Previous article: Part 2 – Sugar and Salt
There are some things in life that make our lives better, for lack of a better term. We resort to them often, looking for ways to enhance our day to day. They come in many forms and guises. Some are illegal, like narcotics, and involve a number of complications. Others are regulated, like prescription medication, and are dispensed from experts. And some are straightforward and freely available, like jogging, swimming, or reading a book. In addition, some are free, like watching a sunset or taking a stroll, whereas others, like going to the gym or to church, involve charges.
This series looks at six popular addictions derived from legal and widely available substances, objects or activities. Let us examine them to see what happens when they take over a person’s life, continuing with: Sex and the Internet.
An activity that will perhaps baffle many as to why it is on the list, sex is a pleasurable stimulation that most people engage in, to greater or lesser extents. People seek it for various reasons, ranging from expressing their love for their partner, to alleviating themselves from stress, to deriving physical and mental pleasure, to expressing deep-rooted instinctual urges, to asserting themselves over others, to reinforcing their ego, to satisfying a partner and maintaining a relationship, to consolidating a relationship, to controlling another person through sexual manipulation, and, of course, to mate and reproduce.
Whatever the case, sex is highly rewarding, and people seek it actively. And like the substances mentioned earlier in the series, it gets out of hand in a number of ways.
Firstly, it’s easy to get hooked on sex, which leads to an obsessive frame of mind, whereby all one wants to do is get naked with another person and get it on, be it in the bedroom, in the car, or in the restaurant lavatory, between appetizer and dessert. It may involve the same partner or different ones, a cycle of regulars or a cascade of strangers, and it may involve the perks of alcohol and food material that contain sugar or salt, not to mention a cigarette or two after the deed is done.
So far so good. Sexual stimulation and orgasm alleviate the tension and erase cravings, releasing the mind from obsession. But get hooked on it, with all its pleasurable additives, and the satisfaction is temporary. The craving returns, fast, stronger than before, urging people to go for one more, again and again, like rabbits. Like giant penises and vaginas with bodies attached to them, carrying these bodies around so they can do what they do best: have intercourse. The caressing, stroking or banging is relentless, leaving the agents fornicateur with the strange sensation of feeling satisfied, saturated and drained at the same time. A sickly aftertaste accompanies the overkill, permeating the body from mouth to throat and head to genitals. The sensation goes away after a few hours, especially after a drink, a sweet, or something psychoactive, or even a little nod and a wicked smile, and piff – away goes the aftertaste, and the urge to have sex returns.
Repeated and prolonged sexual activity of course results in genital soreness, which quickly turns into pain, but it matters little. The sexually afflicted keep going at it, despite their discomfort, until their genitalia explode.
To take a sexual addiction screening test, click here.
The internet is the newest kid on the addiction block. Like sex, it doesn’t involve substance consumption. Still, it’s a powerful behavior agent that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Highly addictive, the internet gives a person pleasure on a number of platforms – work, learning, entertainment, social interaction, mating rituals, sexual stimulation, information gathering, networking, gaming – in a manner that becomes self-fulfilling. The more people do it, the more they want to do it. They find themselves surfing on the web, clicking on page after page, without regard for anything or anyone outside their connection.
Prolonged and manic internet use affects the organism. It makes a person jumpy and edgy, seeking repeated stimulation, click after click. Like rats in experiments, net-workers are unable to stop tapping on the buttons that deliver hits of pleasure to their limbic systems, and may go on for hours, even days, without the use of drugs or stimulants. Jacked and wired, fried and sizzling, these users’ brains hurt. They have trouble focusing their gaze, shifting around like mad, as if following a hovering insect (arrow), anticipating the next treat, the next hit.
Like rats in experiments, net-workers are unable to stop tapping on the buttons that deliver hits of pleasure to their limbic systems
The only way out of this frazzled state of mind is to switch off the computer, or phone, or tablet, and go for a walk around the block.
Or talk to people face to face. Engage with them in meaningful conversation, in a manner that forces the body to concentrate on its environment, settle down, and behave smoothly.
Sometimes it works and people come back from click-click tick land. Other times they can’t sit still, their hands fidgeting, their mind jumpy, craving that hit. Or – and here’s the opposite reaction, the defense mechanism – they fall into a daze, a catatonic stupor. They just sit there, stony-faced and unemotional, not interested in anything that goes on around them, disregarding everything anyone says, until a text message comes in – ding! – and out comes the phone, tap goes the finger on the screen – click! – and the wired brain gets a kick, and the craving explodes and multiplies with every tap on the screen, screaming for one more text message, one more peek at the email and Facebook accounts.
To take an internet addiction test, click here.