Abuse and Addiction - What Is the Difference
Between Sexual Abusers, Substance Abusers
and Partner Abusers?

Dr. King


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

In working with people worldwide, I’m aware that there are as many varieties of sex addictions as there are sex addicts...(as the saying goes). And just because someone has a sex addiction, doesn’t mean they are a spousal abuser.

While it’s true that their sexual habits go hand-in-hand with sexual control, their addiction is about the sexual arousal, not the partner control. This is the primary distinction.

Sex Addicts, Drug Addicts and Domestic Abuse

I liken it to the relationship between drug addictions and domestic abuse. While it is true that abusers can get more aggressive in their verbal and physical altercations with the use of alcohol, it is important to member that alcohol addiction and domestic abuse are two separate syndromes.

In the case of alcohol and drug abuse, be mindful that the addiction is toward the substance. Whereas, domestic abuse has more to do with an addiction to controlling one’s partner in and of itself.

The same is true for sex addictions. Those who have sex addictions may seek to control the sex in their intimate relationships. However, they do not do this as a means to another end...such as, controlling their intimate partners. Rather, the control is about the sexual experience.

Violence as a Manifestation of Another Addiction

There may be violence associated with both the drug and sex addiction that is displayed in the addicts efforts to control their substance for the drug addict and their sexual arousal for the sex addict. But this manifestation of violence is merely that. It’s a by-product of seeking the focus of their addiction, which is not the same as the violence of domestic abuse.

In the case of domestic abuse, violence is a manifestation of domestic abuse, but the “domestic abuse” is fundamentally about “the control”...specifically, controlling the intimate partner. The battering (verbal, emotional and physical) is used to establish and maintain an unequal distribution of power and control in the relationship.

Implications for Treating Couples in Abusive Relationships

If you are in an abusive relationship, in which intimate partner violence has been identified in combination with either an alcohol, drug or sex addiction, then be mindful of the implications for treatment. Make sure that your couples or partner’s therapist is addressing the addictions separately.

Realize that drug and sex addictions are both syndromes separate from intimate partner abuse. And moreover, they must be treated independently with an appropriate addiction specific intervention.

Concurrent Treatment for Abusers and Addicts

I find the greatest success when substance and sex addicts are in a twelve-step program for their addiction while they are going through a domestic abuse intervention. Treatment goals remain separate and are accomplished independently from the domestic violence treatment.

For more information about sexual control and abusive relationship , visit www.preventabusiverelationships.com/controlling_relationship.php and claim your Free Instant Access to Survivor Success eInsights. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people nationwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse. © Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention


Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.