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What Is Sex Addiction?

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. Sex Addiction Remains Undefined
  3. Sex Addiction vs. Pornography Addiction
  4. The Harmful Effects of Sex Addiction
  5. Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
  6. Help for Sex Addicts
  7. Sex Addiction Treatment Centers

Sex is a natural part of life. It facilitates procreation and can enhance intimacy between romantic partners. Like many other things in life, however, it can harm a person's health and well-being when taken to an extreme. Sex addiction is a condition where a person develops an unhealthy fixation on having sex. This condition also encompasses hypersexuality, where the person experiences frequent or increased sexual urges or activity.


The World Health Organization classifies sex addiction as an excessive sex drive and uses different terms for the condition according to gender: satyriasis for men and nymphomania for women.

Sex Addiction Remains Undefined

People who study sexual behavior (sexologists) have been unable to come to a consensus about whether sex addiction is an actual addiction or if it is an obsessive compulsive disorder. Some people in the field think sex addiction is a myth and a product of cultural influences.

Like video game addiction, sex addiction is not formally defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), which is a highly-regarded compendium of recognized mental health disorders and diagnostic criteria. However, the book does include a catch-all category for unspecified sex-related disorders that briefly describes sex addiction as a "pattern of sexual relationships with lovers who are experienced by the individual as things to be used." This category also includes compulsive masturbation, fixation on unattainable partners, and compulsive sexuality while in a relationship.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines sex addiction and other addictions as a chronic brain disease that affects memory, reward, motivation, and related circuitry. Simply put, the ASAM considers addiction to be a dysfunction in the person's internal reward mechanism that causes it to not turn off when he or she has had enough of the substance or behavior. Instead, the person continues to engage in behaviors or consume substances that feed the internal reward system, which leads to a "pathological pursuit of rewards."

Further muddying the waters is the fact that sex addiction and hypersexuality is sometimes a symptom of other mental health disorders. For example, increased sexual activity can occur during episodes of mania in a person suffering from bipolar disorder. It can also be caused by the consumption of certain drugs and alcohol. These substances lower a person's inhibitions, causing him or her to engage in uncharacteristic behaviors including increased sexual activity.

Despite the difficulty in defining sex addiction, people who are affected by this disorder can find help for the condition. For more information about treating sex addiction and to find a treatment center, call our safe, national helpline at 1-888-287-0471.


The terms nymphet and nymphomania are derived from the nymphs of Greek mythology. The nymphs were minor deities who were associated with nature and specific locations. Because they were often depicted as females who participated in sexual activity with men and women and were beyond the control of men, the term came to be used to refer to women who appeared to behave similarly.

Sex Addiction vs. Pornography Addiction

"Despite the fact that both involve sex to some degree, sex addiction and pornography addiction is not the same.Despite the fact that both involve sex to some degree, sex addiction and pornography addiction is not the same. Sex addiction involves actual sex and real people. Pornography addiction, however, is based entirely on the visual stimulation, or reward, gained from looking at nude photos and sex acts performed by others. In fact, many people who are heavily addicted to pornography are unable to be aroused by real men or women. Even those who are addicted to pornography to a mild degree report reduced sexual performance.

Pornography is also seen more as an impulse disorder on par with gambling addiction and kleptomania. Like sex addiction, there is no formal diagnosis of the disorder in the DSM-IV-TR. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often used to treat pornography. If you have an addiction to pornography, call our toll-free safe helpline at 1-888-287-0471 to find a treatment center near you.


Pornography is big business. In 2006 alone, the industry produced revenues in excess of $97 billion. Approximately $3,000 is spent every second on porn.

The Harmful Effects of Sex Addiction

"Sex addiction can cause a person to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior and make poor decisions. "The cause of sex addiction remains largely unknown, but it can have a negative effect on a person's life. Sex addiction can cause a person to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior and make poor decisions. For example, an addicted person may use an online classified ads website to find people to have sex with. This can expose the person to opportunistic criminals that use the service to find marks or victims.

Sex addiction and hypersexuality increase a person's risk for contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. Because inhibitions are lowered or the person's focus is elsewhere, he or she may not use protection, which also increases the chances for an unwanted pregnancy.

A person's self-esteem may be eroded by his or her addiction to sex, particularly if he or she must engage in harmful or humiliating behavior to obtain sex. The addiction can also ruin his or her relationships with others and interfere with his or her daily life.


It is believed that sex addiction may start in childhood or adolescence and is possibly the result of trauma experienced during that time. Approximately 60 percent of people addicted to sex report that they were sexually abused as children. People who grow up in hostile or neglectful homes are at an increased risk of developing a sex addiction because it is used as a form of escape or seen as a way to gain affection.

Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction

Some people who have high levels of sexual activity are not necessarily sex addicts. However, you may be addicted to sex if you exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Inability to resist the compulsion to have sex
  • Sex dominates your life and attention
  • Having sex takes priority over other responsibilities and obligations
  • Sex is used to self-soothe, self-medicate, or regulate your emotional life
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Engaging in harmful or dangerous behaviors to have sex
  • Diminished returns with each sexual encounter requiring an increase in intensity, frequency, or risk level to achieve the same emotional effect
  • Escalating to illegal activities to satisfy sexual urges such as prostitution, sexual harassment, rape, or molestation

Typically, sex addicts lose control over their behavior. They will continue to pursue sex despite the risks and negative consequences associated with their behavior. Left untreated, the condition progressively worsens and may lead the person to commit criminal or socially reprehensible acts.

The best thing a person with a sex addiction can do is get help at an addiction rehab facility. Our caring representatives can assist you with finding a rehab center that can help you overcome the addiction. Call our confidential helpline at 1-888-287-0471.


The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) estimates up to 5 percent of the population in the United States has a sexual compulsion disorder.

Help for Sex Addicts

The focus of treatment for sex addiction is on the controlling the impulse to have sex. This can be difficult because sex is an integral part of human life. Unless the person commits to complete abstinence, he or she will continue to engage in sexual activity. The goal, then, is to control the compulsion so that it does not continue to consume the person's life. A number of therapies may be used to help the person control his or her sexual urges including medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and education.

There are several medications that may be prescribed to help curb the impulse to have sex. Typically, these drugs are used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). One drug that may be prescribed is Prozac. This is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that acts on neurotransmitters. It is frequently prescribed to treat depression, but is also approved to treat bulimia, OCD, and panic disorder. Another drug that may be prescribed is Anafranil, which is also an antidepressant.

The other treatment options are counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Counseling is typically used to explore and correct the underlying cause of the addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works to help the person change his or her thoughts and behavior as well as provide the person with tools and techniques he or she can use to curb the impulse to have sex.

There are several 12-step programs designed to address the specific needs of sex addicts. These programs, which include Sexaholics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous, use the same principles found in other 12-step addiction programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narconon. However, the goal is not complete abstinence, but rather a return to healthy, normal sexual behavior. Participants attend regular meetings and must have a sponsor.

In addition to or in lieu of joining a 12-step program, the person may take part in group therapy. Typically, this involves six to 10 people and a professional therapist or counselor moderating the group. Since group therapy is confidential, it provides a safe place for people to share their experiences and to learn from the struggles of others. It is also an ideal setting for people who tend to rationalize or deny their addictions because the therapist and other members of the group will usually confront them about their behaviors.

One or all of these methods may be employed to help the person overcome a sex addiction. For more information about how sex addiction is treated, call our safe confidential hotline at 1-888-287-0471 or email us.

Sex Addiction Treatment Centers

There are numerous facilities around the world that treat sex addiction. Typically, they employ some of the same methods and strategies used to treat people with chemical dependencies. Finding a good rehab facility is essential to obtaining the best treatment for your condition. Here are some things to ask when looking for a sex addiction treatment program:

  • What is the program's success rate?
  • If you are being treated for other addictions, how much of the program will be focused on sex addiction?
  • How much and what kind of experience does the staff have with helping people who have an addiction to sex?
  • Will the program help you transition to a 12-step program or other aftercare services?
  • If you are married or have a committed partner, does the program offer couples' therapy?

There are a number of ways you can find a treatment center. The easiest way is to call our national service at 1-888-287-0471. We have information about thousands of rehab facilities across the country and can help you choose the best program for you. Our service is confidential and the call is toll-free.

Another option is to ask other people who have been treated for sex addiction where they obtained treatment. These are some of the best referrals you can receive because people you trust will generally present the good and the bad sides of the treatment program, which can help you make an informed decision. If no one in your social network has been treated for sex addiction and compulsion, then it may be helpful to find a 12-step program in your area and ask the members for assistance in finding a rehab center.

The Internet can also be a great tool for finding a treatment facility. A search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing can uncover lots of rehab centers in your local area. However, do your research and thoroughly investigate the centers to make sure they are reputable. While there are many great facilities that do a great job of helping people overcome their addictions, there are some centers that charge exorbitant fees and offer substandard care in return. To avoid being taken advantage of, look for reviews of the treatment facilities online and avoid the ones that have a lot of complaints.

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