Intimacy disorders are an often misunderstood category of behavioral and mental health issues that include the following:
- Sex addiction
- Relationship addiction
- Love addiction
When discussed in terms of interpersonal relationships, intimacy can occur on cognitive/intellectual, experiential, emotional, and sexual levels. Cognitive intimacy can develop between people who find pleasure and/or meaning in the exchange of ideas, the discussion of issues or events, and the healthy debate over differing opinions. Experiential intimacy can occur when individuals engage in a shared activity, such as a sport, a job, or a hobby. Emotional intimacy involves the exchange of feelings, empathy, and understanding. Sexual intimacy occurs via pleasurable physical interactions.
Relationships between friends, professional colleagues, and family members may be based upon cognitive, experiential, and/or emotional intimacy, while ideal romantic relationships will involve all four types.
In broad general terms, individuals who struggle with sex, relationship, and/or love addiction have problems related to the development, maintenance, and expression of appropriate types and levels of intimacy. For example, a sex addict may engage in destructive, degrading, or otherwise dangerous sexual behaviors not as a means of experiencing intimacy or enhancing an interpersonal relationship, but in a compulsive manner or as a misguided attempt to numb himself or herself to psychological pain related to trauma, depression, or another mental health disorder.
In cases of love and relationship addiction, the initial attraction to another person or a needy compulsion to be part of a couple takes precedence over developing the meaningful intimacies that are the essential components of a healthy relationship.
For love addicts, the anticipation and profound hopefulness of initial attraction may create a “high” similar to what a drug addict or alcohol feels when using or drinking – while the actual day-to-day experience of participating in a healthy relationship may offer neither enjoyment nor enticement. Conversely, relationship addicts may allow their fantasies of being loved and their fears of being abandoned to trap them in a pattern of exploitive, abusive, or otherwise unhealthy couplings.
It is far from uncommon for sex, love, and relationship addictions to have their roots in a past trauma – often involving domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual assault. Individuals who struggle with these addictions are also likely to experience problems with substance abuse/addiction, and may also be suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental health condition.
At the Life Healing Center, we are uniquely prepared to provide comprehensive treatment that will not only the alleviate the symptoms of sex, love, and relationship addiction, but will also identify and address the underlying issues and co-occurring disorders that led to or were exacerbated by the development of the problematic compulsive behaviors.