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Core Beliefs and Sex Addiction

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

At the heart of sex addiction lies negative core beliefs about self, others, and the world

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Core beliefs are fundamental attitudes and assumptions about oneself, others, and the world. They shape our perceptions and influence our behavior, emotions, and relationships. In the case of sex addiction, negative core beliefs about oneself and one's sexuality can play a significant role in the development and maintenance of the disorder.

Sex addiction is characterized by a persistent pattern of compulsive sexual behavior that interferes with daily life and relationships. It can be driven by a range of factors, including low self-esteem, anxiety, and trauma. Negative core beliefs about oneself, such as feelings of worthlessness or shame, can also contribute to sex addiction.

The four core beliefs underpinning most sex addiction cases

Dr. Patrick Carnes, who pioneered the movement towards education and research into compulsive sexual behaviour recovery, noted four core beliefs that typically underlie one's addiction. These include:

1) I am basically a bad, unworthy person: Individuals that struggle with sexual behaviour view themselves as unworthy, inadequate, and bad - leading to low self-worth and choices that often reinforce and confirm their sense of unworthiness as a person. Keeping secrets, hiding behaviour, and lying to others reaffirms this unworthiness.

2) No one would love me as I am: Individuals believe that if others knew about their behaviour and the truth, they would leave them. The individuals assume responsibility for this pain and go to extreme lengths to hide information that might lead to abandonment or rejection.

3) My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others: Those that struggle with sexual behaviour believe that they are unlovable or unloved. To depend on another person requires vulnerability and trust - two things that many who are addicted to sexual behaviour struggle with. To trust and confide in others leads to fear, resentment, and self-pity.

4) Sex is my most important need: Individuals struggling with compulsive sexual behaviour sexualize feelings and confuse nurturing and sex. All situations require control as a way to guarantee sex. Sex also becomes the main driver for needs to be met, rather than love, intimacy, and care.

One's inner world and outer world are often extremely different. While one's inner world displays fear, shame, guilt, sadness, and pain - the outer world often is masked as either anger towards others or the illusion of perfectionism or "having it all together".

How are core beliefs formed and can they be changed or shaped differently?

Childhood is a critical time in the development of core beliefs, as children are forming their sense of self and the world around them. Children internalize messages from parents, teachers, and peers, and these messages can have a lasting impact on their beliefs about themselves and others. For example, a child who receives consistent messages of criticism or rejection may develop the belief that they are inadequate or unlovable.

For individuals struggling with sexual behaviour, core beliefs can be shaped by:

  • abuse

  • trauma

  • neglect

  • rejection

  • betrayal

  • loss

  • dysfunctional family systems

Positive childhood experiences, such as feeling valued and supported, can also contribute to the development of positive core beliefs. For example, a child who is encouraged and praised may develop the belief that they are capable and deserving of success.

However, childhood experiences are not the only factor that influences core beliefs. Genetic factors, such as personality traits and temperament, can also play a role in shaping beliefs. Additionally, traumatic experiences, such as abuse or neglect, can have a profound impact on core beliefs and increase the likelihood of developing mental health challenges later in life.

It is important to recognize that core beliefs formed in childhood can have a lasting impact on our lives and can be difficult to change. However, with the support and guidance of a qualified therapist, individuals can gain insight into the origins of their beliefs and work to reframe and replace negative beliefs with more positive and accurate perspectives. By addressing childhood experiences and beliefs, individuals can experience significant growth and improvement in their mental health and well-being.

Want to learn more?

Am I a sex addict? Blog Post: Click here

Why is pornography so addictive? Blog Post: Click here

First Step Men's Therapy specializes in sexual addiction, porn addiction, and other compulsive sexual behaviours. We operate across Ontario using our secure telehealth platform, JaneApp. We have several therapists trained with the Certified Sex Addiction Therapy designation. We work with men across Ontario, Canada.

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