The pleasure is in the anticipation. For people with arousal addiction, those words couldn’t be more accurate. The anticipation of sexual pleasure creates a body and mind-high that isn’t easy to replace. And when you start your recovery process, you can experience arousal addiction withdrawal.
Understanding Arousal Addiction?
Arousal addiction is a form of sex addiction that’s more likely to develop in younger men. It is an addiction to the build-up of sexual tension, not the release itself. It’s related to other hypersexuality disorders like sex, porn, and masturbation addictions.
Arousal addiction habits typically begin forming at a young age. Usually, when you’re exposed to sexually explicit imagery before your brain fully develops. Regardless of your cognitive understanding, your subconscious brain identifies what you see and wants to reward you. It thinks what you’re seeing is happening to you, so your brain releases dopamine.
Dopamine is the pleasure-chemical your brain creates when you do things like masturbate, eat fatty foods, and use substances. It’s the motivator for most addictive behaviors.
Think about how children react when they have a lot of sugar. They explode with energy for a short time, then crash. A similar thing happens in your young brain with exposure to sexually explicit imagery. Your brain blasts you with more dopamine than your young brain can handle. As a response to the abundance of dopamine, your system shuts down dopamine receptors. This shutdown is an attempt to make the load more manageable in the future.
Seeing porn and having this blast of pleasure gives you an experience you’ll try to replicate. But because you’ve shut down dopamine receptors, it’ll never feel quite as good. You’re left chasing that first high and trying to repeat it. You’ll still get plenty of dopamine from each replication attempt. That will be enough training for your brain to create worn-down neural pathways.
Exposure to trauma intensifies or molds dopamine chasing behavior. When you experience a traumatic event, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This mode shuts off all non-essential functions. Systems like emotional regulation and reason are offline. The only way to bring them back online is dopamine.
From what you know, sexual pleasure is the most readily available form of dopamine. Over time, your sexual patterns become a habit and a way of dealing with life stressors. You start seeking this kind of sexual pleasure more frequently, regardless of the risks or impact it has on your life. Pretty soon, an addiction develops, and you can’t stop, even if you try.
Signs and Symptoms of Arousal Addiction
There are common signs and symptoms associated with arousal addiction. But not every symptom will be visually apparent. Many people hide the symptoms out of shame or guilt.
Signs of arousal addiction include:
- Recurrent, intense sexual fantasies
- Feel driven to do certain sexual behaviors
- Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or control sexual fantasies and behaviors
- Using sexual pleasure as an escape
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships
- Preferring self-pleasure to partnered sexual activities
When your habits cause severe consequences in your life, and you keep going, you have an addiction. You may start to feel like a passenger to your desires. Yet, you’re unable to get your addiction under control.
COVID-19 and the Increase of Sex Addiction
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. It meant many people were quarantined in their homes to stop the spread of the virus. People went out only if necessary and engaged only with the people who lived in their homes.
A deep desire to connect with others is part of our human DNA. Without having people around, isolation and loneliness cause feelings of depression.
The internet was perhaps one of the few reliable things in life during the pandemic. Therefore, people turned online to the positive feeling and faux connection provided through the never-ending stream of pornography. It’s an easy way to fill your brain and body with dopamine and feel like you’re making a connection with someone else.
Using pornography as a coping mechanism for stress has become a genuine, prevalent public health concern.
Common Signs of Arousal Addiction Withdrawal
Now that you recognize that you may be coping with sex addiction, you probably want help to stop these behaviors even more. But you need to know what to expect before you put a stop to compulsive sexual behaviors. You will likely experience symptoms of arousal addiction withdrawal.
Arousal addiction withdrawal can have a noticeable impact on your daily life. Knowing the symptoms of withdrawal may make your recovery journey more manageable.
Examples of arousal addiction withdrawal symptoms include:
- Pain in your joints, headaches
- Lack of focus
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Brain fog
- Temporary flatlining – lack of any sexual desire
- Temporary anhedonia – an inability to feel emotions
Arousal addiction recovery isn’t always a short or clear-cut process, especially when you don’t have support. Getting help from experienced professionals will help you in recovery.
How Begin Again Institute Can Help
If you’re ready to get your life back on track and heal from arousal addiction, you don’t have to do it alone. For a better chance of succeeding and staying sober, get help from a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist.
At Begin Again Institute, sex and arousal addiction are the focus of our entire center. Through a combination of therapies, you’ll have the best possible chance to heal and live a sober life. When you’re ready for help with your arousal addiction withdrawal symptoms, contact us.