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welcome to the premiere of the sex addicted brain! blog

Posted Jun 23 2009 6:54pm

Oie_mans_brain                           .. .and oh what a ride it has been!  Who would have thought that 5 years ago - no, make that 2 years ago, an entire website would be devoted to sex addiction?  Sex addiction as a field (yes, I said "field") let alone an actual diagnosis, is today, where alcohol was less than 50 years ago - in the proverbial closet, despite the burgeoning population of alcoholics then, and sex addicts now, that were then and are now, continuing to suffer and die.  Take away the alcohol from an alcoholic and they are still alcoholic, they are simply no longer drinking.  It has taken us awhile, but we know that addiction is not about the drug or in this case the alcohol.  It is about the disease, biologically speaking, and the emotional pain they are anesthetizing.  Similarly, sex addiction is not about sex.  Rather, sex addiction is the end result, so to speak, of childhood trauma.  Make no mistake, adult sexual addiction is about early childhood trauma.  During critical period of neural development, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is still developing, and in fact, is the very last structure of the brain to develop, through the process of myelination.  The PFC (located just above your right eye and a couple of inches inward) is the part of the brain that is responsible for the things we think of when we think of personality such as impulse control, planning, judgment, attention, social appropriateness, sexual drive, etc.  It takes the PFC at the very least, 15 years to develop, and anything untoward that might occur during this period of development can wreck havoc with the brain, and can, in fact, actually change the brain, even when there was nothing physical done to it.  What do I mean by "untoward"?  I mean trauma.  Psychological trauma in fact.  Sexual trauma certainly, extreme and out of control rage, as in growing up with a malignantly narcissistic parent for sure, and certainly physical abuse, even if the abuser never touched the child's head.  During critical periods of neural development, generally between ages 2-8 years of age, and sometimes until age 15 years, extreme and unremitting stress and psychological trauma can and does change both the structure and the chemistry of the brain!  As if that was not enough, the limbic system, that area of the brain responsible for what my students know as the "4 f's", feeding, fighting, fleeing, and sex, are also developing, much like everything else when you are a kid, and so it too, becomes disrupted and dysregulated when subjected to extreme stress.  The job of the brain and the body is to stay or return to homeostasis and that is what it will always try to do.  If your brain has become dysregulated for what ever reason, during the time it was still developing, it will do its level best to return you to that same state.  If your brain and body were traumatized during these crucial developing years, then your brain and body would think that the chaos or trauma was normal and it would always try and return you somehow, to that "normal" state.  What does all of this mean?  It means that if the brain thinks that "normal" is actually a state of emotional chaos or stress, otherwise known as "arousal",then your brain and body will continually try to return you to, or keep you at, that chaotic or highly aroused state, becuase it thinks that a state of high arousal is normal.  Sex is one of the easiest and quickest ways to achieve arousal.  It means that early childhood trauma disrupts the brain and body, and that certain types of trauma will cause certain types of adult pathology.  Early sexual trauma is responsible for adult sexual addiction.  Not always, but in many cases.  Sexual addiction is almost always about early childhood trauma.  And what is sexual addiction exactly?  It is a multifaceted co-occurring obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder that includes varying degrees of obsessive-compulsive and impulse-control disorders, as well as significant disruption to mood, arousal, affect regulation, attachment, and executive function, and includes an axis II narcissistic personality disorder, or at the very least, traits thereof.  It is about the inability to attach in a meaningful, non-objectifying and healthy way.  It is about the addiction to the neurochemical dopamine and not enough release of oxytocin.  It is a painful way to live, made that much worse by those that do not understand it.  I remember reading about the return of the hostage, Terry Keenan when he was freed from Iranian capture back in the 80s.  Upon his release in 90, he made a statement that applies to anyone held hostage, emotionally or physically.  He said hostage is a crucifying aloneness.  It is a man hanging by his fingernails over the edge of chaos, feeling his fingers slowly straightening.  Hostage is the humiliating stripping away of every sense and fibre of body and mind and spirit that make us what we are.  Hostage is a mutant creation filled with fear, self-loathing, guilt and death-wishing.  But he is a man, a rare, unique and beautiful creation of which these things are no part. (Keenan, 1990).  Sounds like addiction to me.  Thanks for stopping by...

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