Are you addicted to sex? Is too much of a good thing too much? It depends.
Having sexual desires is normal and healthy, but for some people, sex can become an unhealthy part of their lives when they develop a fixation on it. Compulsive sexual behavior can lead to sexual addiction. But how many people are dealing with sexual addiction?
It’s estimated that between six and eight percent of adults have a sexual addiction. It should be noted that due to anonymity and the guilt and shame associated with sexual addiction, reported statistics on sexual addiction are likely lower than actual cases. The number of people suffering from sexual addiction is estimated to be as high as 24 million people.
Compulsive sexual behavior can cause problems in your everyday life and, like many disorders, can become a part of your life that lacks balance. Compulsive behaviors can manifest themselves in other types of addictive disorders, such as eating disorders and even substance abuse disorders.
Some argue that sex addiction isn’t real. Although hypersexual disorder (HD) has been debated, discussed, and even proposed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), sexual addiction is not listed as one of the diagnosable conditions.
However, research tells a different story and shows that unhealthy and excessive sexual behavior can cause an unhealthy relationship with sex and is very similar to chemical addiction. The addictive behavior can build, similar to someone with a substance abuse disorder. Sex addiction is real — and can cause real problems for someone suffering from it.
Let’s quickly cover the terms used to describe sexual addiction.
Sexual Addiction — Know The Terminology
Although the term “sexual addiction” is the most common way unhealthy sexual behavior is referred to, other terms can be used by health professionals when describing a sexual addiction. You may have heard some of these terms before. This terminology refers to the same thing — sexual addiction:
Compulsive sexual behavior
Problematic sexual behavior
Some people simply have a high sex drive and are admittedly very drawn to sexual experiences, but that doesn’t mean that they have a sexual addiction. Having sexual thoughts and sexual urges is normal, and sexuality is part of our health and overall well-being. So, how do you know if you’ve crossed over into having a sexual addiction?
Keep reading to learn some of the signs of sex addiction. Some of them may surprise you!
Eight Signs of a Sexual Addiction
1. Using Sex as a Way To Cope
Sometimes people turn to substances as a way to cope with the stress of everyday life. This can be drug abuse, other types of substance abuse, gambling, or sexual activities. Using sex as a distraction for coping with everyday life or to avoid your real life can become a problem — especially when you don’t develop healthy coping strategies.
Sex, as a primary coping mechanism, is an unhealthy way to deal with stress, and it can quickly become habit-forming. If sex is your go-to coping mechanism when life gets rough, you may be at risk for developing a sex addiction.
2. Needing More Sex To Feel Satisfied
After a great sexual experience, do you bask in the moment and, soon after, find yourself wanting more? Have you started to constantly seek elevated sexual experiences? Let’s face it — sexual experiences can be on the spectrum of good to mind-blowing. It’s normal for sexual satisfaction to wax and wane — even with the same partner.
But if your sex life consistently leaves you wanting to take it to the next level and you never feel satisfied, you may have a sexual addiction.
3. Feelings of Guilt and Shame
Sex can be, and should be, a pleasurable experience that provides feelings of joy, happiness, and even euphoria. Thanks to a surge of dopamine, sex can feel like a natural high.
Do your sexual thoughts, experiences, and sexual activities leave you with feelings of guilt or shame? If you feel emotions such as depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, or you’re remorseful after sexual encounters, sexual acts, or sexual thoughts, you may have an addiction to sex.
4. Detaching Emotionally From Your Partner
You’re having a romantic night with your partner, and the evening leads to a hot sexual encounter. Sex can be a great way to bond with your romantic partner, but instead, you find yourself going through the motions, detached, unemotional, and robotic.
You may be engaged in the act of sex, but you are detached from your partner in a faraway place in your mind. You may even be engaging in extramarital affairs. If sex has become an activity, and your partner’s needs have become unimportant to you, take a moment to reflect.
This is one of many ways you may be detaching from your partner because of a tendency to sexual addiction. It may be time to reevaluate your relationship with sex — and your partner. Are you developing a problem with sexual addiction?
Keep reading to learn about additional signs that may be a red flag for sexual addiction.
5. Health Consequences
One night of unprotected sex isn’t smart, but it doesn’t make you a sex addict. However, if you disregard the health consequences associated with your sexual activity, such as contracting STDs, and continue risky sexual behavior anyways, you may be addicted.
Take precautions and act responsibly when it comes to sex; this will help to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and keep you and your partner safe. If you continue your sexual behavior despite negative consequences and have no regard for the health consequences of risky sex, this could be a red flag for addiction.
6. Excessive Masturbation
Let’s face it — masturbation is the epitome of safe sex. You can’t get pregnant from masturbating and won’t catch an STD. Masturbating is a healthy stress relief that some view as self-care.
Masturbation, just like sexual intercourse, can release dopamine when you orgasm and gives that feel-good effect similar to being high. Amazing, right?
However, if the frequency of masturbation has increased a lot, if you cancel plans so you can masturbate, and if you’d rather masturbate than be with a partner, you may be exhibiting a lack of impulse control and developing a sexual addiction. Compulsive masturbation can interfere with your everyday life and cause problems in your relationships, with others — and even with yourself.
7. Obsessive Behaviors With Sex
Do you find that you can’t get sex off of your mind? It’s natural to get excited about a hot date coming up or even daydream about a sexual fantasy while you're at work, but if thoughts about sex flood your brain and keep you distracted from who you’re with or what you’re doing, you may have an obsession with sex.
Being preoccupied with sexual thoughts can often be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with sex. Be self-aware, as you may be developing a sexual addiction.
8. Causes Problems With Personal Relationships
If your compulsive sexual behavior impacts your personal relationships, you may have a problem brewing with sex. This could be treating your romantic partner differently, ignoring them, or ditching plans with friends because you’d rather be home with your pornography.
If your social life is being impacted, or your relationship with your partner has changed, and you’ve progressively spent more time viewing pornography, or another sexual activity, stop and take a look at how and where you’re spending time. You may be the root cause of dysfunction in your romantic relationship due to your sex addiction.
Potential Causes of Sexual Addiction
Some people have addictive personalities, but when it comes to sex addiction, it’s unclear exactly why some people develop a sexual addiction and others don’t. Still, there are many theories about what plays a role in sex addiction.
Studies are being done to learn more, and a few factors are noted:
Underlying mental health issues
Accessibility to pornography
Underlying Mental Health Issues
The World Health Organization classifies sex addiction as a mental health disorder affecting men more than women. If you have an addictive personality, you may be at risk for many types of addictions. In many cases, a mental health disorder is present in people who suffer from hypersexuality.
In fact, 88 percent of people with sexual addiction have a mental health issue of some kind. This can be anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, ADHD, or a personality disorder. Although not always the case, it’s possible that an undiagnosed mental health disorder has led to sexual addiction.
Accessibility to Pornography
Potentially contributing to sexual addiction is the accessibility of sex via the Internet. Pornography is easy to access, to watch — one needs to simply log on, and a few clicks will get you a front-row seat to a steamy romp. It can be innocent enough until it’s not.
You may be reading this and have identified a tipping point that turned your sexual activities from a habit to an addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from sexual addiction, there is hope for you, and you can recover and manage a sexual addiction, just like any other addiction.
Substance use may play a role in sexual addiction; people who engage in substance abuse may have a higher risk of developing a sexual addiction. Substances such as cocaine, alcohol, or amphetamines could contribute to sexual behavior that leads to sexual addiction.
Recovering From Sexual Addiction
If you or a loved one are suffering from sexual addiction, you can restore your happiness and wellness and get support through addiction treatment that could include inpatient therapy or outpatient therapy.
Other treatment program options include seeking a mental health professional for cognitive behavioral therapy and possibly group therapy. You can also consider joining a support group, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous.
It can be difficult to get support from family members for sexual addiction, and some people opt to seek help through an addiction app. Many have joined Sober Sidekick, an app that provides support for many types of addictions, including sexual addiction. The app includes:
24/7 support for addiction
On-demand community support
Over 180,000 members
The app is free, and you can download it on your phone and start connecting today to people just like you who want to quit their sexual addiction and improve their quality of life and their relationships.