Impact of sexual addiction on the partner

Sex addiction expert Kenneth M. Adams, PhD explains how partners of sex addicts often develop a form of PTSD
Relationship Advice | Impact of sexual addiction on the partner
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Impact of sexual addiction on the partner

So one of the concerns with somebody who's a sex addict or somebody who has a character problem, who betrays trust is what is the impact on a spouse or partner? That's a very important question because often times alot of the treatment is focused on the person with the problem and not alot of the treatment is focused on the partner or the spouse who has been suffering, the consequences of the betrayal, now, that's changing in the field, thank goodness. And what we're discovering is, is that partners of sex addicts and partners of people who have chronic infidelity are have what we call PTSD acute post traumatic stress disorder. They have hypervigilence, they blame themselves, they have intrusive images. They have the whole symptom profile we see with acute trauma victims. So the field has changed to begin to treat partners of sex addicts and from a very specific trauma model to assist them to reclaim their own reality which has been lost. They've often felt not pretty enough, not handsome enough, not good enough, and only to discover that, that was what they were told. And so one of the experiences that partners have is they get gas lighted is the phrase that's used which is an old phrase back from a play many years ago in which the partner of a sex addict is told that she is crazy for thinking that. How could you be jealous of me? How could you even think that, when in fact, in many instances, she was right. And so the addict or the serial cheater is defended against being exposed, and for different reasons. The addict doesn't want to feel his shame and the serial cheater doesn't want his narcicistic reality or esteem to be jeapordized. And so often times when the story comes out, most of the time the spouse has been right, the partner has been right in their accusations. By that time though they become so traumatized that they react to even the slightest stimuli, so they're sitting and watching TV and they notice an attractive woman, and they can't watch the TV anymore. So we've had partners who literally couldn't go out of the house, couldn't watch TV because everything became a trigger to them.

Sex addiction expert Kenneth M. Adams, PhD explains how partners of sex addicts often develop a form of PTSD


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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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