Category Archives: Sexuality

Articles about how childhood trauma can cause problems related to sexuality later in life including sex addiction, risky sex, sex avoidance and sex aversion syndrome.

Effects Of Interpersonal Childhood Trauma On Sexuality

According to the traumagenic dynamics model (Finkelhor and Browne), severe and protracted childhood interpersonal childhood trauma (interpersonal trauma refers to types of trauma that occur between the child and significant others e,g, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence) can give rise to pervasive feelings of betrayal, powerlessness, stigmatization and traumatic sexualization, which in turn, can have extremely adverse effects upon self-image, one’s view of the world and one’s emotional responses.

This can then lead to two contrasting negative effects upon the individual’s sexuality :

  • some may respond by becoming sexually compulsive
  • others may respond by becoming sexually avoidant
Effects Of Interpersonal Childhood Trauma On Sexuality 1

Sexual compulsion is sometimes referred to as hypersexuality and involves the individual being preoccupied (to the extent that it causes the individual distress and / or negatively impacts important parts of his / her life such as physical health, vocation and relationships) with urges, fantasies and / or activities that are hard to keep under control ; these may include excessive promiscuity, risky sex, masturbation, paying for prostitutes, pornography and cybersex.

The term ‘sexual avoidance,’ on the other hand, refers to chronic lack of sexual desire which has serious adverse effects upon the individual’s quality of life ; if the extent of sexual avoidance and related symptoms meet a certain threshold, it can be diagnosed as sexual aversion disorder. A person suffering from this disorder may avoid sex due to feelings of fear, revulsion and disgust in relation to sexual activity and suffer panic attacks at the thought of participating in it ; this, in turn, can, of course, seriously damage intimate relationships.

Both sexual avoidance and sexual compulsion are thought to be defense mechanisms (albeit dysfunctional ones) serving to protect the individual from intrusive, traumatic memories and flashbacks, or to reduce feelings of low self-esteem related to the devastating effects of the original childhood, interpersonal trauma. For example, a person with very low self-esteem may compulsively try to attract sexual partners to help him / her feel ‘desired’, ‘wanted’ or ‘loved’, however illusory, fleeting and superficial such faux-feelings may be.

Such promiscuity undertaken in a (futile) attempt to bolster self-esteem can, of course, ultimately serve only exacerbate feelings of loneliness, emptiness, guilt and shame ; indeed, it should be noted that some individuals alternate between periods of sexual compulsion and periods of avoidance. This ambivalence towards the concept of sexual activity reflects how individuals can be prone to switch between sexually compulsive behavior – in a desperate attempt to feel better – and sexually avoidant behavior – when they realize such behavior has left them feeling even worse).

Finally, it should be stated that research suggests sexual dysfunctional behavior not only can affect those who have experienced interpersonal trauma through sexual abuse, but also through physical and psychological abuse, as well.


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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Sex Addiction Therapy



Sex Addiction And Childhood Trauma :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma are at higher than average risk of developing an addiction to sex in adulthood (for example, see my post entitled : Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Hypersexuality‘).


Blotting Out Emotional Pain :

One reason why those who have suffered childhood trauma may become addicted to sex is that the act of sex helps them to ‘blot out’, or make themselves feel ‘numb to’, or ‘dissociate’ from unbearable emotional pain connected to their early life experiences (for example, those who have suffered severe childhood trauma may go on to develop borderline personality disorder and a major symptom of this condition is a propensity to develop addictions – including sex addiction).


Related Addictions And Psychological Conditions :

 Indeed, because most people who suffer from sex addiction are generally unwilling to discuss their problem with others, the fact that they are suffering from it only becomes apparent when then develop a trusting relationship with a therapist who they initially went to see for help with other addictions such as alcoholism or drug abuse. Alternatively, they may have initially gone to see the their therapist in order to seek treatment for depression, anxiety or low self-esteem (all of which are also more common in those with a history of childhood trauma).

Currently, sexual addiction is regarded as being similar in nature to addiction to chemical substances because the act of sex seems to have a similar ‘numbing’ effect (see above) on feelings of mental anguish (however, it should be noted that, as a discrete condition, ‘sex addiction’ is not yet  (at the time of writing) included in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders.


How Does Sex Addiction Manifest Itself?

Sexual addiction can manifest itself in a number of ways, including :

  • Voyeurism
  • Exhibitionism
  • Fantasies
  • Internet Pornography
  • Sadomasochism
  • Compulsive use of prostitutes


High Sex Drive :

In fact, sexual addiction is NOT the same as simply having a high sex drive (indeed, a high sex drive can be a sign of good psychological health) but involves a compulsive quality that brings about negative results (for the sufferer, those s/he comes into contact with, or both).

Negative Consequences :

Sexual addiction can seriously, adversely impact upon the individual’s quality of life. For example, it may :

  • cause financial problems
  • result in the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases
  • lead to legal problems
  • impair relationships

Sex Addiction Therapy :


Once a person suffering from sex addiction recognizes that s/he has a problem which is significantly spoiling his/her quality of life, seeking help from a therapist can be very helpful. Confiding in a trusted, accepting, empathetic therapist can help to reduce feelings of shame related to the addiction and the therapist can provide advice about how to avoid triggers and how to develop healthier and more functional coping mechanisms to deal with negative feelings.

Therapies used to treat sex addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy (the latter may be more appropriate when the problem is clearly related to childhood issues).




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

The Link Between Childhood Trauma, Psychopathology And Sexual Orientation

childhood trauma and sexual orientation
high-and -low- functioning-BPD

Childhood Trauma And Sexual Orientation :

A study, based on statistics and information derived from the National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health (2001-2002) examined the link between sexual orientation and history of childhood maltreatment. This research involved analysis relating to 13,962 participants that comprised young people between the ages of 18 and 27, of which :

  • 227 were gay/lesbian
  • 245 were bisexual
  • 13,490 were heterosexual

One of the primary aims of the study was to examine how sexual orientation was linked to experiences of childhood trauma and it was found that :

  • gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals
  • bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals

childhood trauma and sexual orientation

Psychopathology :

The study also looked at the prevalence of psychopathology amongst the three groups (see above) of participants and it was fond that :

  • gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced symptoms of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals
  • bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced symptoms of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals

(Psychopathological symptoms included depression, binge drinking, use of illegal drugs, smoking, alcoholism, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts)

Mediating Factors :

It was also found that :

  • Gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced homelessness / housing adversity than heterosexuals
  • bisexuals were more likely to have experienced homelessness / housing adversity and also more likely to have suffered violence visited upon them by their intimate partners than heterosexuals

Conclusion :

The researchers concluded that factors such as the above, i.e. higher levels of childhood trauma, homelessness / housing adversity and experiences of domestic violence found amongst the gay / lesbian / bisexual population partially mediated (underlay) their higher rates of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals. However, their statistical analysis suggested that only about 10-20 percent of this difference was explained by the factors (childhood trauma, homelessness / housing adversity, domestic violence) described.

More research is necessary to tease out more information about how these various factors inter-relate to one another and what other factors may explain the association between childhood trauma, psychopatholgy and sexual orientation.



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Sexual Abuse : Facts and Figures



– In the USA, experts estimate that about 1 in every 4 girls and 1 in every 6 boys are sexually molested at least once during their childhood

– Approximately 30% of individuals who molest children target a member of their own family

– Approximately a further 60% of child molesters target a child that they know (but who is not a member of their family)

– About 7 out of every 10 child molesters report that they themselves were abused during their childhood (however, it of course does NOT follow from this that all individuals who were sexually molested as children will go on to become child molesters themselves in a so-called ‘cycle of abuse’. Indeed, evidence for such a ‘cycle of abuse’ is ambiguous and inconclusive).

– Men are far more likely to sexually abuse children than are women. Research suggests the ratio is approximately 10 : 1. However, it has been suggested by some experts that sexual contact between adult women and underage boys is less likely to be reported

– Research shows that children who reside with a single parent or with a single parent and the partner of that parent who is not biologically related the child are about 8 times more likely to be sexually molested when compared with children who live with both their married, biological parents.

– Any form of significant abuse can adversely affect the physical development of the brain which, in turn, can lead to serious psychological problems in adult life, including an extreme vulnerability to the negative effects of stress, difficulties relating to others (including problems forming and maintaining intimate relationships) and great difficulty controlling emotions. In some circumstances, the individual may develop complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). Click here to read about how brain development may be adversely affected ; click here to read more about how BPD can develop; or, click here to read more about CPTSD.

– Reasons children do not always report having been sexually abused include : feelings of shame/guilt ; concerns that it may be necessary to leave the family home and go and live in a children’s care facility instead ; fear that, if reported, the abuser may seek revenge/retribution ; fear of not being believed/taken seriously

– Sexual abuse may lead the victim to develop a number of possible psychological conditions; these include : PTSD ; self-sabotaging behaviour ; antisocial behaviour ; psychosomatic conditions (ie physical complaints caused by psychological factors such as stress and chronic fear – these may include headaches, stomach upsets etc) ; abnormally sexualized behaviour (eg indecent exposure) ; learning difficulties ; fear of being left alone ; insomnia/nightmares/night terrors ; extreme outbursts of rage, aggressive and violent behaviour ; suicidal ideation ;cruelty to animals ( in an attempt to feel powerful to compensate for lack of power and control in rest of life) ; greatly increased vulnerability to the adverse effects of even minor stressors in life ; an increase in vulnerability to being victimised further

– About one quarter of sexual molestation of young children is carried out by those under the age of eighteen years

– About 1.3 million children are believed to be the victim of sexual abuse in the U.S. each year

– It is estimated by experts that there are up to half a million child molesters living in the U.S. today

– It is estimated, on average, that men who abuse girls have about fifty victims, while men who abuse boys have about 150 victims

– It is estimated by experts that about one in every ten men has committed a sexual crime against a child

– A paedophile is someone who is primarily sexually attracted to children who are under the age of thirteen. Not all paedophiles molest, or have any sexual contact, with children. Similarly, not all those who molest children, or have sexual contact with them, are paedophiles.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma And Hypersexuality


Hypersexuality, also referred to as erotomania , or, more straightforwardly, sexual addiction, has been linked to traumatic experiences during the sufferer’s childhood. This does not imply, of course, that all those who suffer childhood trauma will go on to become hypersexual in adulthood, nor that there aren’t other causes (there are – such as some neurological conditions which it is unnecessary for me to go into here).


Erotomania can be defined as a persistent and enduring, intensely powerful compulsion to indulge in sexual activity, whether that activity be solitary or with another/ others. Although it affects females (in such cases, yet another term is sometimes used – ‘nymphomania’) it is more common amongst men.

Clearly, it is no easy task to judge when a ‘normal’ sexual appetite escalates to such extremes that it is classified as erotomania ; nevertheless, clinicians generally classify sexual addiction as being a pathological condition when it substantially interferes with day-to-day functioning, including friendships, relationships, work and life-style in general.


Clinicians regard addiction to sex as a coping mechanism which allows the sufferer to ‘dissociate’ (click here for my article explaining in detail what psychologists mean by ‘dissociation) or, in other words, to mentally ‘escape’ from feelings of intense emotional distress (including clinical depression, severe anxiety and intense loneliness brought about by social isolation).


Symptoms include –

– frequent, anonymous sex

– frequent use of prostitutes

– obsession with online porn/sexually oriented chatrooms/phone sex

– view of others as mere sex-objects

– obsessive masturbation (can be even as much as 10-20 times per day)

and, at the more severe end of the scale, symptoms may include :

– indecent public exposure

– voyeurism

– bestiality


Severe childhood trauma, as we have seen so often in other articles I’ve written for this site, often causes the adult who experienced it to develop conditions that give rise to deep-rooted psychological and emotional distress. Erotomania may then result as a defense mechanism (ie the need to dissociate as discussed briefly above). Not infrequently, drink and/or drugs may be used during sexual activity in order to intensify its dissociating effect.


Whilst the sexual activity associated with erotomania may bring temporary relief from emotional pain and suffering, this tends to be heavily outweighed by the negative effects of sexual addiction. This can be illustrated, in part, by the diagram shown below :


The diagram shows the cycle of emotions, feelings and behaviour that frequently develops in those who suffer from sexual addiction. As can be seen, the end result is despair, and then the cycle starts again. (What the diagram misses out, however, is the fact that compulsive sexual behaviour is particularly likely to occur if there has been a stressful ‘triggering event’).

The first port of call for the sufferer of erotomania is usually the GP (in the UK). However, because of the sensitive nature of the subject some prefer to initially see an expert in sexual therapy.



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Sexuality


In several of my previous posts on the topic of borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have referred to how those who suffer from this serious condition tend to be highly impulsive, and, as might be anticipated, research now shows that this tendency towards impulsivity is likely to extend into sexual behaviours.

Indeed, many empirical studies have been conducted (some of which I will briefly refer to below) showing that, in connection with impulsive sexual behaviour, those who suffer from BPD are, in statistical terms  (there are of course individual exceptions as each case of BPD is unique) and as a group :

–  significantly more preoccupied with sex than average

– have had earlier sexual experience than average

–  are more likely to be sexually assaulted (including by both ‘date rape’ and attack by strangers, due to sexual impulsivity putting the BPD sufferer in vulnerable positions – for example, going back to the home of a stranger after a drunken night out

– are more promiscuous / have more casual sex than average

– are more likely to have homosexual sex (impulsivity makes experimentation more likely)

– are more likely to have unprotected sex

– are more likely to be coerced into having sex


Many studies have been conducted which provide evidence for the above, but I will restrict myself to providing a few brief examples here :

Hull et al assessed a group of seventy females who suffered from BPD and found that just under half of them had had experience of casual sex – a significantly higher proportion than in the average population.

Neeleman conducted research demonstrating that those who suffered from BPD were significantly more likely to have had experience of homosexual sex than average.

Lavan et al conducted research into the sexual histories of four hundred teenagers and found that those who had symptoms of BPD were significantly more likely to have had unprotected sex than those who were relatively symptom free

Whilst some studies have NOT found significant differences related to aspects of sexual behaviour in those who suffer from BPD compared to those who do not, such studies are in a tiny minority.


It is now becoming increasingly recognized that, in the light of such research findings as detailed above, treatment for BPD should include checks on the sufferer’s sexual health (in connection to sexually transmitted diseases) and, when appropriate, education about safe sex.


As some of the above information suggests, those with BPD are more likely than average to be sexually victimized. It has been hypothesized that, because those with BPD are more likely than average to have been victimized in childhood, there is an unconscious ‘repetition compulsion’ at play.





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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Childhood Trauma Linked to Homosexuality





To what degree do nature and nurture contribute to homosexuality?

It is a politically sensitive debate, but in the light of solid scientific findings, it is necessary to have the courage to address such matters. Childhood trauma has been linked in several research studies with sexual addiction/compulsion (see my article on this by clicking here) due to the dissociative state it produces (see my article on dissociation by clicking here), sadomasochism, prostitution and homosexuality.

Many gay people resent this finding (understandably so) and fear it will encourage right-wing religious fundamentalists absurdly to declare homosexuality an ‘illness’ that needs to be ‘cured.’

However, assuming the scientific studies are valid, need we fall into a deep pit of despair, never to re-emerge?  I think not.

Here’s an analogy which is meant to be neither flippant nor frivolous : suppose I am walking down the street and someone hits me, very hard, on the head with a hammer. I lapse into a coma and am taken to hospital. On coming out of my coma, I find I am fully recovered, and, although, prior to my accident, being unable competently to draw a stick man, now find I am an artistic genius, able to create paintings which sell for millions of pounds (similar things do and HAVE happened as the result of brain injury – extremely rarely). Should I be ashamed of my artistic talents?

Clearly not. Why? It was not my fault I suffered a head trauma. Nor is the result (my painting ability) to my disliking. I would not regard it as a symptom of my trauma in need of curing. Quite the contrary, as it happens.

Similarly, if I suffer childhood trauma which contributes to me becoming gay, the same argument applies.


A study at Otago University in New Zealand with 13,000 participants (98.3% heterosexual. 0.8% homosexual, 0.6% bisexual, 0.3% ‘other’) conducted in 1992 found that those who had suffered severe childhood trauma such as violence and sexual assault were statistically very significantly more likely to be in the non-heterosexual group.

It is also detailed in an academic paper by Schwartz entitled ‘Hypersexuality Secondary to Childhood Trauma and Dissociation’  and another by Colin Ross entitled, ‘Sexual Orientation Conflict and Dissociative Disorders’, that childhood trauma is far more common in gay people than their straight peers.



 BPD Sufferers Up To Ten Times More Likely To Be Homosexual


A study conducted by Reich and Zanarini (2008) involving the interviewing of 362 psychiatric inpatients (290 of whom were suffering from borderline personality disorder ; the remaining 72 were included in the study for comparison purposes and had personality disorders other than BPD).


All of the 362 participants in the study were given interviews in which they were asked about their sexual orientation and the gender of their intimate partners.


1) Those individuals suffering from BPD were significantly more likely than individuals from the comparison group to identify as having a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation.

2) Those individuals suffering from BPD were significantly more likely than individuals from the comparison group to report having same-sex relationships.

(The above results were not significantly different in relation to whether the interviewee was male or female).

In another study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, it was found that, from a sample of 80 individuals (nineteen of whom were male and sixty-one female) who had been diagnosed with BPD :

  • 21 % were homosexual (this percentage breaks down to 53℅ of the men with BPD and 11% of the women with BPD – quite a gender difference!)
  • 5 ℅ were bisexual
  • 11℅ were diagnosed as having a paraphilia

How Do The Above Figures Compare To The General Population?

According to this study :

Men diagnosed with BPD are TEN TIMES more likely to be homosexual than are men randomly selected from the general population.

Women diagnosed with BPD are SIX TIMES more likely to be homosexual than are women randomly selected from the general population.

The Velvet Rage :

In his book, The Velvet Rage, Alan Downs, PhD, examines the reasons that might explain why gay men are far more prone than straight men to suffering from mental health conditions, including depression, sex addiction, alcohol and drug dependence, as well as being at elevated risk of committing suicide.

In doing so, he suggests that the emotional pain of growing up gay in a predominantly heterosexual world, especially if it encompasses feelings of shame and invalidation, significantly contribute to the development of mental health problems.


Effects Of Homophobia In Schools?

When I was about fifteen, I drew a heart in a notebook I kept on my desk in my bedroom and, within the heart, wrote ‘ I love…’ followed by the name of a boy in my year at school (complete with drawing of arrow piercing the heart, and, for good measure, a few dollops of blood seeping from the wound – yes, I know!)

Of course, I always kept the notebook shut and in a drawer, to keep it safe from prying eyes (as I naively believed at the time), concealed by other books, innocuous books placed on top of it.

Some weeks later, I arrived home from school (still never having even spoken to the boy – I was mysteriously struck dumb whenever in his presence), and, as was my habit, beat a hasty retreat to the solitude of my bedroom (to avoid having to interact with my stepmother who despised me).

Imagine my horror when I saw on my bed the notebook which I always so carefully kept concealed! And worse, oh, so much worse, open at the ‘incriminating’ page.

This was, of course, my stepmother’s handiwork (nobody else had been in the house all day) calculated to cause me maximum shame, humiliation and embarrassment. Well, It worked (and then some).

To make the matter even more sinister and insidious, she never mentioned it – nor, of course, did I. (Preferring, instead, to skulk around the house looking sheepish).

Her communication of the hatred she felt for me, epitomized by this both shameful, and shaming, incident, continued in its usual vein – tacitly, implicitly and by insinuation – making it impossible for me, as a callow young teenager, directly to identify or effectively defend myself against.

Indeed, if I attempted to, I would be accused of paranoia (this is a well known psychological technique known as gaslighting which undermines the victim’s sense of reality and can, when chronically sustained, eventually induce psychosis).

As teenagers we long to be accepted as part of the group, and, whilst things are much better than they were three decades ago when I myself was a teenager, teenagers today still, sadly, experience homophobia.

Needless to say, this discrimination, leading to exclusion from the group, can be very traumatic, particularly as being singled out due to something as sensitive as one’s sexuality can be especially devastating (teenagers are, after all , at a stage in their lives when they are especially self-conscious and in need of acceptance).

Homophobic Bullying Leading To Mental Suffering :

A recent study carried out by Benigui found that young people who experience homophobia, including discrimination, prejudice, bullying and verbal attacks, have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol flowing in their blood streams and are at increased risk of suffering from anxiety and depression.

And, most concerningly, they are fourteen times more likely to commit suicide than the average person their age.

Internalization Of Anti-Gay Attitudes :

It is likely that one of the main reasons for these findings is the fact that these victimized young people internalize the negative views others express towards them. This can result in the young person becoming what is technically known as an ego-dystonic homosexual (i.e. his/her homosexuality causes him/her mental distress).


However, the study also found that the young person could develop resilience against the negative effects of homophobia if :

– s/he had good emotional support from friends

– good emotional support from family


The main conclusion drawn from the study was that much work still needs to be done to increase acceptance of, and respect for, diversity in the home, at schools and in the community in general, notwithstanding the significant advances made over recent decades.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).




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