It is normal for people to have sexual fantasies, with most experts even considering it healthy. However, when a person becomes obsessive about it, it can become an addiction.
Sex addicts often use sexual fantasies as a major component to their behavior. Often, their actions are triggered by a cycle of events. Women are more prone to fantasies than men, but both can use them to get through rough stretches. These periods can include times of discomfort, stress, boredom and emotional pain. Sexual fantasies can also play a key part in generating feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, which in turn triggers dopamine release and results in the high the addict was seeking.
Some Basics to Sexual Fantasy Addiction
Sexual fantasy addition differs from other forms of sex addiction in the matter that the person is obsessed with the fantasies, not necessarily the action, of sex. Even though this type of addict can still be in a relationship, they shy from true intimacy. The fantasies provide them with a way to remove themselves from real life.
When these fantasies take up a large amount of time and effort on a person’s part, it becomes an addiction. Because they seem so real to the addict, they can be very powerful. So much so they can prevent a person from having any true feelings of intimacy and love towards the object of the fantasy. It is difficult for the addict to have any real emotion towards the other person because they have unattainable expectations of him or her.
How Does It Happen?
Like other types of addictions, a sexual fantasy addiction triggers the brain to release a multitude of hormones that entice excitement, distraction and pleasure. A neurochemical cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, endorphins and serotonin enter the addict's system, which acts as a bandage for an underlying psychological condition. Individuals addicted to sexual fantasies often suffer from anxiety, depression, attachment issues, low self-esteem or intense emotional trauma. The individual’s fantasies work as coping mechanisms to get through the pain. Eventually, a person needs the illusions to make it through life.
People with this disorder become addicted to the dissociative ecstasy which results from their cycle of behavior and associated hormone rush. They become so obsessed with their fantasies that as soon as one ends, they are looking for the next one. Their illusions become more satisfying than the actual act of sex and can provide more pleasure to addicts than true person-to-person contact.
What Is It Like to Be a Sex Addict?
People suffering from sexual fantasy addiction have the ability to manipulate their brains into producing a neurochemical high. When these fantasies are visualized, the addicts enter a form of trance which reaches an incredible intensity. Creating the illusion often brings more pleasure to the individuals than the real sex experience. They use their high to self-soothe their emotion disorders. Their brain learns to command their neurochemistry reaction just like drug or alcohol addicts do, providing temporary relief from anxiety, depression and stress.
Individuals suffering from this addiction often feel ashamed of their acts, whether physical contact occurred or not. Frequently, they will swear off their condition, saying it will never happen again. Unfortunately, even if they truly mean it, they give back in to their fantasies. This is the one area they have no control over. This leads to living secretive, shameful double-lives with no regard to safe sex, infidelity and hurting other people. Like other addictions, they try to hide it from friends, coworkers and family.
How to Stop It
1. Acknowledge Your Problem
Before you can beat your addiction, you have to admit that there is a problem in the first place. As soon as you can do that, you can start looking for outside help.
2. Enter a Support Group
You need to realize there are other people like you, suffering from a sexual fantasy addiction and not knowing what to do about it. There is probably a support group in your area that can help you. You may be able to enter one that meets online if that works better for you.
3. Seek and Accept Help
Sometimes an addiction is so strong, you cannot change your behavior without help. Don’t feel like a failure if you need to seek help from a counselor, doctor or other trained professional. Allow yourself to accept the assistance they give you to beat your condition.
4. Let Your Loved Ones Give Support
Although sexual fantasy addicts often lack emotional attachments to others, you may still miss being physically close to someone. Trying to rid yourself of your condition all on your own can become very lonely. Tell your loved ones what is going on and allow them to give you their support.
Keep in mind, some of your loved ones will be upset with you over your addiction and past actions. If they feel this way, it is normal. Not everyone will understand, but don't give up because some will. Seek out those who truly want to help you and limit your time with those who don't.
5. Trade Addictive Behavior for Healthy Alternatives
When you first stop engaging in your addictive behaviors, you will have a lot of time to fill. Don’t let these empty moments make you relapse. Instead look for healthy alternatives to release your kept energy. Add exercise to your routine or take a class. If doing one thing isn’t enough, try different activities. Always keep occupied. Some alternatives to consider include:
- Taking a painting or clay class.
- Learning to draw at home.
- Learning how to play a musical instrument.
- Keeping a journal.
- Taking a yoga class.
- Joining a jogging or tennis club.
6. Throw Away Triggers
Throw away all the items that might trigger your obsessive behavior. Remove them from your home, workplace or any other location you might have stored them. This includes deleting files from your computer, as well as DVDs, magazines and pictures that you used to assist your addiction.
7. Disassociate from Individuals and Places That Trigger Your Addiction
Stop going to places that you used to plan or fulfill your sexual fantasies. Do not visit adult toy stores or locations known for high sexual activity. If you hang out with people that frequent these areas, stop associating with them. However, ask them if they would mind going somewhere else before totally ditching them.
This can also apply to avoiding specific locations. Maybe you always engaged in your sexual fantasizing when riding the subway. Try an alternative form of transportation or traveling with a friend so you cannot engage in your addiction.
8. Set Goals and Celebrate
Set achievable goals, allowing them to become more challenging as you become stronger. When you achieve a goal, allow yourself to celebrate. Acknowledge your accomplishment with a trip to your favorite ice cream place. Treat yourself to a massage or that outfit you've been eyeing in a storefront. Let yourself take pride in beating your sexual fantasy addiction.