Sex Addiction Induced Trauma or SAI-T, is a specific type of psychological trauma that results from the direct impact of having a sex addicted partner and has lasting effects on their mental health, physical well-being.

Sex addiction-induced trauma is particularly acute around discoveries (finding out about sexual acting out, deception and relational violations), disclosures (being told about sexual acting out, deception and relational violations) and around the continued traumatic incidents that result from the presence of sexual addiction in an intimate relationship and family system.

Partners often present with a set of symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), including re-experiencing of the trauma, social and emotional isolation, constant triggering and reactivity of old issues, significant anxiety, hyper-vigilance, dissociative symptoms, and sexual trauma symptoms.

When someone learns that their partner is a sex addict, it causes extreme distress. The trust between the couple is broken and the partner often wonders if they can possibly have a future.

The shame and embarrassment in the couples might be something so significant that they can’t confront the damage that has been done to their relationship.

In the sex addict, feelings anxiety, guilt, isolation and loneliness can occur, often all at once, and fear and panic can arise, about the state of their health, since they may have exposed themselves and their partner to sexually transmitted diseases.

Naturally, this has a detrimental effect on the relationship, since the emotional and physical trust has been damaged.

The communication between the couple is damaged once the sex addiction is disclosed, and the world which the partner once knew has been blown part, to the point their relationship may not feel real anymore.

The disclosure can also cause a variety of physical reactions triggering of eating disorders, alcohol binging, depression, weight loss or weight gain, vomiting, shaking, hair loss (sometimes extreme), defecation, insomnia and sleep disturbance, psycho-emotional dissociation, crying episodes, physical expressions of rage, hyper-vigilance, muscular constrictions, stomach sickness, aversion to physical or sexual touch and many more.

There is also the actual practicalities that the disclose may affect, such as partner’s moving out of the shared house, or children being involved and the partner wishing to protect them. In some cases, the sex-addicted party may leave the home, leaving the partner to have to hold down the fort, and thus become more stressed from the pressure.

Ongoing anxiety and the overwhelming need to check on your partner can also occur, with it often becoming hyper vigilant in trying to ‘catch your partner out,’ again. This is a form of trauma where the mind continually revisit the disclosure and you relive it over and over, as you’re waiting to find out about the disclosure again.

Being continually lied to, and being told you’re paranoid, or the problem with you is called ‘gaslighting’. It is a process in which the addict intentionally manipulates a partner’s reality in order to protect reality and the truth from becoming known or discovered by the partner.  This is a form of psychological manipulation and can slowly erode the confidence and intuition in a partner of a sex addict.

It is important for the partner of a sex addict who may be suffering from SAI-T, to recognise that they are important and deserve to get help to work through any physical and psychological impacts by the consequences of the sex addiction and find ways to help yourself through this difficult time.

Treatments include one-on-one therapy, and group therapy, with your partner, to help them and yourself understand the trauma and how to best move forward.