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The 3 Levels of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is a term that’s becoming more and more prevalent in all aspects of the addiction community. This is particularly true as we discover more about the addiction interaction disorder of stimulants and sex. A spirited debate as to whether there’s even such a thing as sexual addiction has been developing for some time now. “People can’t be addicted to sex – it’s just what people do” is often heard, while on the other hand, there are people that apply the same definition of addiction to alcohol and/or drugs to that of sex.

There’s no way to deny that someone who has difficulty controlling their sexual urges, behaviors and/or thoughts will see a progression of their symptoms leading to negative consequences in their lives. For sex addicts, there are levels to the severity of the addiction and these are a good indication of the type of treatment that is needed. There are three levels of sex addiction.

Level One:

Some of the behaviors listed may exist in someone without a sex addiction, but when acted upon compulsively, is considered level one of sex addiction.

There’s no doubt that these can be devastating when done compulsively.

  • Chronic Masturbation
  • Affairs, chronic infidelity, love and romance addiction
  • Sexual relationships with multiple partners
  • Pornography use and collection (with or without masturbation)
  • Phone sex, cybersex
  • Anonymous sex
  • Going to strip clubs

Level Two:

A common theme among these behaviors listed are that of someone being victimized.

There are also legal consequences to these actions which is a primary difference between Level One and Level Two behaviors.

  • Prostitution
  • Public sex – bathrooms, parks, etc.
  • Voyeurism – online or live
  • Exhibitionism
  • Frotteurism
  • Stalking behaviors
  • Sexual harassment

Level Three:

These are behaviors in which there are significant boundary violations culturally and legally.

  • Rape
  • Child molestation
  • Obtaining/viewing child pornography
  • Obtaining/viewing rape/snuff pornography
  • Sexual abuse of older or dependent persons
  • Incest
  • Professional boundary violations (clergy, therapists, teachers, doctors)
The 3 Levels of Sex Addiction

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on July 4, 2014.

Zacharias, LCSW, CSAT, CAADC

Jeff is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), Certified Advanced Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (CAADC), Board Registered Interventionist (BRI-I) and Registered Dual Disorder Professional (RDDP) with extensive clinical experience in both the mental health and addictions fields. Currently, he is the President/Clinical Director of New Hope Recovery Center located in Chicago as well as maintains a private practice there as well. His areas of interest including working with all aspects of addiction including facilitating interventions, severe and persistent mental health issues, personality disorders, trauma and its impact on recovery, hoarding and other obsessive-compulsive disorders and issues within the LGBTQI community. He is a member of NASW, NALGAP and NAADAC and currently serves on the Board of Directors for NALGAP. He has had articles published in “Praxis: Where Reflection and Practice Meet”, “Addiction Professional” magazine , “Renew” magazine where he wrote a monthly blog entitled “Recovering with Pride” and currently writes a blog for Psych Central focused on recovery issues within the LGBTQI community. He has extensive experience speaking on issues related to addiction and the LGBTQI community most notably at NCAD, NAMI, NAADAC, NASW Illinois and the NASW National Conference.

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APA Reference
Zacharias, J. (2019). The 3 Levels of Sex Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 May 2019
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