Partners of Sex Addicts Need Treatment for Trauma

I can imagine the shock when you learn your spouse has cheated on you, sometimes learned when your diagnosed with an Sexually Transmitted Disease. For counsellors to minimize and almost blame the victim for the problem seems seriously wrong. Click here to learn more or read an excerpt below.


Traditional treatment models for sex addiction have systematically excluded partners. Current clinical models that actually do address the partner or spouse of sex addicts have developed and are fundamentally organized around the single-concept and diagnosis of co-addiction or codependency, which basically understands the partner as having her own disease termed co-addiction or co-dependence.

The concept of co-dependence comes directly out of Alcoholics Anonymous and was adopted by the sex addiction field and applied to partners and spouses. Codependency is defined as a process addiction — an addiction to certain mood-altering behaviors, such as a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively care-taking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life.

While the sex addiction field and its practitioners wander between either no substantial model or the co-addiction model for understanding and treating partners, the reality of what partners experience and their actual clinical needs continue to be minimized, obscured and gravely misunderstood.

Partners actually often experience clinically significant sex addiction-induced trauma (SAI-Trauma), which is the specific type of trauma and traumatic symptom clusters that result from the direct impact of the sex addiction and the associated chronic patterns of sexual acting out, relational perpetration, emotional abuse, deception, betrayal, psychological manipulation and compartmentalization. The clinical complexities and the degree and extent of psychological destabilization, ego fragmentation, relational and social ruptures and post-traumatic symptoms seen among partners are profound.

Sex addiction-induced trauma is particularly acute around discoveries (finding out about sexual acting out, deception and relational violations), disclosures (being told about sexual acting out, deception and relational violations) and around the continued traumatic incidents that result from the presence of sexual addiction in an intimate relationship and family system.

Partners often present with a set of symptoms that match symptoms similar to rape trauma syndrome (RTS) and complex post-traumatic-stress disorder (C-PTSD), including psycho-biological alterations, re-experiencing of the trauma, social and emotional constriction, constant triggering and reactivity, significant anxiety, emotional arousal and hyper-vigilance. Sex addiction-induced trauma is a highly specific type of trauma that involves nuanced symptoms that can include fear and panic of potential disease and contamination, fear of child safety and potential of child molestation, social isolation, embarrassment and shame and intense relational rupture and attachment injuries.

What most people outside the field do not know is that despite the significant symptoms of trauma that partners experience, the traditional sex addiction field to this day still ignores these trauma-related symptoms and focuses instead on diagnosing partners as “co-addicts” and emphasizing treatment of codependency. It is common for trauma to never be mentioned. In fact, often a partner is “educated” that her responses and symptoms are actual “symptoms of co-addiction” that need treatment and management.


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