Sex Addiction: What is it and What do You Need to Know


Addiction in any form is harmful. It disrupts the flow of a person’s life in several ways- including rational thinking. Like all other forms, sex addiction also has the potential to destroy a person’s life- both in the professional and personal aspects.[1]

An increased number of people are turning to different forms of addiction as a means of escape and distraction. The reason, suggested by experts, is to cope with the stress faced in our daily lives.[2]

What happens when a specific behavior is the manifestation of the addiction itself? Yes, sex addiction exists. Let us find out.

Sex Addict word cloud on a white background.

What is Sex Addiction?

The term most commonly associated with sex addiction is compulsive sexual behavior. A person suffering from this feels a violent urge to perform sexual activities to get a “fix” or a “high.” The kind of urge is similar to the cravings of someone with a dependency on alcohol or drugs.[3]

Similar to all addictions, there is also an increased tolerance as the addiction progresses. This way, sex addiction makes it very difficult to create or continue relationships. It can destroy personal relationships, mental and physical health. A sex-addict person will find little meaning in quality of life, or safety- as per the ICD-10 criteria.

There are several variations of the addiction. A notable number of sex addicts remain content with an obsessive need to masturbate, watching pornography, or landing themselves in situations that are sexually stimulating.[4]

However, it is also possible for a sex addict to change their entire life and activities based around having sex multiple times throughout the day. The person may find it impossible to regulate or control his behavior- even knowing the possible consequences—the addiction results in a total loss of judgment, decision-making, and behavior control.[5]

It is to be noted that sex addicts are not necessarily sex offenders. The converse is also true. When tested, it was found that around 55% of convicted sex offenders can potentially become sex addicts.


The International Classification of Diseases (I.C.D.), created by the World Health Organization, is not limited to only psychiatric illness. The latest approved version of the ICD-10 Document includes a diagnosis of ‘excessive sex drive.’ The ICD-10 Document divides the drive into satyriasis in the case of males and nymphomania when it comes to females.

However, the I.C.D. classifies these diagnoses as compulsive behavior and not as an addiction. ICD-11 contains a “compulsory sexual conduct condition” as a diagnosis in the new (although unapproved) edition, which is not based on the addiction model.[6]

The American Psychiatric Association (A.P.A.) rejects the diagnosis procedure obtained through ICD-10 and DSM-5. The discussion continues on whether compulsive sexual behavior should be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disabilities (D.S.M.) after its exclusion from the DSM-5 List.[7]

Symptoms and Traits

There is considerable controversy about the selection criteria. The common symptoms of a sex addict include the following:

  1. Recurring sexual activities that will become the sole target of their life. It slowly drives the person to the point of neglecting health, personal care, or other interests and responsibilities.
  1. Multiple failed attempts to decrease the recurring sexual behavior.
  2. Routine sexual behavior obtaining negligible satisfaction despite possible adverse consequences
  1. Failure to control sexual urges over an extended period (6 months or more)
  1. Significant impairment in personal, social, or occupational functions and relations.

You can also observe these traits if the person is known to be a sex addict.

  1. Persistent, compulsive sexual ideas and imagination.
  2. Uncontrollable urge to have sexual relations with multiple partners, including strangers
  3. Indulgence in lies and deceit for the coverup.
  4. Unable to regulate behavioral urges.
  5. Probability of placing self or others in danger due to sexual behavior
  6. The feeling of regret following a sexual act.

Probable Causes And Variations

The exact causes of sexual compulsion continue to be unclear. Some studies suggest that compulsive sexual behavior has the same recompense system and brain circuits as substance dependence. There is, indeed, little scientific proof to confirm this.[8]

Depression may often cause someone to be in compulsive sexual activities. Various moods, including sadness, loneliness, and happiness, could also lead to people being unable to control their sexual behavior function abnormally.[9]

There are a few possible variations of sex addiction. The notable ones include addiction to:

  1. Pornography
  2. Prostitution
  3. Masturbation of Fantasizing
  4. Sadistic or Masochistic Behavior
  5. Exhibition/Voyeurism
  6. Extravagant sex pursuits

Is it Curable?

Like any addiction, sex addiction can be cured with patience and proper diagnosis. Throughout the years, experts and scientists have tried to understand this condition.[10]


Stop worrying about the consequences of addiction. The addiction can be cured.

The diagnosis is controversial.  Thus, there are no evidence-based treatment options. A person may rationalize behavior and thought patterns. This is what makes treating sex addiction a little bit tricky.[11]

The denial of its existence is often the first characteristic step of a person suffering from sex addiction. Current treatment options strive to reduce the symptoms while teaching to control excessive sexual urges.

The popular types of treatment include:

1.    Cognitive-behavioral therapy (C.B.T.)

C.B.T. helps the person in the identification of the behavioral pattern. Ultimately it teaches sex addicts how to change their behaviors. The process consists of one-on-one sessions with a licensed therapist.[12]

 This style of therapeutic counseling allows the implementation of a variety of methods and tools. These allow people to improve their behavior.

C.B.T. can train anyone to develop new coping habits. The mental health therapist, for instance, guides the patients and shows them ways to reduce their sexual urges.

2.    Medication

Drug therapy may be beneficial for some. Antidepressants could contribute to suppressing urges. However, there are potential side effects of certain antidepressants, which may result in a reduced libido or other aspects of sexual experience.[13]

The drugs may include anti-androgens, such as the drug Provera, or selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors ( SSRIs), including fluoxetine ( Prozac). The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) has not licensed medicines to treat the condition, although a practitioner may recommend such drugs to suppress sexual impulses.

It’s not clear, however, whether a physician would prescribe drugs for this condition.

3.    12 Step programs

Similar to the programs run by Alcoholics Anonymous(A.A.), there is a 12 Step Recovery Program specifically made for addressing sex addiction.

The members of the Sex Addicts Anonymous(S.A.A.) groups are encouraged to abstain from meaningless sexual activities – ones that are compulsive and potentially destructive. The group meetings provide the much-needed support system.[14]


Persons with compulsive sexual behavior can possess uncontrollable sexual ideas and imagination that negatively impact their daily interactions and everyday lives. This may escalate to extreme distress, depression, and a host of other complications.

The individual struggling with sex-dependency can potentially engage in acts that endanger their relationships, health, and security. Sex addiction is simultaneously a controversial diagnosis- lacking  both diagnostic criteria and treatments based on evidence.

An individual may have to utilize multiple therapy methods to control sex addiction better. Remember to seek help and always reach out.[15]


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