Therapeutic Treatments for Addressing Trauma in a Sexual Addict

Woman overcoming triggers in sexual addiction


As if sexual addiction wasn’t complex, painful and confusing enough, many people arrive at sexual addiction via the path of trauma.

Trauma, is by definition an “overwhelming experience. It is a stimulus greater than what [we were] designed to withstand and process by [our] normal means.” [1]

If you have experienced trauma that you remember, you know just how overwhelming it can be! Unfortunately little room is given to processing and healing from trauma is our society.

The tragedy of this is trauma goes underground and infiltrates our lives through core-beliefs, disowning parts of our selves to avoid pain, and ignoring our screaming needs.

Sunspire Health

If you do not address trauma that has been experienced by an addict you are likely to find that recovery is short-lived or unsuccessful.

This is because the trauma often drives addictive behaviors that are used to dull pain, avoid memories or escape from good longings that seem corrupted.

Attachment and Brain Science in Trauma

We were built to grow and heal in community. Neuroscience is confirming this and running parallel (helping us understand) attachment theory. [2] [3]

Brain Mind Mindfulness Conscious Awake Aware

When we experience traumatic events that overwhelm us our body only has a few options to ‘get us through’ the experience.

Common methods for ‘getting through’ are forgetting the event, suppressing it, dissociating (consciously leaving the moment and not experiencing the emotions of it) and re-enacting the trauma.

All of these have specific negative consequences.

In general, our memories, emotions, behaviors, bodies and thoughts about the traumatic event do not become integrated together into the story of our lives.

They then cause us disruption, which may be dealt with through sexual addiction.

Furthermore, we often disown or exaggerate our longings for protective connection, nurturing relationship and genuine intimacy as a result of trauma. Have you seen the very clingy person?

Or, the one who is cold and aloof? Trauma may have played a part. It is critical to understand how pervasive and disorienting the effects of trauma can be so that you can start to find the help you need. So what does treatment look like?

Acknowledgment and Grieving

Treatment is rarely a joyous experience, but its’ fruit can be! Acknowledging the trauma and naming how it has disrupted you is a difficult and vital step in the healing process. A trained therapist can help you to begin this work.

When we discover the full picture of our lives we often have to grieve what we have lost, neglected, found or fear because of traumatic experiences. It is wise to take your time and expect this work to be difficult.

Here I want to mention Self-Care. Working through trauma can be a painful experience that requires you to slow down and care for yourself.

If you are doing this work, or thinking about it, start building healthy habits, soothing patterns and periods of relaxation into your days.


The process of integrating our memories, emotions, behaviors, bodies and thoughts is done in multiple ways depending on the theoretical orientation of the therapist.

people jumping in the air

Common methods are EMDR, attachment focused therapy and general reprocessing of events.

Attachment focused therapy allows you to explore and understand the different facets of the trauma experience whilst in a profoundly healing relationship.

It is a beautiful thing to experience a healing presence that is diametrically opposed to the perpetrator or cause of trauma.

People that embody this stance in your life will also serve to provide healing experiences for you.

EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) [4] is a specific mode of therapy that bi-laterally stimulates your brain in such a way as to reprocess trauma.

It is more complicated that this, yet it is an effective method for working through traumatic events and helps build new core-belief systems about yourself. This can also be a very intense and emotional form of therapy.

Reprocessing is part of all trauma therapy where you go back through the memory (experience) of the trauma and look at with new eyes, in a safe place and with the intent of understanding it honestly. As you do this you are likely to re-experience elements of the traumatic experience.


Once the difficult trauma processing has been done, a sex addict who is working a recovery program alongside trauma recovery will need to retune the way they see sex and its place in their lives.

Learning new messages about your body, intimacy, sex and worth begin with trauma work and develop further as you retune your view.

This step can often include walking slowly through sensual experiences that re-train the brain and pleasure responses.

Couples Process

Upset couple not talking to each other after fightDuring trauma recovery, a partner may see a big shift in the recovering partners mood, affect, views and behaviors.

This is normal and yet disorienting to a relationship that has ‘found natural grooves’.

Usually a relationship will need to be tended to and carefully walked through the process of trauma and addiction recovery.

A huge key is to discuss and decide how to talk about the changes, desired responses, expectations, hopes and long-term view for the relationship.

This can be a difficult task that can take multiple years. A couple’s therapist is highly recommended for this work.

Finally, it is worth restating the necessity of this work for those struggling with sexual addiction to help them come to terms with their pain, needs and longings.

This further helps addicts to own the damage they have caused and how they would like to be into the future. This healing process centers on honesty and safety.

If you have been reacting emotionally to this article, it is quite possible you may need to work through some of your own story. Find a trusted person to do this with.



[1] – Cohn, R. (2011) Coming home to passion. p. 33.
[2] – Siegel, D. (2007) The mindful brain. (See volume).
[3] – Brooks, D. (2012) The social animal. (See volume).
[4] – Go to to find out more.

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Written by Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—He is the founder of

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 20, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.