Addiction has always been one of the major drawbacks to human kind for the most part. The sort of addiction that I am talking about is not your typical craving for chocolate or a Pena colada on a warm day. It’s the type of obsession that is created when someone experiences traumatic stress and the only way to cope with it is through a specific activity that becomes an addiction. This integrated media series is about my research in stress and addictions, more specifically sexual addiction due to stress.
Trauma theory explains how dissociative defenses are used to protect an individual from feelings of helplessness, lack of control, and/or the realities of the traumatic events (Giugliano, 2006). In other words individuals will try to do activities that will help them cope with their stress even if it is not morally or ethically correct. One of these activities can be indulging in repeated sex. Engaging in such behavior, the person is able to transfer the psychological pain, to pleasure. In doing this they are able to distract themselves from what is causing them to feel stressed or even depressed. Moreover, each time one has sex dopamine is released. Dopamine neurotransmission in the nucleus accumbens plays a major role in the reward system (part of the brain), which if malfunctioning may be ultimately responsible for the excessive craving that leads to addiction (Milkman, H., & Sunderwirth, S.1983). Prolonged sexual activity followed by removal creates an exaggerated sense of craving and discomfort which can only be satiated by increased intake of the drug, in this case sex, to release dopamine. As a result of the sexual encounter, the addict experiences intense pleasurable feelings of grandiosity, in vulnerability, tranquility, and numbness to the pain of emptiness. Therefore once an individual begins to engage in such behavior, they discover that this is an excellent source of distraction to their stress and more pleasurable, which results in he/she becoming addicted to sex. (Milkman, H., & Sunderwirth, S.1983)
A famous research project that was carried out by the psychologist Teicher and his colleges looked at the neurobiological changes that result from traumatic experience(s). One of the neurobiological changes that were observed took place in the hippocampus, which resulted in the increasing possibility for dissociative symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. (Giugliano, 2006) (Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, 2007)
Nucleus accumbens The nucleus accumbens is believed to be located diagonal to the prefrontal cortex and right above the amygdala. Each time one employs himself or herself in activities that satisfy the brain dopamine a neurobiological chemical is transported to this “reward system” and we feel that indescribable sense of gratification. (Giugliano, 2006) (Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, 2007)
Sexual Addiction Study 1989: Male vs. Female Sunderwirth, S. G., & Milkman, H. (2004)
Study: Sexual Addiction due to Sexual Abuse Sunderwirth, S. G., & Milkman, H. (2004)
Psychologist, Harvey Milkman. (on the left) and Stanley Sunderwirth. (on the right) who were facility members at University of Denvar; proposed the biochemical processes which occur in the brain as a result of arousal sexual activities that were explained in the previous slides. (Metropolitan State College of Denve, 2004)
Sources Drug Enforcement Administration Museum . (2007). Retrieved October 1, 2008, from Drug Diversion in America: http://www.goodmedicinebadbehavior.org/explore/index.html Giugliano, J. (2006). Out of Control Sexual Behavior:. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity , 361-375. Metropolitan State College of Denve . (2004). Retrieved October 1, 2008, from 40th year: http://www.mscd.edu/news/fortyyears/40thGallery/pages.html Milkman, H., & Sunderwirth, S. (1983, October). The chemistry of craving. PsychologyToday, 36–44. Sunderwirth, S. G., & Milkman, H. (2004). Behavioral and Neurochemical Commonalities in addiction. Contemporary Family Therapy , 421-433.