borderline personality disorder · sex and love addiction · therapy

Sex and love addiction, as if I didn’t have enough on my mental health plate.

I was fully intending on writing the next piece documenting my bpd recovery. But I had other mental health work to do today. That of my addiction. The truth is I started the SLAA program because I realised in March when I decided I would swear off relationships for a year, a year sounded daunting. I then decided to be realistic and cut it down to 6 months, and what do you know, taking an honest look at myself, I realised that sounded a little hard too. I then had to admit that this may actually be something out of my control. The first sign of an addiction. In the alcoholics anonymous book which the program uses since having identified that they feel exactly the same way about sex/love as an alcoholic does, (it really does fit) it mentions that those who are in doubt about their addiction let them quit for a year, and sure enough, they will realise they can’t leaving no doubt in their mind that they are addicts.

Today’s question (there’s one for every day) really hit home again. Some of them require such an honest, hard look at yourself that it really drains me and hurts to see what I’ve done. The question said ‘discuss the idea that in deceiving others you are in fact deceiving yourself’ I then talked to my sponsor about all the ways I had deceived ex partners, family, friends, in hiding my addictive (think, cheating) behaviours and most importantly, myself. But is a program telling me about addiction enough to prove to me it is an addiction? Well the psychologist/scientist in me needs a little more than that to go by. That and I found a handy dandy section in Marsha Linehan’s book about the DBT way to treat addictions (as those with Borderline personality disorder tend to have some sort of an addiction alongside the disorder to numb their emotional pain – yay bpd! -.- ) and Love wasn’t on the list of addictions that Marsha mentions. So in doing a little google research I found that Love addiction albeit having a scientific basis, is not recognised in the DSM as an addiction as of yet (tut, tut).

Love can in fact be an addiction from a scientific standpoint. There are studies that show initial flood of hormones and chemicals that a person feels when falling in love activates the same reward/motivation areas of the brain as nicotine and DRUGS. Love is a DRUG people and I got addicted. The same brain areas are also activated when subjects thought of their ex. GREAT. Where does this addiction come from you may ask? Early abandonment, of course, my lovely fear of abandonment I generated in childhood led me to seek out this high in romantic relationships:  according to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous,’ usually love addiction is found in those who suffer from abandonment in early childhood.’

Due to my dad having undiagnosed severe BPD (of which we still sometimes bear the brunt of) my mum was left to pick up the slack, however, my mum wasn’t around for us in one of the most essential ways, she would be out often, she didn’t play much with me and my sister and I have few memories of time spent with her. My childhood mainly consists of playing with my sister and being left home alone a lot. The lack of nourishment, emotional support and love, mirroring, reinforcement, all of that good stuff, was severe. My mum has co-dependency issues with my father as she is til today, still married to him, despite all the hell he put her through. This led me to have no positive role model, and a gaping hole where love should have been. My fear of abandonment was well and truly formed, leading to my BPD and this addiction as it later played out.

I then stumbled across a favourite therapist youtube personality of mine, Kati Morton and someone had posted a question about childhood sexual abuse and the link to hypersexuality. Sadly, I also experienced childhood sexual abuse from 2 different family members, of which my parents do not know the details of even today. I had never thought the two could be linked and in my teens I was hypersexual leading to very damaging consequences (I was basically an underage cam girl). She explains that those who are abused seek out sexual activity to seize control they had lost at the time of abuse. They may also confuse sex with love and/or postive regard as at the time that may have been what they were told. I can identify with this as I equated sexual attraction and sexual activity as comfort, nurturance and safety. Hence why it became a self-harming behaviour as of course, it isn’t really those things when it’s not in a loving, healthy relationship.

If the abuse was repeated often enough you may have become addicted to the ‘feel good’ hormones activated by the abuse (note: this does not mean you ‘enjoyed’ it, it’s talking purely from a scientific point of view of what goes on in the brain and body). This also explains to me why I feel a kick out of people being attracted to me, or why I might seek ‘intrigue’ or sought out sexual encounters to comfort myself. My brain had equated that sexual encounters means:  attention – one on one kind of attention, positive regard (you’re so beautiful/pretty/good at this etc. etc.) and validation (they make me feel ‘good/high’ and I make them feel ‘good/high’ I am worth something, I am good at something, I am noticed for this). It’s all pretty messed up stuff and I am just now seeing the depths of how much I have to deal with and address. Here was me thinking a few sessions of talk therapy would have been enough.

On the upside, the SLAA program should work because ”Love addiction can be treated with various recovery techniques, most of which are similar to recovery from other addictions such as sex addiction and alcoholism, through group meetings and support groups.” Kati also talks about EMDR as a way of processing the sexual abuse and trauma therapy. Now, I have yet to do EMDR for something a little milder, but I immediately emailed my old therapist who does do EMDR asking her whether she thinks it would be good for me to do EMDR to process the past abuse or whether it would just bring up stuff from the past and make me worse. I await her reply and fully intend on talking about my addiction with my psychologist as well (sigh). A former recovered addict also wrote an article stating that at least 6 months of work, solo, needs to first be done before seeking out a new relationship as unless this work is done, you will be repeating the same patterns over and over no matter how ;different’ this new guy seems from the last.

It seems I still have a long way to go.

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