Women and Love Addiction
Often sexual addiction is automatically associated with being a man’s problem. However, despite popular belief women do struggle with sexual addiction. Struggling with sexual addiction is very shaming for a person and can leave them feeling disconnected and alone. Because so few women come forward about their sexual addiction and assume it is a man’s disease, the shame can be even more intense. The diagnosis criterion for sexual addiction is the same for women as it is for men.
There are several myths surrounding women and sexual addiction that perpetuate the minimization of this problem for women and increase shame. Some of these myths are the following:
Sexual addiction is a man’s problem and that women do not struggle with it.
Women don’t need or want sex.
Women can control themselves sexually and men cannot control themselves sexually.
Women are chaste and responsible for appropriate sexual interaction with their partner.
Female Sex Addicts are only relationship and love addicts.
Many of these myths are connected to cultural and religious beliefs and make it difficult for a woman to come forward with her problem. Some of the patterns in behavior that are seen with female sex addicts include:
High number of sexual partners
Compulsive pornography use and masturbation
Sexual avoidance/ Sexual Anorexia and a history of physical, emotional or sexual trauma.
These patterns are similar to what we see with men. An important point of The Institute for Research and Treatment of Addictive Disorders’ treatment model is that addiction is the result of the brain having been altered by some kind of traumatic process. There is a high correlation between women who struggle with sexual addiction and past abuse and trauma particularly sexual abuse/trauma. Many times a woman will engage in a pattern of sexual re-victimization in which she repeats unhealthy patterns in her life in order to fix the original trauma or pattern. Women may act out sexually for several reasons, some of which may include needing a sense of power and control, escaping loneliness and feelings of worthlessness and shame, and to create intimacy or closeness with another person. All of these are powerful motives and may be the very reason that it is difficult to come out of hiding and seek help.
The Institute for Research and Treatment of Addictive Disorders offers treatment for women who struggle with sexual addiction. The first step is to come out of hiding and talk about the problem. The addiction and shame thrive in secrecy. Although it is difficult to come forward, you are not alone. Brene’ Brown, a shame researcher, states that the definition of courage is to tell your story with your heart. Be courageous, come forward and experience healing.