Sex Addiction: Should You Be Concerned

We discuss sexual addiction – how it impacts relationships and how it's linked to trauma on

The numbers are in: 6% of population in the U.S. identify as having a sexual addiction. 27,000 people search Google for “sexual addiction” every day. This is a huge number, yet it is still an issue that we don’t talk about or understand in the general population or within the therapeutic community.  Unfortunately, at this time, there is no significant research on this topic in Canada and experts in the field are few in number.

According to our expert panel, virtually all people struggling with a sexual addiction also have a noteworthy trauma history.  These interweave to further undermine recovery and frequently re-ignite the traumatic past.

Alex St. John, an M.A. in Counselling Psychology, says that sexual addiction is a “…problematic behavior that you engage in NOT because of a primary desire but because of deep drives imbedded in shame or self-blame that reverberate after the act, leaving the individual unhappy… with themselves and yet compelled to act in a similar way again in the future”.

Natalie Cournoyea also an M.A. in Counselling Psychology explains that sexual addiction occurs because, “In many situations people have experienced early life trauma (i.e., sexual or other) and as a result struggle with their emotions and turn to sexual acts (in some cases) to mask strong emotions that might surface in life”.

So how would someone know if they have a problem with a sexual addiction or are in a relationship with someone who is struggling in this way?

  • You have been discovered by a partner as acting out in a sexual way (outside of the relationship) that then leads to shameful feelings and consequences (i.e., divorce). Or you have found evidence of your partner acting out in a sexual manner that once confronted has led to shame or remorse.
  • Beyond being discovered this will lead to impairments or interfering with day-to-day life, as a result of obsession or compulsions towards sexual addiction.
  • Experiencing a cycle of recovery and repeat. Engaging in the behavior, disengaging from the behavior and then cycling back into the sexual addiction and once again feeling shame, remorse, and distress.

What can you do now or to help someone you know?

  • Reach out to the right therapist with skills in specifically addressing sexual addiction.
  • Recognize that it is potentially risky to address sexual addiction with a couple’s therapist who is not trained in sexual addiction or utilizes a “tell all” policy that is not a good fit for couple’s therapy where there is sexual addiction.
  • Engage in a Consensual Non-Monogamy framework for the relationship – if this seems like a solution that is right for your relationship. This means being in a relationship where there is an agreement that sexual relationships outside the structure of the primary one is accepted by both parties.

Why is this conversation important? In my practice, this is something I see frequently and have yet to meet a client with a sexual addiction who did not also have a history of personal life trauma.

Links & Resources:

Access “Compassion Fatigue Resiliency & Recovery” with Dr. Anna Baranowsky & Dr. J. Eric Gentry.  You can find the audio recording at:

Another gift back to our community is FREE access to the complete “Trauma Recovery NOW!” audio program.