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Understanding the Importance of Arousal Templates February 24th, 2012 posted by: to Latest News

Scanning of a human brain by X-raysThe way people express their sexuality seems to be as varied and diverse as the cultures that exist throughout the world.  What may be sexually arousing to one may not be arousing to another.  Each of us has an arousal template that dictates what we will find arousing to us.  Moreover, it appears that for most of us, the sexualized behaviors that we engage in can be clustered into categories that become more solidified over time.  In the field of sex addiction treatment we have come to call these clusters types. Our ability to recognize these types and identify what type(s) a sex addict’s behaviors would fall within has proven to be quite beneficial in aiding a sex addict’s recovery journey.

Before explaining why it is of benefit to those sexually addicted it would be helpful to list the identified types used within the treatment community. They include the following:

  • Voyeuristic Sex- arousal is derived from using visual stimulation to escape into fantasy
  • Fantasy Sex- arousal is derived from obsessing over mental images of what is sexually possible
  • Seductive Role Sex- arousal is derived from achieving “conquest” within a relationship
  • Exhibitionistic Sex- arousal is derived from the reaction received from those viewing you exposing yourself
  • Paying for Sex- arousal is derived from the connection formed between money and sex
  • Trading Sex- arousal is derived from using sex as leverage to gain control
  • Intrusive Sex- arousal is derived from violating the boundaries of others
  • Anonymous Sex- arousal is derived from immediate sexual satisfaction without emotional obligation with another
  • Pain Exchange Sex- arousal is derived from being hurt and/or humiliated while also being sexual
  • Exploitive Sex- arousal is derived from sexually exploiting those you believe are more vulnerable than you*

These types were developed from Dr. Patrick Carnes, which appear in Facing the Shadows, and are widely accepted by sex addiction treatment professionals as meaningful categories capable of informing a sex addict and his/her own support system about how they are to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Identifying what type(s) fit an individual sex addict helps the individual develop a personalized treatment plan in two ways.  First, it helps he/she see what his/her arousal template looks like.  As a result, the sex addict could then better target what would likely trigger him/her to engage in the sexual behavior he/she is attempting to abstain from.  For example, if Paying for Sex was the predominant type identified for a sex addict then he/she should expect to feel more triggered when they receive lump sums of money outside their typical budget. In another example, if Pain Exchange Sex was the predominant type he/she could expect to learn that they are triggered in many relationships in which they regularly feel inadequate and will have a higher likelihood of being exposed to a scenario where they are being degraded by another and consequently feel aroused. 

The second benefit to the sex addict lies in helping them understand how they developed the arousal template they have.  The type or types an addict identifies will help them learn about how sexually arousing content was first introduced to them and subsequently how the “relationship” to the mood altering content began.  This information will play a significant role in helping a recovering sex addict modify their arousal template so that they can experience sexual arousal in a healthier non-addictive fashion. 

To learn more please feel free to contact us by calling 732-797-1444 or by posting a comment to this post and we will reply in a timely manor.

* Carnes, P. Facing the Shadows: Starting Sexual and Relationship Recovery. Carefree, AZ: Gentle Path Press, 2010.

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2 Comments | Post Comment

  1. Debra feinberg, February 27, 2012:

    Great article. I am a therapist in northern NJ and look for therapy practices experienced with sex addiction ( and addiction in general). This article was very helpful

    Regards
    Debra Feinberg LCSW

  2. edit google plus age, March 27, 2014:

    Yes! Finally someone writes about fully.

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