Addictive Behaviors and Self Soothing via Sex

There is a sense of dis-empowerment in our life for which one seeks outside of self to remedy. We tend to attempt to cope in ways that we find comforting; social isolation (if we are alone we can’t hurt anyone, and they can’t hurt us), anger (unable to express emotions in our relationship, etc.), substance, gaming, and sexual behaviors which are one of the most natural ways in which we seek to self sooth.


We are created to be relational. Relationships are everywhere, we are interactive and relational with people we meet on the street, coworkers, family, romantic, and with our self. The process of learning how to be relational begins during fetal development, and continues throughout our entire life. As we progress from one phase to the next we build upon lessons learned, by actively bringing them into the next phase. Healthy relationships learned during infancy and throughout each phase of our life, will continue as long as our self-worth is also healthy and intact. Unhealthy relationships characteristically result in a lowering of our self-worth. For a variety of reasons, we are exposed to a range of relationships, both healthy and unhealthy. The state of our self-worth will have much to do with our choice to be involved in those relationships.

Adulthood is about balancing and putting into practicing what we have learned throughout our life about relationships. Each of our relationships, whether intimate or social will adjust and adapt as we change. We will choose our relationships according not only to our self-worth, but also with the trust (positive or negative) we experienced in prior relationships – including our earliest relationships with caregivers.


We are created as sexual beings at the deepest level of our psyche. Sexual self-esteem is very important, because it affects how you think, act and even how you relate to other people. It allows you to live life to your potential. Low self-esteem means poor confidence and that also causes negative thoughts which mean that you are likely to give up easily rather than face challenges. In addition, it has a direct bearing on your happiness and well-being.

Sexuality is a part of who you are as a person. It is how you feel about your body, whether you feel masculine or feminine or somewhere in between – the way you dress, how you move, how you speak, the way you act and feel about other people, who you are attracted to and fall in love with, and so much more. Whether you’re on your own or sexually involved with someone else, you’re still a sexual person.

Everyone has their own way of expressing their sexuality to others and we each also have our own way of feeling or experiencing it for ourselves. Your sexuality has been and will be a part of you for your entire life. How you express it will change depending on your age and stage of life.


Any relationship outside of the committed partnership can be considered infidelity…. any investment of time, money, energy, etc. that is taken away from the committed partnership. Beyond the damage to the committed partnership, Infidelity may also involve implications of cultural, religious and legal aspects. Sexual infidelity is rarely about sex! Typically, what is sought after is something missing in their own life – a sense of self-worth, relational issues, self-identity, self-care, and an understanding of moderation.

Types of Infidelity

Financial Infidelity – Secret money: incurring debt that partner or significant other is unaware of, and yet responsible for. Hiding funds from your partner or significant other.

Emotional Infidelity – Personal Information: sharing intimate details with someone outside of a committed relationship, in the attempt to gain outside support.

Online: typically an additional element of intimate information and/or visual stimulation involved.

Pornography: a) addictive, b) escalates requiring more time away from partner or significant other, c) desensitization in seeing people as object rather than individual, d) acting out sexually to replay the visual stimulus. (Dr. Victor Cline’s four progressive steps to porn addiction).

Physical Sexual Infidelity – Affairs: an infidelity that denotes an affectionate relationship that may or may not include a sexual relationship.

Sexual Liaisons: an interpersonal interaction entered into expressly for the purpose of sexual satisfaction; it can be for the satisfaction of one or both parties.

Sexual infidelity is rarely about sex! Typically, what is sought after is something missing in their own life – a sense of self-worth, relational issues, self-identity, self-care, and an understanding of moderation.

Sexual Addictive Behaviors

The term “sexual addiction” describes those who engage in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behaviors despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. Sexual addiction affects woman as well as men.

The sex addict feels compelled to act out sexually. The addicts themselves (male or female) may not be able to understand why they are acting out sexually or why constant thoughts either of having sex with someone or compulsively masturbating fill their minds, and push out other avenues of interest. The addiction is often mistaken by the sex addict as “love”, but love really has nothing to do with it. What passes for love, is really a progressively negative and intrusive behavior that takes away all of the addict’s self-esteem.

Sexual addictions are shame based. Maureen Canning, author of Lust, Anger, Love: Understanding Sexual Addiction and The Road to Healthy Intimacy, explains. “Sex addicts have a sense of self that is (exceedingly) diminished. They feel worthless at the core of who they are. The feel as if they don’t deserve love.”

Research suggests that most sexual addictions are rooted in childhood trauma, and that trauma causes disruptions in psycho-sexual development. “When the child grows up, they want to undo that original trauma, and so they start to act out,” according to Ms. Canning. “And when they act out, they re-create the original behavior.” Also, see Patrick Carnes author of Don’t Call it Love.

Going Forward!

Sessions involve each client gaining insight into themselves by fully identifying and owning the triggers and patterns that lead to their addictive behaviors. Clients are asked to commit to individual lifestyle changes and to incorporate individualized relapse prevention plans. Treatment involves coaching sessions consisting of a highly structured individualized curriculum. The duration and goals of sessions are based on each individual client’s needs. Coaching sessions are a safe and supportive space for personal growth and change to take place – a journey of self-exploration we take together. As a Transformational Coach, I will share observations and ask questions that assist to the achievement of your individual goals

If you or your partner is experiencing negative consequences as a result of the coping behaviors that have been used – help is here.

Three Phoenix locations, including Telehealth video sessions are now available!

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