Sexual addiction is described as a progressive obsession with engaging in sexual acts, sexual thoughts, or having an abnormally intense sex drive. Often, the lives of those with sexual addiction are plagued with dominating thoughts of sex or having sex. Sexual addiction like most other addictions can interfere with daily functioning, causing a significant negative impact on the addict, and those that love him/her as the disorder progresses. Unfortunately, like other addictions the addict must “use more”, “engage more”, and “fantasize more” to achieve the same or comparable high”.

For many sex addicts, behaviors will not escalate beyond masturbation, phone or internet sex, viewing pornographic images, or having intense sexual thoughts. However, for other sexual addict’s addiction can escalate into troublesome and illegal behaviors such as, inappropriate touching, molestation, rape, inappropriate sexual phone calls, voyeurism, or displaying of unsolicited pornographic images for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for persons with sexual addiction to rationalize and justify their behavior and thought patterns. People with a sex addiction may also deny that a problem exists.

Notably, sexual addiction can be a problem for both males and females; however, variations in types of addictions can occur. Variations can exist in male and female behaviors due in part to their varying views on the concept of relationships in general. Most women have been taught to refrain from engaging in impulsive sexual behaviors, talk about sex, or consider having sex outside of the context of marriage or long-term committed relationship. Women in our culture are often taught to build and cultivate their intimacy skills before developing their autonomy. Men, however, experience the opposite societal expectation; they are encouraged to become independent first and develop their intimate abilities much later.

Behaviors of Male Sex Addicts May Include:

  • Impulsive sex
  • Sex with random partners
  • Seeking out voyeuristic sex such as Internet pornography
  • Engaging in the objectification and exploitation of partner(s) during sexual encounters
  • Enjoyment of anonymous sex
  • Excessive viewing of pornographic images
  • Men are more likely to solicit prostitutes
  • Exhibition/Voyeurism
  • Male sex addicts seem to prefer sexual behavior that involves little, if any, emotional connection

Behaviors of Female Sex Addicts May Include:

  • Female sex addicts are more likely to use sex for power, control, and attention
  • Playing the role of initiating and seducing
  • Participating in fantasy sex and role-playing behaviors
  • Willing to trade sex for other things
  • Engaging in sadomasochism and pain exchange

Key Similarity Between Male and Female Sex Addicts Include:

  • Both males and female sex addicts lack understanding of how to be intimate

Common Side Effects of Sexual Addiction Can Include:

  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • STD/HIV
  • Decline in personal relationships, social, and family engagement
  • Decreased concentration and productivity at work
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Negative emotional feelings, such as, shame, guilt, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, depression, etc.

Signs of Sex Addiction Include:

  • Preoccupation with sex, sexual images, or intrusive sexual thoughts
  • Feelings of powerlessness to control sexual urges and thoughts
  • You feel shame, embarrassment or even self-loathing over your sexual acts
  • Sexual choices and behaviors are causing you marked distress
  • You promise yourself you’ll change, but fail to keep those promises
  • Unsafe sex
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Frequent viewing of pornographic images

Although sex is considered a normal and natural part of life, when it is taken to an extreme, it can produce negative consequences for the addict as well as those that love him/her. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with the identification of automatic negative thoughts, so that any unwanted thought patterns that contribute to or fuel undesirable behaviors can be limited or eliminated. A mental health professional might also assist with the exploration of the sexual history of the person receiving treatment as well as examine any patterns/ rituals in that person’s life that may contribute to the addiction. If sexual abuse or other neglect was experienced in childhood, the person can also discuss these in therapy, as past abuse may have an influence on current behavior. Medication can also be used manage anxiety and compulsive behaviors in collaboration with CBT