Ashley Madison Scandal

ashley madison pic

First ask yourself, “What is Ashley Madison?” If you can confidently answer the question with anything but, “I do not know,” then you may have been affected by this site.

Ashley Madison is the second largest online dating website, second only to, with the slogan, “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” Recently a hacker group called, “The Impact Team,” threatened to release the “confidential” information for dating websites: Ashley Madison, Cougar Life, and Established Men. The goal behind the threat was to have these websites permanently shut down because the “cheating dirtbags,” according to the Impact team, were not worthy of discretion or confidentiality.

“Cheating dirtbags,” does not exactly insinuate the Impact Team is composed of men; and coincidently Christian Mingle did not get hacked. Does this information shed some light on who orchestrated the attack? Maybe, maybe not.

The more important questions are: What lead up to the affair?; Is there a history of similar sexually acting out behavior?;  What happens to the relationship now?; How do you cope with the onslaught of emotions ranging from fear to shame?

Millions of relationships and families have been affected by this threat of exposure. You are not the only one and you do not need to deal with this alone.

If you have been affected by the recent events involving Ashley Madison and other sites, the Counseling Center for Sexual Health can help. We work with individuals, couples, and partners of individuals affected. Contact us today (805)308-9800.

-Darilyn Shano, M.S., MFTI


infidelity picture

Infidelity can be simply defined as breaking a contract between partners in an intimate relationship. Not so simply put is the ripple effect it leaves behind. Each ripple brings its own impact: doubt, anger, sadness, loss, regret, maybe even relief; but at the center there is trust. This is the very foundation relationships are built on.

When a contract is broken by an unfaithful act, the least of the damage done is the act itself. It is the lack of trust from one partner to another; furthermore the lack of trust one has in them self. When this happens core beliefs are shaken. It is through the trust we hold in ourselves, that intuition, that tells us what the “right” decisions are to make daily. For example, “Do not touch the hot pot;” “Look both ways before crossing the street;” “Of course they love you.” This trusted intuition provides safety. When we lose trust; we lose intuition; which ultimately takes away our safety. This domino effect can make us feel lost and raw, like our nerve endings are exposed and leaving us vulnerable.

So what do we do next? Do we pick up the pieces and move on? What does that even look like? Only you can answer this, but the Counseling Center for Sexual Health can help.

For the individual that was unfaithful, there are most likely patterns of this behavior throughout their past. Perhaps it is not infidelity, but traces of abandonment; a need to sabotage relationships; fear of intimacy; etc.

For the partner that learned of the infidelity, they too most likely have a pattern of this behavior in their past. Again, it may not be through a history of intimate partners cheating, but instead patterns of: denial; rescuing people “in need;” trying to change someone; putting themselves in relationships doomed for failure; the forever nurturer; etc.

After both parties are aware of the violation, it really boils down to two basic paths. Path one, the relationship ends and both parties go their separate ways. Path two, both parties agree to stay and work on their relationship. Either way, intensive work is to follow and we at the Counseling Center for Sexual Health can help determine what that looks like with you.

-Darilyn Shano, M.S., MFTI

An Introduction: Partners of Sex & Love Addicts


We’ve touched upon sex and love addiction, discussing etiology, symptoms, and treatment.  We would now like to provide support for partners who are impacted by sex or love addiction.

Partners of sex addicts or any significant other who is close with the patient will also need support with the discovery of sex addiction. The discovery itself is traumatizing. The pain of betrayal can feel overwhelming . The relationship is exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, financial consequences, and social embarrassment.

Is is crucial to recovery for partners to be connected with support.  Partners can often feel isolated, use avoidance to cope, and engage in self-blame (Manning & Watson, 2007).

Do you think your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife may be a sex or love addict? Please visit our previous posts if your partner repeatedly lies about his or her sexual activity or online behavior.

Next week, we’ll discuss the Stages of Recovery for partners of sex & love addicts.

-Katie McGrath, M.S.

What is love addiction?

What is a love addiction?


Does love make you feel high, as if you were on a drug?    Do you crave the intensity and passion of dating someone new?  Are the exhilarating good times always followed by hellish bad times?

And do you continually find yourself in similarly volatile relationships?

You may have a love addiction. A key element of love addiction is the expectation that, somehow, each new romantic relationship will be magically potent; that it will surmount all emotional obstacles.

How does love addiction differ from simply being “in love?” Once “the honeymoon phase” has worn off, a love addict will leave the current relationship or engage in infidelity to chase the “high” with someone else.

Love addiction appears to involve brain neurotransmission processes similar to the effects of drug misuse, and may be a substitute for drug addiction. It is considered a “process addiction,” wherein a pattern of recurrent behavior first results in pleasurable feelings and obsessive thinking. These pleasurable feelings and obsessive thoughts may be described as a craving for a continued union with the love object, “true love.” However, cycles of elation and craving are eventually followed by negative consequences.

A few negative consequences that can result with a love addiction are:

Infidelity:  Love addicts often distance themselves from spouses and children in pursuit of romantic fantasies.

Dangerous situations:  Love addicts have potentially dangerous liaisons with strangers met on the internet.

Legal consequences:  Love addicts may resort to embezzlement to pay for the addictive relationship.

Seven criteria that define a substance dependence disorder:

There is a need for markedly increased amounts of the behavior to achieve the desired emotional effect (increased time spent love-seeking.)

Seven criteria that define a substance dependence disorder:

  • There is a need for markedly increased amounts of the behavior to achieve the desired emotional effect (increased time spent love-seeking.)
  • There is a need for markedly increased amounts of the behavior to achieve the desired emotional effect (increased time spent love-seeking.)
  • There are urges to continue the behavior when one tries to stop engaging in the behavior (e.g., feeling desperate and alone when not in a relationship, heartache and longing, like drug withdrawal.)
  • The behavior is engaged in over a longer period than was intended (e.g., one may continue trying to romance the love object long after the relationship has broken up.)
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the behavior (e.g., one may say “I’ll never fall in love again” and yet tend to always be in a love relationship, and may tend to replace ended relationships immediately.)
  • A great deal of time is spent on activities necessary to begin or continue the behavior, or recover from its effects (e.g., one may spend hours roaming Internet chat rooms looking for a new relationship).
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of the behavior (e.g., one may ignore job or family duties, or reduce engagement in pro-social hobbies while pursuing a love relationship.)
  • The behavior continues despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or worsened by the behavior (e.g., one may suffer from depression or financial loss as a result of love addiction and yet then pursue the next relationship).

Next week we will discuss treatment of love addiction, stay tuned!

-Katie McGrath, M.S.


Is Sex Addiction Real?


Is Sex Addiction Real?

We’ve all seen it on the news. “Celebrity cheats on wife: So and so is a sex addict.” But is sex addiction real?

In the mental health field, we use DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria to categorize different disorders. Currently, there is no diagnosis for sex addiction. However, I have included a case study outlining how sex addiction can mirror alcohol abuse and dependence. Simply, replace “sex” with “alcohol” using the criteria listed at the bottom of the page and decide for yourself whether you think sex addiction should be a recognized disorder.

The Case of Caveh Zahedi
Caveh Zahedi shares his struggle with sex addiction in his courageous documentary, “I am a Sex Addict.” Watch it HERE: I am a Sex Addict

Caveh’s addiction began with a chance encounter with a prostitute in Paris. He was walking along a street and saw a beautiful prostitute scantily dressed, leaning up against a wall. Caveh noticed that she bore a striking resemblance to his wife which triggered an atavistic response. He asked the prostitute, “Will you suck me?” and then walked away. Caveh remembers he felt a “rush” and felt “free” speaking to the prostitute in such a manner. He went home and immediately masturbated.

In the beginning, Caveh’s strategy was to speak with various prostitutes and then go home and masturbate. His next strategy was to be honest with his wife, Caroline, about his prostitute fetish. However, she eventually became upset and so he turned to dishonesty. Each time Caveh developed a new strategy his plan escalated. In almost all addictions, an addict will slowly engage in a behavior but then need to increase and intensify their actions to achieve the desired effect.

So how is Caveh’s “sex addiction” similar to alcohol abuse and dependence?

Escalation to Achieve Desired Effect

A chance encounter with a prostitute turned into Caveh masturbating in every cathedral in Paris. Masturbating at home was no longer exciting enough and Caveh had to intensify the behavior and frequency to acquire the same “rush.” Caveh began to experience characteristic psychophysiological withdrawal symptoms such as feeling “euphoric” during and immediately after the sexual activity but then feeling empty and sad hours later.

Large Amounts of Time Devoted to the Addiction

Caveh spent a great deal of time planning and engaging in sexual behavior, much more so than was intended. Caveh was continually trying to “quit his prostitute fetish” and would exclaim “just one more time” but his efforts to cut back were never successful. Caveh spent less time with his significant others while feeding his sexual addition.

Despite the Consequences

Caveh continued having sex with prostitutes despite the knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent psychological problem that was likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the behavior. Caveh knew that he would feel depressed and empty after having sex with a prostitute but he could not stop himself.

DSM-IV Criteria
Alcohol Abuse

  • Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to alcohol use; alcohol-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household)
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by alcohol use)
  • Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol-related disorderly conduct)
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication).

Alcohol Dependence
A maladaptive pattern of drinking, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three or more of the following occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

  • Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol
  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol; or drinking (or using a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  • Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking
  • A great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking
  • Continued drinking despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to be caused or exacerbated by drinking.

-Katie McGrath, M.S.

© 2016 Counseling Center for Sexual Health. All Rights Reserved