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Is Sex Addiction Real??

This question has sparked many debates amongst therapists, friends, families and relationship partners for years. Some argue that it simply comes down to choice…

Someone chooses to watch hours upon hours of pornography while being disengaged from family.

Someone chooses to put their marriage or job on the line for sexual experiences.

Someone chooses to put sex central in their life over family, friends, hobbies or work.

Someone chooses to go against their own personal values and live a double secret life.

Some feel the term addiction is really just an excuse for bad behaviour.

The WHO (World Health Organization) in July 2018 begged to differ. The list, called the ICD-11, is the foundational document that scientists and therapists around the world use as a means to identify health problems. This is groundbreaking!

The ICD-11 defines compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (sex addiction) as a “persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour.” Further, the WHO definition of sexual compulsive disorder goes on to say that sexual behaviours are the “central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities.”

Those of us who have made it our professional work to help those suffering from the deep pain resulting from compulsive sexual behaviours, know all too well the sorrow of those struggling with the addiction and the families that love and care for them. Finally, a credible and well-respected professional organization is willing to acknowledge that Sex Addiction is REAL.


At LifeStar Alberta we have helped hundreds of people who have not had the ability to control or stop unwanted sexual behaviours despite dangerous and harmful consequences to themselves and their loved ones. We have also treated hundreds of partners who have experienced Betrayal Trauma.



As both the person with the addiction and the betrayed partner work on their own recoveries amazing growth happens, people heal, and often the couple becomes connected in meaningful emotional ways.


Yes, from our perspective at LifeStar Alberta and the WHO, sex addiction IS REAL and so is recovery! Professionals at LifeStar Alberta see recovery for the person struggling with the addiction, recovery for the partner, and recovery for the relationship. Healing is possible!

Jennifer Thibodeau MSW, RSW

Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist-Supervisor




OK so here you are, you’re well versed on the harms of pornography and sex addiction. The powerful speakers who fight the battle against pornography have moved you. You want to rally to the cause, stand up and spread the word. You understand the science behind the addiction, the devastation, the loneliness and isolation that can ensue. After all, this message can be heard when the fighters beat the war drum, with every speech, every new video clip, every tweet, and every new horrific statistic. You get it!


No, I mean you REALLY get it.


AddictionYou have felt trapped and angry. Already you are a casualty in this war; wounded in your heart and mind. Your wounds are not so easily perceived, and so you think you can keep them hidden. This addiction has already claimed you. You long to be the person you once knew, or the person you believe you are meant to be. For a flickering moment you vow to say goodbye to this addiction. After all, you just need to stop viewing, stop acting out in the addiction. Right? You feel motivated and empowered. You make a promise to yourself and maybe to someone you love that you are done with this addiction. You are not going to be controlled anymore!


If only it were that simple. The addiction is cunning, manipulative and very complex. Just closing your eyes and wishing for it to be gone is not enough. It waits for you and preys on your negative self-talk, past hurts, feelings of rejection and loneliness. It may even tell you that you have been good, so why not celebrate by acting out, or by watching some porn? The addiction tells you that it will be alright, you’ll feel so much better. You deserve it!


In this moment your brain is clouded over with distorted thoughts. Maybe, you will feel better if you just give in. Your brain has been hijacked! Your only focus now is to feed the addiction. You are so preoccupied thinking of potential opportunities to act out and you are filled with anticipation. You are driven, to find that one thing that will satisfy.


Now there is no turning back. You are in a trance like state and you find yourself going through the ritualistic motions. You’re turning on that computer, listening to the hum of the computer; you’ve locked the room door, your surfing site after site. There, you found it! Time passes, but you’re not sure how much time. You feel horrible. You promised yourself you were done with this addiction. But here you are struggling to make sense of it. How did this happen, yet again?


ThinkstockPhotos-489975772So here’s your choice, you can continue in this addictive cycle or you can reach out for help. You cannot do this alone. You have already tried that over and over again; it doesn’t work. Let us help you. LifeStar Alberta has been helping people just like you for years. We are professionals who are specialists in the treatment of pornography and sex addiction. We offer you real hope and can help guide your recovery with specific tools and strategies.


Choose hope, choose recovery, and choose life. Fight the fight.


Seven Knights of Shadow

An amazing poem written by one of our participants!


Seven Knights of Shadow


 “I would rather know the truth; I can deal with the truth much better than not knowing. If I only knew the full truth from A to Z, I wouldn’t feel like I’m going crazy.”

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard statements just like this, from partners of sex addicts. So often, partners have been sad-couple deceived time after time and trust in the relationship was bruised and battered.

After an initial disclosure, a partner may feel the affects of being traumatized. Hurt and confusion dominate every moment of the day. As time passes, partners may come to accept a small portion of their new reality and commit to working through this difficult situation with the one they love. They may believe that they have the whole truth and affirm that they can work through this.

Down the road there may be yet another disclosure, which turns their world upside down. Although the first disclosure was painful, they were re-assured by their spouse that they had all the information. Yet they find themselves, again struggling to make sense of it all. They begin to question everything they knew about their former life.

Again, promises are made and many partners agree to continue in the relationship hoping that this is now the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yet, in their mind and heart, they worry and question everything. Feelings of uncertainty about LS011997themselves and their love relationship are always with them, as they wonder if there is more that hasn’t been told.

These staggered disclosures are extremely damaging and painful to the partner. Partners deserve to have full disclosure. There are several decisions that need to be made and they need to be based on truth.

Full disclosure is an opportunity to help heal the relationship in a real and authentic way. Although the very thought of this can be paralyzing for both the partner and the addict, full disclosure holds the key that unlocks the door for developing real connection and emotional intimacy. There are no more secrets, no more hiding, only truth and transparency.

The process of full disclosure is so significant and important to the couple’s healing that it is not to be taken lightly and should be guided by a trained professional. A therapist trained in disclosures can assist the addict in preparing his full written disclosure. This preparation can take months, as they identify truth and accountability.

During this time of preparation, the partner also works with the therapist to identify specific questions that need clarity. When the day of full disclosure comes, the partner, addict and therapist meet together. The therapist assists and guides the session while supporting the couple.

This disclosure process, when done properly, can be pivotal for a couple’s progress. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a gift of renewal and empowerment for both the addict and the partner as they journey down their path of recovery.

Jennifer Thibodeau MSW, RSW

Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist-Supervisor




Halt Sign NewHalt, read this! The word HALT is a great acronym that can help anyone struggling to overcome an addiction or for a partner of an addict trying to heal and be in recovery.

When you are tempted to act out in your addiction or feel that your recovery is in jeopardy, remember HALT. Ask yourself if your uncomfortable feeling or actions could be attributed to these other factors.

Am I hungry? When we are hungry we can experience mood swings. Just like an infant, we can be irritable and demanding. 3219197135_e2b8a35a03_mWe often can’t think clearly and may appear irrational. Be sure to take care of yourself and be aware of when and what you are eating.

Am I angry? Yes! There is a good possibility that anger has reared its ugly head couple-arguing-about-politics and you just don’t know what to do with it. Some people stuff it down and try to pretend everything is just fine. Others lash out in inappropriate ways by acting out or shaming others.  It’s best to recognize and accept that you are angry and to find ways to express that anger in healthy ways. Talk to a therapist or a friend, journal your feelings or exercise.  Anger isn’t the problem; it’s what we do with it.

2653175663_bf1faa46d0_mAm I lonely? The addiction itself has been your pretend friend for so long, it’s squeezed out other real friends and relationships. It consumed your time, emotion and energy. The person you may want to reach out to now for a sense of security and comfort may be the person that’s been hurt the most by your actions and unable to give you what you need.

You may be a partner of an addict and feel like the addiction has been your rival for intimacy and connection. Feelings of isolation and detachment can be powerful, but not permanent. Be committed to your recovery and reach out to others. Talk to a trusted friend, share with your therapist, and get involved with activities.

Am I tired? Our thinking can be impaired simply by lack of sleep. Sleeping on decisions, or going to bed and finding out in the morning that our situation feels less urgent and more manageable is a common experience that we often forget. Again, we can be like infants irritable, inconsolable and irrational without sleep. Be mindful of your sleep times and patterns.

As you work through recovery, there are going to be challenging moments.  Fortify yourself in every way that you can. Remembering HALT and asking yourself these questions can help ground you and keep you in recovery.


For more information about our leading out patient program go to

Jennifer Thibodeau MSW, RSW,

Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist


Living With A Stranger


How could this be? This isn’t how you saw your life unfolding. You were in love and believed that you were meant to be together. This is the man that you have felt so attached to and been building your life with. He was your rock, your soul mate and above all you committed to be true to one another.

But now things are different. You caught him in a lie and one thing led to another. You’ve discovered that the problem is much bigger than you could have imagined. He has an addiction to pornography and he’s been chatting on line with other women. Your heart feels like it’s been shattered into tiny pieces. There are a million questions that you want answered. How long has this been going on? Why am I not enough? What else has he done? Has he told me everything? What do I do now?

sad-coupleHe’s seen how devastating this has been for you, the tears you’ve shed. Your mind is consumed with worry and you are preoccupied wondering what he is doing on the computer when your away or what he might be thinking as you stroll through the mall together. Does he really understand the trauma you have experienced?

Yet, he says he loves you and wants things to be better. He’s going to try really hard to conquer this addiction. After all, he is a good person in so many ways and you said you would support him and help him. Every fiber in your being wants this to be true and at the same time your heart and spirit are broken. You just don’t know if you could survive one more disclosure. So, you start checking his emails, his cell phone and computer history. This can’t happen one more time! In some strange way this gives you a false sense of control for a moment in what feels like your out of control life. But this isn’t you. This isn’t the person you use to be. Somehow you’ve lost yourself through all of this. You didn’t find anything in your checking and searching this time. Things settle for a short while but then you find yourself preoccupied again with all the hurt and worry. This is called the fear cycle.

This is a familiar story for partners of sex addicts. Partners do experience trauma and often require professional help. You can heal and your relationship can heal. Recovery is not just for the addict, partners too have to experience their own recovery. If you would like more information about our recognized leading out patient program go to


By Jennifer Thibodeau MSW, RSW

Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist


The Three A’s That Fuel a Sexual Addiction

Why is it that good men and women struggle with a sexual addiction that can devastate their love relationships, affect their performance at work, and leave them questioning their own value and worth? There could be many answers to this question such as the latest science research on the brain, past trauma, or the type of family they grew up in. But one thing we know for sure, is that the addiction is fueled by the three A’s which are Accessibility, Affordability, and Anonymity. Imagine if you were a drug addict and you could get your drug anytime anywhere for free and no one needed to know whom you are!


It use to be that a person who wanted to get their stash of pornography had to actually go to a store, ask for their magazine of choice and face the clerk who rang through their purchase. Obtaining pornography and opportunities for casual liaisons took some significant effort. However, in today’s Internet world, the simple act of clicking a button, or tapping our phones can open the gateway to endless varieties of pornographic images, chat rooms, social networks and on line affairs.


Indeed, if you can’t find what your looking for right away, you can open up several windows at a time, and spend hours searching through sites till you find the one that satisfies for that moment. We carry our electronic devices with us almost everywhere and as fast as a thought can cross the mind or the instant a sexual urge can be felt, we have almost simultaneous availability and access.

So, what does it cost to have such access and availability? Other than the cost of a smart phone, computer, or tablet with Internet service, not much. There is a multitude of free and affordable sites waiting to be accessed. Yes, there are some sites that require membership but there is a wealth of sites professional and amateur alike that are free.

3575828156_e04def5dfa_zAll this, and you can be anonymous! No one needs to know your true identity. On one hand you can be the upstanding citizen, father, husband, wife, son or daughter and on the other you can create a secret life. Unfortunately, this may leave you feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but it is anonymous. Creating a dual life can leave you feeling more and more isolated from those you love. Trying to juggle dual lives can be emotionally stressful and personally demoralizing. Most often your secret life may go against your own personal value system and can leave you feeling lost and empty.  Learning to set boundaries and limits on your behaviour can be helpful, but you may need to seek professional help if you are struggling with a sexual addiction. There is hope, recovery is possible, come out of hiding.

If you would like more information about our out patient treatment program at LifeStar Alberta, go to


By Jennifer Thibodeau, MSW, RSW, Clinical Social Worker, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist

Repairing Attachment Ruptures: Emotional Focused Therapy for Couples Dealing with Hypersexual Behaviours

Tannia Los – June 29, 2013

       Hypersexual behaviour can have a devastating impact on relationships and the attachments formed between partners (Reid & Woolley, 2006). Engagement in hypersexual behaviour can cause negative feelings such as anger, shame and resentment, and ultimately cause an attachment rupture within the relationship (Johnson, 2005). This rupture can make healing and forgiveness very difficult, if not impossible, until the rupture is addressed. It is very important that a couple is able to discuss their emotional responses to hypersexual behaviour in a safe and controlled environment (Reid & Woolley, 2006). Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) provides that environment and is an effective theoretical framework that can help to repair attachment ruptures between partners using specific interventions (Johnson, 2003). The purpose of this paper is to first define hypersexual behaviour and discuss the impact it has on the individuals involved. Next, provide a description of how to use EFT to help couples dealing with hypersexual behaviour and the process of reparation of attachment ruptures, and finally, offer recommendations for future research.

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Effects of pornography on adolescents

Adolescents are viewing pornography both intentionally and accidentally at increasing rates (Mitchell, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2007). The FBI warns that there is a greater risk today for cyberbullying, sexual victimization, and harassment online than ever before. In Canada, 95% of adolescents are online (Lawsky, 2008). Not only are they online but they are often unmonitored, seeing as how the average American teen owns 3.5 mobile devices (Lenhart, Purcell et al., 2010).

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