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Sex Addiction: Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Sex addiction, or sometimes called hyper-sexuality, hypersexual disorder, or nymphomania, is an obsession with sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors. This obsession, in the majority of cases, can cause distress and negatively affect all parts of life, including health, job, and relationships.

Sex addicts have difficulties controlling or postponing their sexual feelings and actions, leading to little or no attachment to their sexual partners and insincere intimacy. Sadly, the addictive pursuit of sex becomes more essential than personal health, safety, and family.

Although some sex addicts do not advance beyond compulsive masturbation or extensive use of pornography, others progress into more criminal activities including voyeurism, child molestation, and rape.

Regardless of the exact nature of the behavior, untreated sexual addiction can lower the individual’s self-esteem, damage their relationships, and put an end to their career.


Types of Sex Addiction

Although there are no well-defined categories, sexual addictions can come in various forms, including:

Compulsive masturbation

– an urge to masturbate continuously, with or without using pornography that can affect the quality of life. Compulsive masturbation can be the result of an underlying medical condition such as bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, impulse control disorder, as well as brain injury, medication side effects, and use of methamphetamine. Furthermore, excessive masturbation may alternatively be a symptom of sexual abuse.

Multiple affairs

– while many affairs happen as a consequence of relational dissatisfaction, they also happen as a result of personal dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. Addicts are attracted to the high release of sexual orgasm. It can also result in feelings of shame and worthlessness.

Anonymous sex

– anonymous sex is among the highest-risk sexual activities since the sexual history of both partners is unknown to the other.

Compulsive use of pornography

– this indicates that the individual has lost control over regulating activities of daily living. People suffering from compulsive use of pornography find it very hard to stop using pornography even if faced with divorce or jail. Addicted people often feel depressed, ashamed, guilty or remorseful. This behavior can seldom change without treatment.

Unsafe sex

– unprotected sex carries the greatest risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.


– cybersex is often classified as an addictive behavior, associated with Internet addiction and sexual addiction. Although not an officially recognized disorder, cybersex can sometimes indicate psychological problems.


– a mental disorder characterized by a compulsion to display one’s genitals to a non-consenting stranger, with no intention of further sexual activity. In some cases, the exhibitionist masturbates while exposing himself. 


– a sexual interest in spying on someone that is engaged in intimate behaviors. Voyeurism is a psychosexual disorder characterized by abnormal sexual activity. In some states, this act is a crime, but laws and statutes can vary from state to state.

Prostitution or use of prostitutes

– many sex addicts frequently hire prostitutes for one-night stands. Although they believe their behavior is morally wrong yet they’re unable to stop. Furthermore, sexual addiction can sometimes lead to prostitution. Out of one hundred and thirty prostitutes who were interviewed in San Francisco, 57% reported that they had been sexually assaulted as children and 49% reported that they had been physically assaulted as children. 

It is vital to note that not all sex addicts become sex offenders. In addition, not all sex offenders are sex addicts. However, roughly 71% of child molesters are sex addicts who act out of a disturbed need for power, dominance, as well as control, or revenge.



Sexual addiction symptoms vary in type and severity. Some of the most commonly found symptoms include:

  • Intense sexual impulses that are out of control
  • Not finding pleasure or satisfaction in the activity
  • Using sexual addiction as an escape from other problems such as loneliness, depression and anxiety
  • Continuing to engage in sexual behaviors that have serious consequences like getting or giving a STD, loss of a relationship, or legal problems
  • Having trouble maintaining emotional closeness

Moreover, some of the warning signs of sexual addiction are:

  • Lying about sexual activities
  • Engaging in the practice of voyeurism or exhibitionism
  • Legal or career problems
  • Having sex at inappropriate times and places
  • Feeling uncomfortable about masturbation because of the frequency, props used, or places where one masturbates
  • Having sex with someone you don’t find sexually desirable
  • Be convinced that sex makes life bearable
  • Having sex to try to escape life’s problems
  • Inability to concentrate on other areas of life
  • Obsessing about a specific sexual act
  • Losing count of sexual partners
  • Lack of dignity and wholeness
  • Feeling an increase in the emotional pain in your life
  • Feeling desperate about a sexual fix
  • Uneasiness when away from your sexual partner
  • Find no meaning in life with no sex
  • Feeling your sexual addiction affects tour personal and spiritual life in a negative way
  • Being in a relationship you feel you can’t leave

Furthermore, sexual addictions can have profound psychological effects, including, but not limited to:

  • Shame
  • Inadequacy
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Obsessive-compulsive type symptoms
  • Problems with impulse control and emotion dysregulation


Possible Causes of Sexual Addiction

  1. Biochemical imbalances – sexual addictions can sometimes appear due to imbalances in specific chemicals known as neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. The high levels of these chemicals can cause the powerful feeling of euphoria that one experiences during sexual activity. 
  2. Medical conditions – certain medical conditions can play a vital role in sexual addiction. There conditions that damage the brain include Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and dementia.
  3. Hormones – sex hormones called androgens can affect libido and enhance an individual’s sexual addiction. Some of the medications that affect hormones are often used in the treatment of sexual addiction. These anti-androgens decrease sexual urges and help with the sexual obsession.
  4. Genetics – a number of genes also might affect the development of sexual addiction. This genetic predisposition can make some individuals more vulnerable to addictive behaviors.
  5. Childhood trauma – multiple researches show that a high percentage of individuals suffering from sexual addiction have been abused during childhood.
  6. Family history – dysfunctional families are often a common factor of sexual addiction. A majority of sex addicts have parents who were emotionally unavailable, uncaring, or battled with substance abuse.


In order to avoid job loss, health crisis, or a partner leaving, sex addicts must seek treatment. Experts have developed a number of treatment options including participating in counseling or an outpatient program. However, many find that the best way to commit to sexual sobriety is by enrolling into a residential sex addiction treatment center.

Here, patients receive 24/7 support and a full range of therapies to treat their addiction. The objectives of the treatment centers are developing healthy sexuality, rebuilding relationships, as well as stress management, and a short-term commitment to abstinence.

Various treatments may follow the 12-step model that is developed for those struggling with substance abuse disorders and focuses on use of sex, self-judgement, and avoidance behaviors. Whether the rehabilitation center focuses on the 12-step or the non-12 step model, patients here are provides with a safe and healing environment where they can share their struggles without the fear of being judged or criticized. All patients are taken care of a multidisciplinary team that can professionally address trauma, neglect, attachment issues, and other underlying issues of sex addiction.

Furthermore, approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help remove any unwanted thought patterns that contribute to the sexual addiction. Family and couples therapy can also be helpful during the recovery process. Treatment always begins with a detailed biopsychological assessment that can help in the creation of individual treatment plans. These individual plans will address the full spectrum of issues that may be present apart from sexual addiction, including substance abuse, eating disorders, and other co-occurring mental disorders.

For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.

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