Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
And what if making what seems like a reasonable, albeit rather extreme, decision about one’s life is just based on some sort of addiction?
When I want something, how can I determine whether I’m reacting to addiction, compulsion, pre-disposition, natural biology, biological divergence or mutation, Pavlovian conditioning, brain wiring error, hormonal imbalance, or what have you?
I’m writing this because I need to know if I’m just addicted to thoughts of becoming a woman.
But let’s not start there. Let’s do a little contemplation first.
Am I addicted to sugar? Can you be addicted to something (say, a food) that you need to survive? Sugar, for example, is fuel for life. And while there are certainly other fuels, many (most? all?) foods are immediately broken down into sugar by the body. Sugar (in moderation) isn’t inherently bad. If I eat too much processed sugar, that can be bad, but does that constitute addiction? What if I crave it? Where’s the line? How do I tell the difference? Is just craving a little bit of chocolate now and then a sign of addiction? How about eating a bowl of sugary cereal once a day?
I drink caffeine every day. Not in coffee (which I hate) but in soda — roughly 50 milligrams per can, or about 150-200 milligrams spread throughout the day. (That’s about the same amount as in a single cup of coffee.) Is that too much? Does the fact that I do it every day mean that I am hooked? When I don’t have caffeine for a couple of days I get a little grumpy. But it passes. I can go without, and sometimes do. Sometimes I drink more than usual, and I usually feel pretty happy and contented when I do.
But I often start my day with some caffeine, and I go out of my way to make sure I never run out. I may not always drink it, but I always at least want the option. Am I addicted to it?
I started wondering about this subject because of a web site called Your Brain on Porn. It argues that modern porn overwhelms our natural biological responses, hyper-charges male sexuality, and puts men on a very bad path. The arguments are compelling enough to consider (despite possibly being impurely motivated).
And I do sometimes watch porn.
But I don’t like porn very much, and not straight porn at all. Sometimes enjoy trans porn, and it’s pretty much the only kind that I could ever get anything from. Just short clips, once in a while. I don’t see a problem with that, and I wouldn’t want to stop watching such things, but am I addicted? I don’t think so, but I wonder where the line is.
I admit that I can only become aroused by trans thoughts. I haven’t had a “straight” fantasy (imagining sex with a woman) for a very long time. And even though my fantasies evolve, the common theme is and has always been that every single one involves me becoming or being or acting like or dressing like or being seen as female. It makes me wonder: Am I addicted to trans-thinking? Trans-dreaming? Trans-planning? Trans-everything?
Reading about addiction to porn, I’ve tried to substitute my trans feelings in the same equation to see if things line up. Often (but not always) they do.
I’ve asked myself this question before: Is all of my trans-life just the byproduct of some totally random stimulus when I was three or four years old that produced a “high” of some sort, then leading me to seek it out again and again? Have I just needed progressively more of that stimulus in the way that a drug user becomes immune?
At a very young age, I had a teddy bear on my bed that had a sheer black, decorative scarf. One night, for reasons I really don’t remember and can’t imagine, I tied myself up in that scarf. All I remember is sort of liking the feel of the fabric, and having a sort of abstract curiosity about the feeling of tightness and immobility. The act was arousing.
Around that same time, I remember seeing pantyhose drying in the bathroom. Again, the sheerness was attractive, in the same way that the scarf had been. I remember touching them, feeling them, and being overcome by curiosity of what it would be like to wear them. I remember sticking my arm in as far as I could, and of course I eventually closed and locked the bathroom door and tried them on.
From that moment (at least), I was trans.
If some sort of gender mismatch existed inside me before doing these two things, I will never know. But from there, the feelings grew, and they have never gone away. Of course, how my child brain made the leap from sheer to female isn’t that hard to figure out, given the presence of so many images reinforcing that idea in the culture of the time.
But the mechanism which started then has continued. When I think about trans stuff, I get a shot of pleasant brain juices. Just the release of pleasant brain juices is enough to fuel addiction. But pleasant brain juices are just part of life, right? When we humans discover something that gives us pleasant brain juices, the mechanism of our reward system causes us to seek that stimulus out again. Is that addictions?
I like looking at pictures of beautiful women (and their clothing). Does the simple act of enjoying such things constitute addiction? Where does interest cross into obsession? Where does enjoyment cross over into addiction?
If it is an addition, and I were in rehab trying to recondition my reward centers, what would I need to do? A return to some sort of straightness? (Wait, it couldn’t be a “return” because I never was there.) I might try that, but it would sure seem weird.
Could I somehow disentangle trans thinking from sexual arousal? Doubt it.
If I were to start hormones, who is to say that a positive effect might not simply be the result of reducing arousal desires? A little bit of E could be just the thing to break the arousal problem. But then what?
There’s so much here, and it seems appropriate, but clearly there is no method of separating all of these things into their component parts. It’s all one big soup.
For example, if it is an addition, wouldn’t transition be the ultimate cure? It just might. That might be a Very Good Thing. But if it didn’t, that would certainly be a Very Bad Thing. No way of knowing without doing.
In the final analysis, if I were to determine that I have an addiction, it could only be to wishing I was female. I wish it all the time, and I can’t stop wishing it. I’ve wished it enough that I really want to make it a reality, and I can see how that might be possible, even inevitable.
Can you be addicted to a wish? Is that dangerous? Is that the type of addiction which should be broken?
How do you break an addiction to a wish to be female?
Transition, of course.