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Vicious To Virtuous V2V Free Recovery Programme Resources - Module 2 Image Banner

Vicious To Virtuous V2V Free Recovery Programme Resources - Module 2

Module 2 of the V2V free recovery programme resources explains how sex addiction and porn addiction behaviours come about and start you on the road to a better understanding of why you have reached this point.


This 2nd module of V2V will help you to understand how addictive behaviours are governed by patterns of thoughts, emotions and behaviours and how modifying these will help you end addiction.  You will be able to conduct your own self-assessment and identify your potential addiction patterns.  The questions ‘why do I do this?’ and ‘how do I get back in control?’ will be answered.  With this module you will know where to target your personal energy and efforts to successfully achieve lasting change.

As an ‘addict’ you will be prone to two types of patterns. Type 1 is what we will call behavioural - this is where your reaction to events spiral down into acting out with sex and porn.  Type 2, which we will call neurological, is a mutation of type 1 resulting from repetition of the behaviours and constant firing of your dopamine pathways (more on this in the next module).  Dominated by over-stimulated dopamine pathways in the brain this one is an automated spiralling into addictive behaviours.  Escalation of the behaviours into more risky activities often occurs here as well as a sense of becoming a separate entity (‘like being in a bubble/box’, ‘a different person’ etc.).



Figure 1: Behavioural Spiral of Sexual Addiction

Your type 1 behavioural level pattern  is driven by unpleasant and intolerable thoughts and emotions in response to difficult and challenging experiences.  Problematic events (such as being ditched by a long-term partner or work-related stress) generate an intolerable response (anger, sadness, rejection, helplessness etc.) which in turn creates a need for self-soothing and escape. Sex and porn addiction are dysfunctional forms of self-soothing and escape from problems contrasted with, for example, sharing things with a friend or professional helper. For examples of triggering experiences see other blogs such as

We all have our limits of tolerance, beyond which we start to ‘lose it’. When you are frequently pushed by events beyond your personal tolerance threshold the discomfort is amplified as is the degree of self-soothing needed.  This is fertile ground for self-destructive addictive behaviours.  Sex and porn addiction lop the edge off anxiety or provide a lift up from the doldrums. In the short-term they help you block out difficulties and bring you back momentarily into your comfort zone. Long-term, in contrast, the familiar style of response to the next challenge re-emerges and the slide down the spiral of acting out behaviours starts again.  You are going round and down in a vicious cycle triggered by irrational reactions to events. An example might be

Boss wants to see me tomorrow (event) – I’m no good and will lose my job (thought response) – panic/fear about the future/security/family (emotional response) – turn to porn for escape/comfort/self-soothing (addictive behaviours).Addictive behaviours provide a false sense of security in that they provide only a temporary escape from your troubles and negative feeling states.  This ‘benefit’, as fleeting as it is, keeps the spiral of addiction permanently switched on and eventually leads to serious negative consequences.

Other examples include generalised anxiety

By understanding when, how and why you respond to events enables you to break the patterns because you can replace inappropriate responses with balanced ones and head off the need for self-soothing through dysfunctional behaviours.

When you respond appropriately to challenging situations you can stay within your ‘tolerance zone’ where low-key self-soothing such as relaxation and ‘time out’ are sufficient to move you on without the need for acting out self-destructively. 

Addicts can halt these patterns by acknowledging where they stem from - parents’ missives, school rules and peers’ jeers for example, and challenging them with more rational, adult-appropriate responses.  In the above example which is a common one, the event evokes memories of being told dad would be home soon to sort you and switches our brain in to the conditioned response - fear.  And all the time the boss just wanted to give you a pat on the back!

Shift to Neutral and Stay in Neutral

Neutral position on the spiral of addiction is sovereign. As in your car or on your motorcycle the shift to drive is a conscious and deliberate manual action.  Likewise with addiction, during and after recovery you will have complete control over whether to shift (or not) into another position on the spiral of addiction (presently this shift is an unconscious learned one based on those conditioned responses to events).  This is the core of permanent recovery – where you consistently choose to respond to life’s challenges in balanced and appropriate ways and simultaneously also select to remain in the neutral position on the addiction spiral.  Recovery, in this sense, is absolutely controllable.  An addict doesn’t have to be always an addict.  Choice over how to respond to life’s challenges is the antidote to addictive behaviours.

Reasons To Be Addicted – 3 Key Areas

All of these are highly significant in the behavioural spiral of addiction; the third one is particularly relevant to the neurological dopamine-led spiral. 

Conditioning – how you have been ‘programmed’ by your upbringing governs how you respond in any given situation (in the above example you have been conditioned to be fearful of a figurehead as a means of discipline).  Another way to see these is as your ‘set-up’ as someone who is likely, if triggered, to turn to some form of acting out as a coping mechanism.


Crunch points – these are events in your life that have been defining triggers for becoming dependent on sex and/or porn and maybe other forms of compulsive behaviours.  Examples include unavoidable events such as parental divorce or death of a parent during your childhood or avoidable events like negligently losing a job due or choosing to commit to a relationship despite warning signs.

Chronic factors – these are aspects of your life that are either always present or persistently re-surfacing.  They usually arise from consequences arising from past choices or a failure to make changes to the conditioning above.  These factors perpetuate and maintain the fertile context for addictive behaviours.  Examples include having financial problems due to poor discipline around money or always allowing anger to dominate and destroy your relationships. 


Following is a simple self-assessment to provide you with indications of the factors relating to your behavioural spiral of addiction. The 3 sets of questions below address lightly the 3 categories of conditioning, crunch and chronic factors above and there are suggestions below for exploring these further.


Relating to others

Tick if any of the following seem like you.

1.      You often experience noticeable anxiety, mistrust or jealousy when not with a partner.

2.      You constantly seek reassurance of others’/partners’ love and availability for you.

3.      You often find that others are not very good at providing comfort and satisfaction in the relationship.

4.      You tend to strongly avoid intimacy and closeness.

5.      You are extremely anxious about being rejected/hurt/betrayed but at the same time really want close relationships.

6.      You find it often takes a long time to get into close relationships.

7.      You are more likely to avoid intimacy/closeness than welcome it.

8.      You are usually content being self-sufficient, often compulsively so.

9.      You generally do not seek emotional closeness and physical affection.

Traumatic events

You have experienced any of the following:

       ·        Physical, emotional or sexual abuse (over time or certain incidents)

·        Witnessing domestic violence

·        Parental death or divorce when you were young

·        Sibling death, injury or serious health issues

·        Involvement in serious, life-threatening accidents/incidents

·        Witnessing serious, life-threatening accidents/incidents

·        Serious injuries, surgery and health issues (including pre and during birth)

·        Extended separation from parents as an infant/child (adopted, fostered, child-minded etc.)

·        Being bullied by siblings, relatives, peers, teachers, managers.

·        Being attacked/sexually assaulted/raped or threatened by such.

·        Own difficult relationships, break-ups or divorce

·        Death, injury, disability and illnesses of a partner, child (including miscarriage)

·        Difficulties in starting a family, fertility processes etc.

·        Redundancy and other serious career setbacks

·        Major setback such as business failure, loss of home/security


Personality related

Rate yourself on a scale of low, medium, or high on each of these:

a)      Never feeling loved/cared for

b)      Fear of being on your own/abandoned

c)      Being suspicious of others’ motives, generally mistrusting of others

d)      Feeling different to everyone else and alienated

e)      Having a sense that you are not good enough and flawed

f)       Sense of having failed in life and/or work

g)      Feeling that you can’t cope with life

h)      Having worries that the worst is always about to happen; pessimism.

i)       Always seem to be caring for others at your own expense

j)       Hiding emotions

k)      Perfectionism

l)       Being impulsive and lacking commitment

Your results

Relating to others = if you tick  2 or more out of each of the blocks of 1-3, 4-6 or 7-9 you are indicating possible insecurities when it comes to relationships.  These might mean that relationships are a source of constant challenge, difficulty or stress for you and you should target your resources to addressing this aspect of your life.  Early years are usually at the roots of such difficulties.

Traumatic events = experiencing any of these can mean a potential lasting negative effect on your life especially if the experience was not mediated at the time i.e. through counselling.  Experiencing several of these events might have a multiplying impact on your emotional and psychological health.  Some form of therapy such as EMDR is recommended.

Personality-related = any medium or high scores indicate aspects of your outlook on life or your self-perception may be constant sources of out-of-control responses to events and situations and could be contributing to your need for addictive behaviours.  Working through a self-help book such as Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey Young or seeking professional coaching or counselling is essential in this case.

Next module focuses on the dopamine-led spiral of addiction and shows you how to recognise, control and overcome the neurological component of addiction to sex and porn. Follow me on Twitter @esteemtherapy to receive alert.



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