Narcissism in the Sexually Addicted Population

Narcissism a Defense Mechanism for Many Sex Addicts

It’s easy to believe that addicts engage in their addictions out of sheer hedonism—simply for pleasure’s sake. But to understand addiction, it’s important to recognize the addict’s underlying need to escapeto disconnect from others and to avoid pain. Sex addicts in general, and narcissists in particular, utilize fantasy and intense sexual behavior not for gratification, but for control. Escaping the pain of the past through the intensity of the present allows the narcissistic sex addict a sense of power through emotional control, and power is the most important commodity the narcissistic sex addict has. The emotional validation and adulation a sex addict receives when someone chooses him or her as a sex partner is a rush. And for the pornography addict, the object is chasing the next perfect image, the next subversive shot—nothing and no one else matters.

Narcissistic sex addicts are perhaps the hardest to treat. They use grandiosity and a façade of self-confidence to present as though they are indestructible, but this could not be further from the truth. Narcissism is a defense mechanism of the psyche; it protects what is, in truth, a fragile ego and a very low sense of self-worth. Most narcissists grew up with inadequate caregiving—emotional or physical abuse, or inconsistent care or neglect—and carry these wounds with them into adulthood. Their strong need for validation likely comes from the a lack of a coherent bond with mother or father (or other guardians). A strong sense of entitlement may also exist in individuals who were consistently provided for materially, rather than emotionally. The resultant emotional deficits may manifest as sexual addiction, but as hard as narcissism is to treat, it is not impossible. Those clinicians who have the most success approach their clients with compassion, non-judgment and honesty, and those sex addicts who express narcissistic traits who have the greatest degree of success are those willing to acknowledge their problem and to ask for help.

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