How Childhood Abuse Becomes Adult Hypersexuality

Childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse or sexual assault at any age, carries with it a common symptom of adulthood hyersexuality. Isn’t that though the opposite or counterintuitive?  Why would someone who was harmed sexually as a child or at some point in their life, then turn around and be hypersexual?  Why hurt themselves in the very way they were hurt in the first place?

There are many reasons this happens. One is that it’s a way to regain control, to take it back. Many abuse survivors will be hypersexual, they’ll put themselves into dangerous sexual situations because it’s their way of saying ‘it’s my body, I decide, I do what I want.’  It’s almost like they get to reverse the role.  Instead of feeling like someone has control over them and can do whatever they want to them and even saying ‘no’ isn’t stopping it.  They get to choose and they get to have as much sex as they want.

Another reason for hypersexualized behavior among abuse survivors is validation. Imagine being sexually abused as a child. You were raised in that environment and through time, in your formative years, the only way to get attention was with sex. Maybe the only time you were really told that were loved was through sex.  Perhaps that’s how one comes to feel worthwhile and important, this is then subsequently reinforced through words or actions throughout the abuse cycle.

Abuse survivors will often associate love, support and validation with sex. Therefore in order to get emotional needs met, they might then turn to sex to fill those needs. A sort of chemical dependency can arise from this type of behavior as well. Sex can release those feel good hormones, different chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and norepinephrine. Therefore, if you’ve been sexualized for long periods as a child, when you get older you may still seek out the same feelings.

That’s why treatment for abuse involves a sort of dual approach. We need to treat an addiction of sorts, a yearning for the dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine that gets released.  Many abuse survivors are already or may quickly become addicts seeking out such release. They then also need to deal with the addiction.  In order to begin healing from abuse, trauma therapy as well as support groups and techniques such as EMDR and Equine Therapy are a good start.  However, it all begins with talking to someone about it and reaching out for help.