How sexual abuse presents if untreated

Psychologist Kenneth M. Adams, PhD talks about the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse and how it can lead to sex addiction
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How sexual abuse presents if untreated

Are there any links between childhood sexual abuse and the development of a sexual addiction in adulthood? The answer is most definitely yes. Now, having said that, not everybody who's been sexually abused in childhood is sexually compulsive or addictive in adulthood, but of those men and women who are fall under the label a sexual addict, or have those behaviors, upwards of 87 percent of them report sexual abuse as a child or an adolescent. So the connection between childhood sexual abuse and sexual addiction lies in the fact that the kids were overstimulated and felt to blame and ashamed in their sexuality by being injured or betrayed by somebody they trusted. Most sexual abuse is by people who the child knows. It happens with strangers, but it's not merely as rare. And so what happens is, is that the abuse is occurring before the child has a chance to assimilate or process, or figure out what's going on with their body. So even if say as a teenager, there was some interest on the part of the teen in the abuse, say they were aroused and they might have even pursued it, there is never complete free choice when there is a power differential, never. And so they may blame themselves for the abuse and what happens is, is that combination of shame, high arousal and self blame become the drivers for this sexual acting out. Now I want to do something taboo, something that makes me feel super aroused and super ashamed. So when I get into relationships as an adult, I wind up repeating my abuse by creating situations in which once again, I am bad and that really serves as the link between abuse and sexual addiction behaviors. So when we work with those trauma survivors and addicts, we have to do both treatment for the addiction and the value of treatment for the sexual abuse survivor is the addiction treatment helps them stop reenacting the abuse. And then we have to deal with the abuse. We have to help them process through those feelings that never got processed through. So they're not as drawn to engage in sexual behaviors that both are high arousing and highly shameful.

Psychologist Kenneth M. Adams, PhD talks about the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse and how it can lead to sex addiction


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Kenneth M. Adams, PhD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT, is a Licensed Psychologist, the Clinical Director and Founder of Kenneth M. Adams and Associates in suburban Detroit, Michigan, as well as a faculty member at the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. As previous Clinical Director for the Life Healing Center in Sante Fe, New Mexico, a residential treatment center for trauma and addiction, Dr Adams created the first inpatient program exclusively for partners of sex addicts. In addition to maintaining an active clinical practice, Dr. Adams is a national lecturer, workshop leader, and consultant in the areas of child abuse, dysfunctional family systems, and sex addiction. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed publications, the books Silently Seduced and When He’s Married to Mom, as well as co-editor of Clinical Management of Sex Addiction. In 2011, Dr Adams received the “Carnes Award” for “outstanding work in the field of sexual addiction and compulsivity”. He is a certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), a CSAT supervisor, and CSAT training facilitator as well as an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) practitioner. Dr. Adams is a member of the American Psychological Association, Michigan Psychological Association, Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), and International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) as well as an advisory board member to SASH and IITAP, and an editorial board member of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. For more on Dr Adams visit


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