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Is Sex Addiction Real?

Sexual addiction, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, nymphomania or hypersexual disorder, is a very real mental health issue and can take many different forms.

Some people with a sexual addiction become fixated on sex in general; others need to engage in increasingly risky, morally ambiguous and even illegal acts. While some sex addicts compulsively participate in sexual behaviors, for others the addiction has very little to do with sharing physical contact, and may manifest in an obsession with alternative means of sexual expression such as having cyber sex or watching pornography — an apparent cyber sex addiction or porn addiction is not an isolated disorder in itself but rather part of a larger problem of compulsive sexual behavior.

Like other addictions, compulsive sexual behavior is defined by an inability to control the addictive behavior even when it begins to have negative consequences on the addict’s life, by the need to continually increase the frequency and/or intensity of the addictive behavior in an attempt to yield the same satisfaction (although sex addicts may not actually gain pleasure from their behavior) and by the experience of withdrawal symptoms if the addictive behavior is limited or denied.

Symptoms of Sexual Addiction

The symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior can vary dramatically in type and severity from one addict to the next, but some common warning signs include:

  • Mental fixation on sex; inability to focus on other things, often to the point that work, family life and other personal relationships significantly suffer
  • Using sex as a means of avoiding real life or escaping feelings of depression
  • Need for increasingly exhibitionistic, voyeuristic or taboo sexual experiences
  • Habitual affairs outside of marriage or a committed relationship
  • Habitual casual and anonymous sexual relations, such as one-night stands
  • Consistent participation in virtual sex or use of phone-sex lines
  • Frequently watching pornography
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Hiring prostitutes

For a very small percentage of nymphomaniacs, their addiction escalates to much more morally reprehensible and illegal sexual behavior, such as stalking or pedophilia.

Options for Sex Addiction Treatment

Informational & Support Resources

Sexaholics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous: International support groups for compulsive sexual behavior — find literature or the meeting nearest you.

Canadian CSAT Listings: Listings by province/territory of Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs).

Not unlike some drug addicts and alcoholics, sexual addicts are often in denial about having a problem and tend to blame others for the addictive behavior, so if it is someone else and not yourself you are worried might be suffering from a sexual addiction, it can be difficult to convince them to seek treatment if they are not self-motivated. In extreme cases, an intervention may be required.

Seeing a sex addiction therapist is an excellent treatment option. This kind of therapist specializes in the modification of addictive behaviors. They can also assess whether there is an underlying mental condition, such as depression, that needs to be treated concurrently with the compulsive sexual behavior, and whether couple’s or family therapy as well as individual sessions might be needed to improve those relationships and try to repair the damage the addictive behavior has caused. In some cases the therapist might also prescribe medication to help curb symptoms.

In addition, anonymous groups like SA and SAA offer a network of support to complement other forms of therapy.

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