In a recent study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, a team of researchers set out to uncover whether there is a link between sex addiction and narcissism in both male and female sex addicts.
While sex addiction alone can be difficult to treat, when you add narcissism into the mix, recovery becomes especially difficult. Narcissists may put on a persona of self-confidence and superiority, but under the surface resides a fragile ego and deep sense of inadequacy.
If so, this would correlate nicely with what we already know about sexual addiction (and addiction in general). Essentially, sex addicts engage in sexual fantasy and behavior not for pleasure, but for the sense of emotional control and escape that sexual intensity provides. Like other addicts, sex addicts use sexual fantasies and experiences to avoid emotional stressors, life challenges, and the pain of underlying psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, attachment deficits, unresolved early-life trauma, etc. Rather than seeking to feel better, sex addicts want to be distracted from their feelings. In other words, they seek emotional control over the unpredictable experiences that life brings us. When times get tough, sex addicts (and addicts in general) seek to disconnect. Instead of reaching out to others for support, they go for the quick fix that involves only them and their need/desire for control over what they feel.
Unsurprisingly, chronically low self-esteem and various forms of profound narcissistic wounding are nearly universal among sex addicts (and other addicts, as well). Most often inadequate parenting, childhood emotional neglect or abuse, and either overt or covert sexual abuse are the underlying culprits for sexual addicts. These complex trauma issues cause people to feel shame about who they are, which in turn influences the ways in which they connect (and dont connect) with others. In short, their addictive sexual fantasies and behaviors provide not only sexual intensity and pseudo emotional connections, but control over that intensity and feeling of connection. This is especially true with Internet porn, where the user controls their entire experience and therefore remains emotionally safe and insulated from the highly interpersonal experience of shame. (We cant feel shame in a vacuum; it requires other people.) So is it any wonder that narcissism and sex addiction typically travel in tandem?
If you are struggling with treatment of a highly narcissistic sex addict, consider recommending inpatient treatment. Interestingly, a stay at a sex rehab clinic often appeals to the narcissists need to be special. If so, you can use that to your advantage. Residential sex addiction treatment facilities can be effective with troublesome clients for two major reasons. First, they put narcissistically wounded people into a structured social learning environment with similar individuals, allowing them to safely connect with peers in healthy ways (maybe for the first time ever). This alone can greatly reduce internalized shame. Additionally, inpatient treatment centers typically do an excellent job of breaking through clients denial and opening them up to seeing themselves as they truly are and accepting honwar feedback without having to anticipate rejection, even when discussing the most difficult and shameful aspects of their addiction. Giving these narcissistically wounded clients the opportunity to fully be known and accepted in a safe, honest, and transparent environment can be an incredibly useful step toward helping them internalize what it feels like to let go of control and be connected, appreciated, and included.
It is important to note, however, that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) does not distinguish between types of narcissism. Instead, it classes them as the same thing. The idea of vulnerable versus grandiose narcissism comes from the psychodynamic idea that people with narcissistic traits believe they need to be perfect to be okay.
Both grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism show a strong link to substance use disorders. A 2019 article in Frontiers in Psychiatry looks at the relationship between the problematic use of substances and narcissism, concluding that self-esteem plays a major role.
Both fluctuating self-esteem and low self-esteem can lead to the use of alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviors as a method of validation, which is important to people with narcissism. The authors of the article also note that grandiose narcissism is a factor in several other forms of addiction, such as:
There is much research to suggest a strong link between narcissism and problematic sexual behavior, notably infidelity and sexual assault. The same factors that drive the problematic use of alcohol and drugs can also drive sex addiction. These include fluctuating or low self-esteem, the devaluing of others, and a sense of invulnerability.
A 2014 study into narcissism and the use of internet pornography found a direct correlation between hours spent viewing pornographic material and the extent of narcissism. It also found that people who watch internet pornography are more likely to have narcissism than people who do not.
People with narcissism and those with an addiction share similar character traits. These include a lack of empathy and a willingness to put themselves at risk in the pursuit of feeling superior. Research also supports the idea that people with narcissism are more likely to develop impulsive and abusive behaviors when using alcohol, drugs, sex, or even social media, leading to an increased risk of addiction.
After all, the need to affirm themselves has been found in the research to be the main reason that individuals with narcissism seek out sex. The extreme need for affirmation can lead to sex addiction.
Have you ever wondered if you or your partner is a narcissist? Or a sex addict? This may surprise you, but being labeled a narcissist or sex addict are two of the most over-diagnosed labels that inexperienced therapists utilize in the mental health field. What if you or your spouse just have narcissistic traits - how do you deal with that, and what is the difference? How do you survive not only infidelity, but also addiction and narcissism, within your specific scenario? The good news is, there is more hope than you can imagine to find healing and save your marriage after infidelity and/or addiction. Even if you or your partner struggle with narcissism, the road ahead is not impossible. Today, our alumnus Samuel interviews Sharon Rinearson, a true expert therapist with over 27 years of experience specializing in infidelity, narcissism, addiction, and betrayal trauma.
Proceeding from oneness to twoness is a psychological process of relating inter- and intrapersonally. This article links the perspectives of French psychoanalyst André Green's concepts of the dead mother and narcissism with Hester Solomon, British Jungian analyst writing on the 'as-if' personality. These concepts are elucidated with the composite example of a self-described sexually addicted man. His behaviours attempted to mask the shadows of melancholy, a fragile self, and the absence of self-animation from early emotional wounds. He did not know love or the other. André Green, French psychoanalyst, described feelings of misery, lack, and emptiness. The defence against relatedness arises from fears of replicating the original object losses. He delineated death narcissism and life narcissism as limiting relationships and creating the illusionary. Narcissus could not live if he knew himself. Immersion within singularity occludes relationship to the unconscious and the other, like Echo. Jung's concept of the transcendent function evolves from inclusion of the symbolic through listening to the language of the unconscious. Through the transference and countertransference, the former disowned and split-off others, secreted in the shadows of addictions, open relatedness to self, soul, and world.
One study found that female bulimia and male sexual addiction were inversely proportional. 95% of people who are sexually deviant are men and 95% of people who are bulimic are women. They have found one of the links between the two groups was appetite dysregulation.
How are you feeling this week and have you seen any progress in your relationship? Do you have any questions or comments? Was this article about sexual addiction helpful or does it create more questions? If so, what questions does it create? As always, thanks for reading.
So I guess I am in between feeling like I should identify as an addict, one who used sex as a coping defense, both? I immediately upon D-day jumped into a 12 step recovery and therapy (which had oddly started three weeks prior) and I am happy to say by the grace of God I am 8 months sober from a 30 year porn/sex with self addiction.
But, most of all, please find a therapist who is skilled at differentiating between the effects of trauma and true personality disorders. You need to know what you are really facing so that you can get the right treatment.
Yes, I definitely used to think that about Bill. It was only recently when I started getting the WHOLE story that I realized he fits all the criteria for narcissism and sex-addiction. I feel so sorry for the countless women he has harmed.
Did you know that experts have demonstrated the connection pornography has to other industries, such as sex trafficking or sexual exploitation? Or, consider the connections porn has to addiction: how porn can affect the brain in similar ways that alcohol or other substances do.
Sexual narcissism, coined by David Farley Hurlbert, is an intimacy dysfunction in which sexual exploits are pursued, generally in the form of extramarital affairs, to overcompensate for low self-esteem and an inability to experience true intimacy. This behavioral pattern is believed to be more common in men than in women and has been tied to domestic violence in men and sexual coercion in couples. Hurlbert and his colleagues assert that any sex addiction is nothing more than a misnomer for what is actually sexual narcissism or sexual compulsivity. - Wikipedia 2b1af7f3a8