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

Early Stages of Recovery

As we’ve mentioned before, finding a coping skill or “positive addiction” is beneficial during the early stages of recovery. Last week, we touched upon a few non-active coping skills such as painting, writing and listening to music. This week, we would like to share a few active hobbies that could be beneficial for the recovering addict.

Yoga can elevate mood, improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and unite the body, mind and spirit! There are different forms of yoga that are available depending on personal preference.  Ananda and Hatha are more gentle versions of yoga that focus on meditation and breathing to provide a relaxing escape after a busy day.  Ashtanga and Kundalini are aerobic and energizing forms of yoga that are perfect for people who prefer a more strenuous workout.

    • Mindfulness is a meditation technique that is often used in combination with yoga to promote self-awareness.  The concept of mindfulness is to become aware of one’s own thoughts, emotions, and sensations by breathing and concentration. Research has suggested that the combination of yoga and mindfulness can provide energy, satisfaction, and stability on an addict’s road to recovery.

Running has been shown to improve mood, especially in the short term and can therefore provide the extra boost many addicts need when they first stop using. Running can create a sense of achievement, fulfill intrinsic and extrinsic needs, and provide a natural high.

Walking is a great alternative to running. Regularly taking walks has been shown improve mood and enhance the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain.

What activities or hobbies can you see yourself doing during your recovery?

-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.

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