Sex Addiction Growing Problem Among Christians

Sex Addiction Growing Problem Among ChristiansA growing understanding of addiction has shown that in any family, it is not just the addict who has the problem; addiction is a family-wide problem. Researchers are seeing that compulsive and obsessive behaviors intended to self-sooth and act an escape don’t emerge out of a vacuum, and very rarely do they occur in someone who did not experience trauma, attachment injury with primary caregivers (most often the mother and father) or some kind of family dysfunction. Sexual addiction is a growing problem in the Christian community (Laaser, 2004), even among Christian women, and it is estimated that about 10 percent of Christians struggle with pornography or another type of sexual addiction (Smalley, 2004). Sex addiction has become a secret spiritual epidemic.

Family Dysfunction and Sexual Addiction

Marnie Ferree, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a recovering sex addict and Christian, talks about how many fellow Christians believe in the need to present a “perfect” exterior to the world—the wholesome, religious family—but that underneath, all people suffer. Even among families who are devout and moral there can be marital strife, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. And there are many other types of dysfunction that can create stress in the lives of people who may feel they have no way out except through the temporary escape provided by their addictive but shameful behaviors.

In his 2004 book, “Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction,” Dr. Mark R. Laaser wrote: “Sex addicts attempt to escape family wounds and associated painful feelings by creating pleasurable feelings through sexual activity. It is important for sex addicts to recognize that their sexual activity is an attempt to medicate old wounds and to find love.”

Faith and Morality Do Not Prevent Sex Addiction

It is dangerous to believe that faith in God and sufficient morality will keep a person with addiction from sexually acting out. Addiction is an obsession that is rooted in some kind of dysfunction or trauma. This has to be acknowledged and healed before the addict can begin to recover; it is not a matter of willpower. Prayer and increased church attendance might be deeply beneficial but they are unlikely to cure anyone of sexual addiction. It is important to understand that any person can have sex addiction—daughters, mothers, sons, fathers and even ministers. Sexual addiction is an addiction of shame and, ultimately, it is an intimacy disorder (Weiss, 2013). Those who experience it don’t do it because of the sex or sexual images, but because they cannot tolerate genuine emotional connection with another person.

Most Christians believe that it is fundamental to have a personal connection with God before an authentic relationship with another person is possible. In the case of sexual addiction, it may be that the relationship with God, self and others has been spiritually, psychologically and emotionally handicapped. Most sex addicts mistake the intensity of physical connection for love or a sense of power. They often believe that because someone is attracted to them or says yes to sex that they are valued and worthy. This is important because they grew up with the core belief that they are unworthy, and it may be that their particular church or religious leaders drove this idea home. It is important to begin to heal this misconception in order to heal sexual addiction. It is a Christian belief that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and is equally lovable in the eyes of God. And even the sex addict and his or her wounded family are capable of healing and redemption.