What to do when your partner has an addiction

addiction treatmentAre you in a relationship with someone who has an active addiction? Addiction can be chemical, alcohol and drugs, as well as behavioural, such as gambling and sex/porn. It can be difficult to know what to do and what to say when someone so close to you is losing themselves in a web of destruction. For helpful tips and guidance see my latest article on what to do when your partner has an active addiction.

See also

Support for families of compulsive gambler
Addiction is not just about drink and drugs 
When financial trading becomes problem gambling
Now that you have stopped drinking
Afraid of your gambling habits
Sex addiction – why its so misunderstood
My son is addicted to computer games


Why sex addiction is so often misunderstood

addictionSex addiction is a term that typically produces wide ranging views from, on the one hand, some psychiatrists, who argue that there is insufficient evidence for the term to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disordersto others in the therapeutic community, notably Dr Patrick Carnes and Paula Hall amongst others, who acknowledge the condition as an illness in the same way that alcoholism and gambling is treated.  The term can also produce a fair degree of titillation, even amongst therapists, about the apparent glamour associated with the behaviour.  I believe that if there is less emphasis on the word ‘sex’, and more emphasis is placed on the word ‘addiction’, then we might be better able to address the depth of the suffering that can take place for individuals and those associated with them.

Far from being glamorous, sex addiction can produce hugely detrimental effects on self esteem, self worth, professional reputation and on the maintenance of relationships. Of course, if your lifestyle choices do not produce any negative impacts on other parts of your life then it is not a problem.

Read my article on sex addiction and how it is often misunderstood.

See also my interview with Paula Hall.

Call Noel now on 07852 407140 for counselling and psychotherapy.


Dr Patrick Carnes on sex addiction

In this interview Dr Patrick Carnes chats to Joe Polish, founder of the Genius Network about sex addiction, neuroscience and the most effective treatment for addictive behaviours.  I have listened to this interview, usually as an mp3 file on my phone, many times and always seem to learn something new each time I listen to it. I believe that Dr Carnes is a legend and a visionary, given that he was talking about sex addiction as an illness in the early 1980s, when the definition of addiction in psychiatry was typically restricted to chemical dependence. These days there are more enlightened practitioners in the therapy field who acknowledge the real impact of behavioural addictions such as gambling and internet sex addiction.

This interview, as well as Dr Carne’s extensive publications, could be, perhaps should be, a staple diet on every psychology and psychotherapy course reading list in every discipline and modality. Essentially, Dr Carnes has long maintained that sexual addiction, like food addiction, develops in the brain through the bypassing of the executive functioning (the pre-frontal cortex) as the reward centres get flooded by the stimuli, in similar ways to the effects of cocaine usage. In the interview he articulates his ideas on attachment theory as possible causes of addiction and points to the dangers of the proliferation of cybersex activities through the internet, particularly for teenagers.

That is not to say that there is not still a lively debate about the evidence for what can be called an addiction. Darrel Regier, who was co-chair of the DSM task force which investigated the evidence to support revised classifications, maintained that there was insufficient evidence to reclassify sex as an addiction for the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  Regier maintained that the reward circuitry in the brain was not operative in the same way for sex as in (substance) addictive areas.

As yet there might not be the clinical evidence needed to justify the addiction term, for sexual addiction, but it could be argued that there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence about the problem. It is clear we need to fund more research into the problem, but it becomes very political very quickly, when we start thinking of web filters, censorship, impacts on economies (just think of Romania and the number of webcam models and the income stream) and actually who will fund the research.

Ten Types of Sex Addiction in “Don’t Call It Love” by Dr Patrick Carnes.

Click here to listen to my interview with Paula Hall.


Creating greater connection with essence to better cope with triggers to addictive processes

Creating  greater connection with essence to better cope with

triggers to addictive processes

Addictive processes workshop

What? an experiential workshop

Where? CCPE, 2 Warwick Crescent, London W2 6NE (see map below)

When? 29 & 30 November, 2014

  • Having gained insight from how to deal with addictive processes, are you now ready to look deeper within?
  • Would you like to connect more with your essence so that you can better deal with difficult reoccurring feelings and explore how such difficult feelings can impact on your sense of a safe place within yourself?
  • Would you like to gain greater clarity about your triggers to addictive behaviours using creative imagination, music as a symbol and drawing?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above then this workshop may be for you. Connecting with your essence will allow you the opportunity to see your struggles in a different, clearer light and enable you to find inside yourself the guide you need. In this workshop, you will use visualisation, image work and music as a symbol to identify with different states of consciousness to get to know a deeper part of yourself in a simple and safe way.

The workshop will be facilitated by myself. I am a trainee psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience in 12 steps recovery, and this project is part of the requirements for my final year for the Diploma in Psychotherapy at CCPE in London.

The cost for the two day workshop is £80, or £60 if booked by 3 October, 2014. In order to book a place, please contact Noel Bell at noel@noelbell.net or call 07852 407140

This workshop is limited to six participants.

Requirements: You will need to be in personal therapy in order to attend the workshop.


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It takes 66 days, on average, for a new habit to be formed


Have you ever wondered how long it would take to see your new year resolution to truly take hold in new behaviour?  Habits are formed through a process called ‘context-dependent repetition’. Some say it takes 21 days for new behaviour to be formed. However, I have also heard that 66 days is more realistic. So,which is correct?

I have recently come across the excellent Health Behaviour Research Centre blog. The Centre is part of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL. The centre is comprised of an academic research group made up of health promotion experts, psychologists, epidemiologists, physiologists and  nutritionists. The blog posts feature research that is focused on behaviours related to health particularly those that are related to cancer.

So what is ‘context-dependent repetition’? Habits are defined as learned actions that are triggered automatically when we encounter the situation in which we’ve repeatedly done those actions. By way of explanation lets assume  that every time you return from work each evening, you make a sandwich for yourself. A mental link becomes formed between the context (arriving home) and your response to that context (eating the sandwich). This link strengthens when each time you subsequently eat a sandwich in response to getting home. We can say a habit has been formed when getting home comes to prompt you to eat a sandwich automatically, without giving it much prior thought.

I came across the blog when seeking to find research findings on how long it takes to form a new habit.  I had heard that it takes 66 iterations for a new habit to be formed.

The blog smashes the  21 day myth of habit formation. Researchers from the UCL department have undertaken a more rigorous and valid study of habit formation (Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010) which found that  it took, on average, 66 days for the habit to form.  It will, therefore, take until March 6st for a New Year resolution to take hold.

Perhaps 12 steps recovery fellowships have something of substance (pardon the pun) when they advocate 90 meetings in 90 days.

The important aspect of good habit formation is to do it on a daily basis.  Here, the fidelity of the practice is important.  Try not to give up. Do it even when you don’t want to do it.  It is by the practice of a good habit that gradually outweighs the power of a bad habit.