Sexual Addiction

The following information was adapted from the article “Assisting a Concerned Person to Motivate Someone Experiencing Cybersex into Treatment” by Judith Landau, James Garrett, and Rob Webb, as seen in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Vol 25, No. 4, 498-511 on October 2008.

Neurobiology of Cybersex Addicts

• The neurobiology of sexual arousal parallels that of cocaine in its relationship to dopamine, the brain’s “pleasure” chemical.
• As far as the brain is concerned, a reward is a reward, regardless of whether it comes from a chemical or an experience.
• Where there is a reward- as in sex, gambling, eating, or shopping- there is the risk of getting trapped in compulsion.
• Due to impaired functioning of the frontal cortex, the individual with a sexual addiction is not able to objectively judge the danger and negative impact of his or her sexual behavior. Instead, he or she gives in to impulses and sexual cravings by looking for immediate stimulation and gratification.
• “Lust chemicals” that are found in the first 9-18 months of a relationship (including androgen and entogen) are related to the same feeling of being high that comes from using cocaine. This means that the high from a new relationship and from sexual arousal mimics the cocaine high.
• Once the initial high wears off due to the length of the relationship or the extent of pornography use, the more the individual feels like somethings is missing and the more he or she will seek out what initially provided the sensation of intense pleasure. The overall effect of this natural and healthy sequencing of brain chemistry related to love and bonding with another person is to leave the addicted individual feeling that something is wrong and/or missing because the relationship no longer provides the rush or high from the fantasy and/or pornography. The very neurochemical that allows and fosters bonding is what drives addicted persons back to seek the behaviors, emotional distancing, and fantasy cognition that bring them what they are missing.
• Sex, love and relationship addiction all stem from the feelings of abandonment. Feelings of abandonment are central to trust, security and feelings of safety and well-being. Those who have experienced or perceived abandonment have learned not to trust themselves or others. Sex addicts use pornography, fantasy, masturbation- to fulfill the rush without the intimacy of a relationship. Love and relationship addicts will use others to try and fulfill the need for intimacy, but their fear and pain of abandonment keep them disconnected.
• The authors believe that there is a 3-5 year “incubation period” for cybersex pornography use to escalate and eventually cross the line into addiction, and this gradual buildup allows for the problem to remain unrecognized by the addicted individual and his or her family members. The extreme secrecy and lack of consequences of the sexual acting out keep others from knowing about the sexual compulsivity, thus fueling the addictive belief that no one knows and no one is being harmed.
• One of the most frequent results of the lack of impulse control and judgement is abuse of the Internet at the office. This invariably leads to discovery and frequently results in the loss of a job. The spouse then has another serious situation to confront and ultimately to forgive, if the marriage or partnership is to survive. The longer the addictive disease is allowed to continue unhindered and untreated, the more the addicted individual loses insight and motivation to stop the addictive process. Denial prevails and the relationship is doomed.


The ARISE process understands that central to the disorder (of sexual addiction) is the inability of the individual adequately to bond and attach in intimate relationships. The origin of the disorder is rooted in early developmental attachment failure with primary caregivers. Sexual addiction becomes a way to compensate for this early attachment failure.

The ARISE method allows the opportunity to actively pursue a solution to the problem and not fall prey to the stereotype that the individual must “hit bottom” before something positive can be done. The addicted individual does not have to be the one to initiate treatment in order for treatment to be successful.

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