Sex Addiction Glossary of Terms

Now that sex addiction is part of your vocabulary, here's some new language that you may hear. This page is intended as education for the spouse, or the sex addict's loved one.

12 Steps - A twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems.

Acting in - "Simply put, acting in is a mindset that says, “I can handle this on my own. Just don’t do it (addictive behavior). Just think about something else." For more see, ARE YOU ACTING OUT, ACTING IN, OR REACHING OUT?

Acting out - In general usage, the action performed is destructive to self or others and may inhibit the development of more constructive responses to the feelings in question. The term is used in this way in sexual addiction treatment, psychotherapy, criminology and parenting.- For more see Wikipedia

Acting out sexually - same root cause as Acting Out, but using sex to medicate, defend or escape. Behaviors can include lying about masturbation, porn usage, physical and/or emotional affairs, use of paid sex workers, being lost in fantasy or preparation of acting out, online sexting, flirting, hook up apps and websites, and any sexual behavior that is out of agreed upon boundaries.

Amygdala - The Amygdala is the survival center, the early warning device of the brain, and it processes information before the prefrontal cortex gets to help make a decision. It performs a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional responses, the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system. When the amygdala is flooded with hormones created by a sexual experience, it shuts down access to the pre-frontal cortex, where logic is processed. This is why a sex addict who is living fully in their addiction may not seem to communicate or behave in reasonable, logical ways. They literally cannot access the part of the brain that processes logic.

Attachment Injury - An attachment injury is characterized by an abandonment or by a betrayal of trust during a critical moment of need. The injurious incident defines the relationship as insecure and maintains relationship distress because it is continually used as a standard for the dependability of the offending partner. For more information see the website of Dr. Sue Johnson, who wrote "Hold Me Tight" and primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT), which has demonstrated its effectiveness in over 30 years of peer-reviewed clinical research.

Betrayal Trauma - occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person' s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of Relationship betrayal trauma- Researchers have found that these traumas “overwhelm coping capacities and define the relationship as a source of danger rather than a safe haven.”  These types of traumas are equivalent to, and often potentially worse than, a soldier coming back from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 
Cognitive Dissonance - the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. Addicts respond to this state   by compartmentalizing. Spouses responds to this state with anxiety, stress, fear, obsessing, unhealthy coping mechanisms. Research has shown that denials are commonly used when a partner is cheating on a spouse (Zitzman & Butler, 2009).  Those denials create a cognitive dissonance in the spouse, where you have to decide who you’re going to believe—the feeling in your gut (even when there’s absolutely no evidence to validate it) or the person you’re married to whom everyone adores. The lies deepen the trauma when everything is finally revealed because you’ve been repeatedly reassured that there is nothing to see here.

C-SAT - Certified Sex Addiction Therapist -

Denial - the refusal to see,  the ever-escalating problems in their life – including their own anxiety and depression as well as destroyed relationships, trouble at work or in school, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, financial woes, arrests and other critical consequences – are caused by their compulsive sexual fantasies and behaviors.
Disclosure - when the addict discloses or admits to sexual behavior, lies, secrecy and other betrayals
Discovery - when the spouse finds evidence of the addicts sexual behavior, usually from texts, emails, phone records, browsing history, catching them in the act, arrests, getting fired or demoted in their job because of sexual behavior or being told by a third party. Also referred to as "D-Day" (discovery day.)
Dopamine - is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson's Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. The presence of a certain kind of dopamine receptor is also associated with sensation-seeking people, more commonly known as "risk takers. From Psychology Today.

Dry Drunk - a person who is "sober", i.e., abstaining from sexually acting out, but made no internal emotional or behavioral changes, or has not addressed the root causes of the addiction. They are not working an active recovery program.  They still have the behaviors of denial, blaming, lack of intimacy, isolating, poor mood regulation, anger, manipulation of those around them. A dry drunk is more likely to relapse. "Failure to work a recovery plan, is a plan to relapse".


Rigorous honesty means telling the truth when it's easier to lie and sharing thoughts and feelings even when there may be consequences. In 12-Step recovery, the requirement is taking a fearless personal inventory and promptly admitting to dishonesty.
Intimacy Disorder An intimacy disorder is a condition that makes it difficult to establish close or intimate relationships with other people. These relationships may be strictly emotional in nature, but they may also include various types of sexual contact. In some cases, the symptoms of a fear of intimacy may qualify as a diagnosable condition called social anxiety disorder. However, you can also experience intimacy problems without meeting the criteria for diagnosing this condition.
King Baby
Narcissism/Narcissist - extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration. Many sex addicts exhibit extreme narcissism in selfishness, but they may not necessarily bed iagnosed as  NPD: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder  - The hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.  There is no cure or recovery for NPD, whereas these traits can dissipate or even disappear with sex addiction recovery.
Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.
Pre-frontal cortex
Rock Bottom
Sanon – anyone who belongs to sanon, and is a spouse of a sex addict.
Serenity Prayer
Sexaholic – Sex Addict.
Slogans – from the Alcohol Anonymous

Staggered Disclosure
Terminally Unique

Therapeutic Disclosure
Therapeutic Separation
White Knuckling