There are many different causes of sex addiction and all of them are complex. There is no single factor that will lead to sex addiction or porn addiction, but rather a complex interlay of events. The vast majority of people with sex addiction say their problem started under the age of 16 (40.23 percent) and for some (5.83 percent) under the age of 10 (www.sexaddictionhelp.co.uk 2018). The seeds of sex and porn addiction have almost always been sown early in life and hence the most common causes started many years before.
Before we go on to look at the different causes of addiction and how it starts, it’s important to understand that what follows are ‘explanations’ not ‘excuses’. One of the challenges of exploring the causes of sex addiction, particularly for partners is that it can feel like a cop out. And many partners will rightly say, “that doesn’t make it OK” or “He/She may have had a difficult childhood, but they’re adult now and they still chose to betray me”. Another common observation is that many people may experience the same issues, but they don’t all become addicts? So why do some, and not others. So why did my partner?
Regrettably there is no single or simple answer to what causes sex addiction. Understanding how something came to be, whether that’s how someone became an addict or how you chose the relationship you’re in or the job that you do, is almost always a complex interweaving of many different factors, many of which are dependent on another.
For example, if you’re an acclaimed violinist, chances are that your love of music started in early childhood and from an early age you learnt that you had an innate musical talent. Perhaps your parents encouraged you to listen to and play music and your passion was nurtured and your efforts and accomplishments praised. Negative events may have played a role too. Perhaps your first violin was inherited from your late grandfather who you miss very much, but who inspired you to commit to the instrument. If you also had the financial resources to pay for lessons and perhaps go and see live concerts to feed your ambition, and your local secondary school happened to be known for its excellent music teaching, then your journey to success had an excellent start. However, changing just a few key factors or introducing a discriminating wild card such as illness or parental separation might have changed your direction and set you on a very different path. Understanding the fragility of a life path is important because it can help us to understand why people with an almost identical history might develop very differently. It can also help us not to place undue blame or regret on one single incident or circumstance, something that is especially important in sex addiction where shame can play such a crucial role.
Common causes of sex addiction and porn addiction
Broadly speaking, the most common causes of sex addiction are:
- Developing self control – this is particularly relevant for those in adolescence who may have more issues with impulse control or who have not had appropriate boundaries put in place by parents. A family background that has been very rigid and strict is more likely to result in someone who either rebels or finds it difficult to set boundaries for themselves.
- Managing difficult feelings – children learn how to express their emotions from watching their parents, which means that people who had poor role models are less likely to know how to appropriately, and healthily express themselves. So families where emotions were either kept hidden, or were expressed dramatically or dangerously are more likely to foster addiction.
- Secrets and Shame – shame is the common denominator in almost all addictions and when a child is brought up to feel shame about themselves, they’re more likely to get caught in shame based issues in adulthood. There is also a correlation between secretive families and addiction with 41.79 percent describing this as their experience in the survey undertaken for Understanding & Treating Sex Addiction(Hall 2012). When a child has been brought up to keep secrets, then it is much easier as an adult to live a double life.
- Poor Sex Education – all of us need guidance and education in order to make choices for ourselves. When sex education has been poor or absent this can lead to increased feelings of shame around sex, increased experimentation and poor decision making.
- Adolescent loneliness – using masturbation for comfort is a common and natural pastime for most adolescents, but if a young person feels isolated from others and unable to fit in with peers, they are less likely to develop other coping strategies and learn to turn to people for comfort.
- Opportunity – this may be stating the obvious, but if the drug of ‘sex or porn’ wasn’t available, you wouldn’t be able to get addicted to it. The prevalence of pornography and the ability to use internet technology for casual sex has undoubtedly fuelled the problem. Hence anyone who has internet access is more likely to become addicted to porn or sex.
For many, there are additional complications that are linked to what’s known as either attachment difficulties or trauma in childhood. You can find much more about this in earlier blogs linked here:-
What causes sex addiction – Trauma -
What causes sex addiction – Attachment -