Avoidant Attachment & Sex Addiction

Avoidant Attachment & Sex Addiction

Much of American culture values being individualistic, which can discourage having a reliance or dependence on others. You have probably heard someone say “I had to do it myself”, when describing how he or she accomplished something. On further examination, most stories like this would likely reveal at least one support person who helped in some way. However, we may be inclined to deny that we received help because somewhere in our society a belief began that you are a stronger person if you do not need anyones help.

Some of us learn to avoid reliance on others not only from social learning, but also through our experiences in our families. When we are young children (and even into our adolescent years), we rely on our caregivers to help meet our needs for physical and emotional safety. But what happens when someone’s primary caregivers have a difficult time in helping to meet those needs? In some cases, a child learns that the only person he or she can trust is him or herself. In clinical terms, we call this avoidant attachment. In families where caregivers are neglectful this may be a way to survive, but it can have long term affects on social development and the ability to have a healthy level of intimacy in a relationship.

One way of defining intimacy is a balance between being able to meet our needs independently of others, and within the support of a trusted relationship. When we peel back the layers of sex addiction, we often find intimacy problems below the surface that stem from avoidant attachment. Someone who struggles with sex addiction may have learned very early on that the one thing that could be relied upon on was the escape or numbing affects that sexual behaviors provided (at least temporarily). As a result the person develops turns inward or toward objects (e.g. porn or random sexual hookups) to self medicate in the face of emotional turbulence. This reliance served as a survival mechanism at one point, but can hurt relationships as adults when someone who is avoidantly attached turns away from his or her partner, rather than reaching out, leaving the partner feeling cheated out of intimacy.

A major part of sex addiction recovery is learning to develop a support system and expressing ones needs. A simple concept, but not an easy thing to do when your emotional learning regarding attachment is to distrust anyone but yourself to meet your needs. However, this is an ability that can be learned despite how unnatural and uncomfortable it might feel at first. The first step is to experience telling your story in an environment that will help you reduce the toxic shame you might be experiencing (e.g. a therapist or sex addiction support groups). Most experience some anxiety at first when developing support, but many report that the long term benefits were well worth leaning into the fear.

About the Author:

Chris Adams LPC, is a Certified Sex Addiction Counselor and Level 2 Trained EMDR therapist. His focus is on helping men and women who struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors. He believes that addiction recovery includes addressing shame, traumatic experiences, and attachment wounds. Chris connects to clients by providing compassion and seeing them for more than just their problematic behaviors.