Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction

Our society is obsessed with sexuality. It’s used to sell, to convince, to attract, to capture, to control, to compel, distract, comfort and sometimes to destroy. We live our lives saturated with sexual images and imagery: literature, TV shows, advertisements, magazines, clothing, and — last, but by no means least — the Internet. Preteen children have access to pornography and other sexualizing influences that were totally unknown to previous generations. A recent study on pornography planned by a Canadian university had to be cancelled because the researchers couldn’t find a sufficient number of students who had not viewed porn to make up a control group.

Whether this is a good thing is moot. Like it or not, the US (and Western societies in general) are saturated with sex. Barring a complete political and social upheaval, it’s not going away. Despite that, for the most part we have failed and still fail to give our kids and young adults, dealing with raging hormones and rebellion, the information they need to navigate this morass of temptation. Instead, our leaders take the “moral” route, keep them ignorant, and then point fingers and cry “Shame” when the ignorance that was forced upon them gets them into trouble.

It’s unsurprising that this inundation, along with modern society’s failure — inability, really — to model healthy relationships, intimacy and sexual expression, has led to our recognition of a new addiction. While some may hide their heads in the sands of “Just Say No,” maintaining that sex addiction is a myth, most folks who work in the addiction field see sexual and emotional compulsivity as symptoms of the same underlying lack of self-esteem and emotional skills that is common to other addictions.

Regardless of what you call it, there is a broad spectrum of sexually-related issues that prevent many people from functioning in a healthy way — and sometimes from effective functioning, period. Following are the 12 Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction, as expressed by the Fellowship-Wide Services of The Augustine Fellowship (Sex And Love Addicts Anonymous). Read them and weep for others, if not for yourself.

      • Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.
      • Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive
        relationships, concealing dependency needs from ourselves and others, growing more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones, ourselves, and God.
      • Fearing emotional and/or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves in one relationship after another, sometimes having more than one sexual or emotional liason at a time.
      • We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity, and/or the need to rescue or be rescued.
      • We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone. Even though we fear intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships and sexual contacts.
      • We sexualize stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing, care and support.
      • We use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others.
      • We become immobilized or seriously distracted by romantic or sexual obsessions and fantasies.
      • We avoid responsibility for outselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable.
      • We stay enslaved to emotional dependency, romantic intrigue, or compulsive sexual activities.
      • To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement, mistaking sexual and emotional anoreixa for recovery.
      • We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.

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