Every year members of the Saskatchewan College of Psychologists are required to participate in a minimum number of continuing education hours. As a whole, I think this is great for the profession as it means members are staying current and continuing to grow and learn in an always changing field. On a personal level I have to say I really enjoy attending conferences and workshops and am keeping my eyes open for a therapy or issue that I would like to pursue additional training in. This past Friday I attended a workshop led by Dr. Doug Weiss that definitely piqued my interest.
Dr. Weiss specializes in sex addiction which is something that is not often talked about and carries a guilt and shame that is different than other addictions. There are also not a lot of clinicians who are experienced in diagnosing and treating this issue. Thanks to the internet and smart phones, sex addiction has become more and more prevalent and those in recovery face challenges that past generations did not. Having a sex addition doesn’t necessarily mean that you have copious amounts of sex or even sex with other people. Masturbation and pornography can be a huge issues as can any sexual act that doesn’t fit with your established norm.
Through this introductory training I learned about some of the complexities of sex addiction as well as the different types. There are six different types of addiction and most commonly the individual experiencing the addiction fits into several of the six categories. The six categories are:
1) Biological – there is a neural connection between the sexual act and attachment to an object or specific criteria. This is textbook classical conditioning.
2) Psychological- the individual is hurting and trying to meet their needs in an unhealthy way.
3) Spiritual – the individual is looking for connection with a higher being and to fill a void. This is most often seen through religious counselling rather than in a clinical setting.
4) Sexual Abuse – many individuals who have a sex addiction have been sexually abused. Those who have been abused may unconsciously be recreating the trauma.
5) Intimacy anorexia – this was the gold star of the workshop for me. This term refers to individuals who withhold intimacy from their partner and turn to pornography, masturbation, or prostitutes to have their physical needs met. They create distance from their spouse and often blame their partner for it.
6) Mood disorder with sex addiction – this individual likely has an undiagnosed mood disorder and is using the high of sexual acts to balance out and self-medicate.
Treatment approaches are tailored to the type of sex addiction the individual has. I was encouraged by Dr. Weiss’ stories of hope and healing as within a relatively short period of time many individuals who sought treatment were able to change their destructive patterns. I haven’t quite figured out where my niche is yet, but this may be an area to consider.