loneliness, boredom, depression, anxiety, and the like. Most addicts will seek and use this emotional escape however they can get it – alcohol, drugs, food, video games, spending, gambling, sex, porn, romance, etc.

Sure, a small percentage of addicts in today’s world are purists, relying exclusively on their substance or behavior of choice no matter what. For most addicts, however, a primary addiction is just one element in a larger tapestry of emotional escape. If their primary addiction isn’t available to them for some reason, or if they’re feeling too much shame and remorse about engaging in their primary addiction, they’ll turn to some other addictive substance or behavior. Anything that helps them escape their emotional and psychological discomfort will do just fine.

Ultimately, regardless of the nature of the addiction, the result is always the same:

  • A compelling craving for the substance(s)/behavior(s)
  • A negative impact on self-esteem, family, relationships, finances, career, health, etc.
  • An inability to stop using the substance(s)/behavior(s) despite adverse consequences

As if that’s not bad enough, addicts with cross, co-occurring, and paired addictions are more susceptible to relapse – if for no other reason than they have more than the usual number of potential triggers. For example, a paired meth/sex addict has triggers toward meth, triggers toward sex, and the general triggers toward any addiction that life puts in the addict’s path on a regular basis. Any and all of those impulses to act can send the addict spinning into the abyss of active addiction.

Recognizing this, it is important for individuals with cross, co-occurring, and paired addictions to seek specialized help for each facet of their addiction. Getting treatment for one part of an addiction (like substance abuse) will not help with the other part of the addiction (like compulsive sex). Without the entirety of the addict’s addictive pattern being addressed in a holistic way, relapse is almost inevitable. The untreated portion of the addiction will eventually drag the addict back out, and all parts of the addictive behavior pattern will once again be activated.

* * * * * * * * * *

If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groupspodcasts, and more.