The Lonely Life of a Sex Addict

Sex addicts are extremely lonely people. Some are isolated and awkward socially, while others seem to have friends and a very active social world. The former may not circulate and talk much with others at work. They may not go out with friends, be married/partnered or date.If they are partnered or married, they seldom share much information with their significant other. They can’t wait to get home to watch porn for most of the evening or take breaks in the bathroom at home or work with a smart phone and pornography. The alienation of massage parlors, prostitutes and anonymous hook-ups only further their loneliness.

The apparently sociable sex addict may have friends, attend parties, flirt with and tease everyone at the office while being married with kids or in a long-term partnership. But both look for opportunities to escape into their own small world of isolating sexual behaviors. When with other people they may be only partially present. They appear to be distracted and dissociated. It’s called “being in the bubble” or off in a sexual fantasy. They do everything to avoid true intimacy while feeling isolated, alone and extremely needy.

Sex addiction is not about sex. It is about using the excitement and danger of sexually acting out to numb the pain and loneliness of an intimacy deficit. It is a substitute for deep intimate connection. Like a drug, sex is reliable in what it delivers. It is a high intensity gratification that numbs the emotional pain of depression, anxiety, unresolved childhood and severe adult trauma as well as the everyday stressors of work, family or being alone.

Sex addicts are usually not aware of how fearful they are of intimate relationships. As a child they report feeling abandoned, ignored, discounted or invisible. Their childhood may have looked “normal” to everyone, including themselves. But their connection with adults was lacking, inadequate or inappropriate. Thus they adopt a way of relating that is based on fear and avoidance of true intimacy. Only through recovery can sex addicts begin to have the courage to know themselves as well as another person.

The Hijacked Brain


Sex addiction is first and foremost a disease of the brain. Even though it is not injected like a chemical it still dramatically affects brain chemistry creating a dependency on sexual arousal. Sexual arousal provides a hit of the neurotransmitter, dopamine to the reward center of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine interacts with other neurotransmitters to take over the brain’s reward related learning. Repeated exposure to addictive sexual images, or behaviors cause nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex to communicate in ways that link liking with wanting and motivates action to seek out the source of pleasure.

In nature, rewards come with time and effort. Addictive behaviors provide a dependable short cut to reward, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Viewing porn can release 20 times the amount of dopamine as watching a great movie or having sex within a committed relationship. In the hijacked/addicted brain the pleasure receptors become over whelmed. The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating receptors. It’s like turning the volume down on a speaker when the music gets too loud. As a result the dopamine has less impact on the brain’s reward centers and tolerance develops and behaviors must be escalated. At this point compulsion and craving take over