What is Sex Addiction? (QUIZ) Signs, Causes and Treatment

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Sex is a natural and instinctual part of human behavior, serving multiple purposes, including reproduction, pleasure and emotional connection.

Sexual desire is driven by hormone interactions that trigger automatic responses in the nervous system. Disruptions in this response cascade can lead to sexual dysfunctions such as compulsive sexual behavior (CSB), also known as sex addiction.

In the U.S., approximately 3–6% of adults have reported suffering from difficulty controlling sexual desires, a figure that may increase due to access to online sexual material. Read on to learn about the signs of this addiction, the causes and risks, and how to access help.

What is Sexual Addiction?

Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB), commonly known as sexual addiction, was officially included and classified by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in 2019 as an impulse-control disorder that involves a failure to control preoccupations, urges, and behaviors with sexual fantasies causing distress or impairment.

Sex addiction falls under the umbrella of behavioral addiction and can be classified as:

  • Paraphilic: Involves atypical sexual interests (e.g., exhibitionism, pedophilia, voyeurism)
  • Nonparaphilic: Includes excessive pornography use, multiple partners, compulsive masturbation

For an individual to be diagnosed with sexual addiction, a qualified mental health professional has to determine if the behavior meets the criteria. Personal or religious beliefs alone are not sufficient for diagnosing addiction to sex.

Signs and Symptoms of Sexual Addiction

As individuals with sexual addiction suffer significant distress and impairment in various areas of their lives, recognizing the signs can be helpful to get the proper treatment.

Although this addiction is included in the (ICD-11), it’s yet to be recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and diagnosis criteria can vary across the medical community. However, for a diagnosis of sex addiction, the following symptoms must have been present for at least six months.

  • Constant intrusive thoughts about sex, even when they are trying to focus on other things
  • Compulsive masturbation or pornography use several times a day
  • Risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex with multiple partners to get a sexual fix
  • Neglect of work, school, or home responsibilities to spend more time on sexual activities
  • Relationship problems, as the addiction may take precedence over their partner’s needs
  • Failure to sustain monogamous relationships
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or irritability, when they try to cut back on their sexual activity
  • Spending a lot of money on pornography, prostitutes, or other sexual activities

Sex Addicts Anonymous offers an online sexual addiction quiz that you can take to assess your addiction level. Yet, a healthcare professional must be the one to guide you toward an accurate diagnosis.

Causes of Sex Addiction

Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) is a complex and multifaceted condition that can manifest in various ways.

While certain factors may be more prevalent among individuals with CSB, it’s essential to recognize that there is a broad spectrum of behaviors that can be comorbid with this disorder, such as:

Comorbid Health Issues

Sexual addiction often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, personality disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Also, individuals with sex addiction may have a higher prevalence of conditions like alcohol dependence, major depressive disorder, bulimia nervosa, and borderline personality disorder.

Family History

There is evidence to suggest that a family history of addiction, particularly substance abuse, may increase the risk of developing sex addiction.

Many individuals with sexual addiction report a history of addiction within their family, including substance dependency, sexually addicted parents, and parents with other addictive behaviors such as compulsive gambling.

Early Exposure or Trauma

Early exposure to sexual content or experiences, especially during childhood, can sometimes contribute to the development of sexual addiction. Traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse or assault may also increase the risk of developing maladaptive coping mechanisms, including compulsive sexual behavior.

Neurological Factors

Some research suggests that abnormalities in brain chemistry may lead to the development of sexual addiction, as suggested by a study of patients with Parkinson’s disease with hypersexuality. On the other hand, dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, may be dysregulated in individuals with sexual addiction.

Sex Addiction Treatment and Management

The lack of diagnosis proves to be a challenge for the addiction treatment and management of sexual addiction. However, several integrated plans are available to address the underlying psychological, emotional, and behavioral aspects of the disorder, which are:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps patients identify and modify dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors related to their sexual urges and desires. This psychotherapy option focuses on developing coping strategies, relapse prevention and improving self-control.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Uses guided meditation practices to help individuals develop present-moment awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment. This practice promotes self-awareness and insight into triggers and patterns of behavior associated with sex addiction.

Trauma Therapy

It helps patients face and heal from underlying trauma or past experiences, such as sexual abuse or neglect, which can contribute to sexual addiction, while providing a supportive environment to process these experiences and enable emotional healing.

Family and Couples Therapy

Family therapy and couples therapy can play vital roles in restoring trust, minimizing feelings of shame and guilt, and fostering a healthy sexual relationship between partners. These forms of therapy create safe spaces for open communication, facilitate understanding of underlying issues and provide tools to address challenges together.


  • Antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft) manage depression or anxiety symptoms
  • Naltrexone reduces compulsive behaviors by blocking the brain’s reward system
  • Drugs like lamotrigine (Lamictal) or lithium stabilize mood and reduce impulsivity

Support Groups and Self-Help Programs

  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) is a 12-step program providing support and guidance
  • SMART Recovery offers a science-based, self-help program for individuals wanting to overcome addiction

Lifestyle Changes and Coping Strategies

  • Make room for exercise, proper sleeping and balanced nutrition
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Find fun, engaging activities to do with friends or family, particularly outdoors
  • Seek support from friends and peers
  • Establish clear boundaries to avoid triggers (i.e., block access to porn sites)
  • Structure time to minimize opportunities for compulsive behavior.
  • Reflect on your emotions and triggers
  • Follow your therapist and healthcare provider’s advice and treatment

Sex Addiction – Final Considerations

Combining pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy is considered the optimal approach for managing behavioral addictions, such as sexual addiction.

Pharmacological treatment alone offers modest and short-lasting benefits, but when combined with psychotherapy, it addresses developmental antecedents and reduces anxiety, depression, and guilt, in addition to improving social regulation. Referral to self-help groups, particularly those using the 12-step program, is associated with successful outcomes.

Don’t miss follow-up appointments; they are essential to adjust the treatment plan and prevent relapse. As prompt intervention is crucial, if you suspect addiction, contact your healthcare provider immediately for support and guidance.

People Also Ask

What causes hypersexuality?

Various factors, such as neurological conditions like bipolar disorder, substance abuse, trauma, or certain medications, may cause hypersexuality. Excessive, uncontrollable sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors characterize this condition.

How do you deal with a hypersexual partner?

Open communication, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help, like therapy or counseling, may be helpful. Understanding the underlying causes and supporting your partner with compassion and empathy can support in managing hypersexuality within a relationship.

How do I stop being hypersexual?

Seeking therapy or counseling can help address underlying factors contributing to hypersexuality. Cognitive-behavioral techniques, medication, and developing healthy coping mechanisms may assist in managing and reducing hypersexual behaviors.

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Page Sources

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Retrieved on April 25, 2024.

Published on: April 20th, 2017

Updated on: April 25th, 2024

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