What is Sex Addiction?

While sex addiction is not always recognized as such by medical professionals, it does exist and can be very dangerous. Sexual addiction is characterized by a person engaging in compulsive sexual behavior, regardless of any negative consequences. The behavior can range from exposing oneself to pornography or other sexual content to engaging in paraphilias like exhibitionism (exposing genitals), voyeurism, pedophilia (sexual feelings toward children) and sadomasochism (sexual pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation on others). These behaviors are often accompanied by a comorbid mental illness such as depression, anxiety or mood disorders.

Many people who suffer from sex addiction are unable to stop their behavior even when they know it is causing harm to their relationships, careers or health. They may feel powerless to change, and may blame themselves for their actions or express self-loathing and shame when confronted with their addiction. They spend a disproportionate amount of time searching for or engaging in sexual behavior, even secretly doing it when they are alone. They also engage in sexual activity with multiple partners and/or have extramarital affairs. Other symptoms of sex addiction include masturbating habitually or having obsessive thoughts about sex and pornography.

Psychiatry is the primary treatment for sex addiction. Therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help a sex addict discover and replace their unhealthy thought patterns with healthy ones. Medications, including mood stabilizers and antidepressants, can be helpful in controlling urges during recovery. A twelve-step program or other community support groups can also be a great resource for those in recovery.

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