My sex addiction

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Last Updated: 08/30/2022

8 Signs to Look For

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 02, 2020

In this Article

  • What is a Sex Addict?
  • Signs of a Sex Addict
  • Treating Sexual Addiction

What is a Sex Addict?

Sex addiction is defined as a lack of control over sexual thoughts, urges, and impulses. While sexual impulses are natural, sex addiction only refers to behaviors that are done in excess and significantly impact one’s life in a negative way. 

Although sex addiction isn’t listed as a diagnosable condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), research indicates that excess sexual behavior can develop, like a chemical addiction.

A person with sex addiction may have a compulsive need to be sexually stimulated. This desire often interferes with their ability to live their daily life. Sexual addictions can come in many different forms, including addiction to: 

  • Sexual acts
  • Prostitution
  • Watching or consuming pornography
  • Masturbation or sexual fantasy 
  • Exhibition or voyeurism

Sex addicts may alter their activities to perform sexual acts persistently, unable to control their behavior despite any consequences. 

This compulsive sexual behavior can have serious personal consequences. Like drug or alcohol addiction, sex addiction can impact physical health, mental health, personal relationships, and quality of life. 

Signs of a Sex Addict

Sexual addiction can manifest itself in many different ways, both physical and emotional. It takes a healthcare professional to make a clear diagnosis, but here are some signs that can point to a potential sex addiction:

Obsessive Sexual Thoughts 

Someone dealing with sex addiction may find themselves thinking persistently about sex. These chronic thoughts of sex or sexual fantasies may become obsessive or interfere with other responsibilities. 

Spending Excessive Time on Sex

While seeking out sexual partners isn’t necessarily a sign of sexual addiction, if someone is spending excessive amounts of time and energy on sex, it might be a red flag. This can include spending time attempting to acquire sex, having sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences.

Feeling Shame or Depression 

If a need for sex crosses over into an addiction, someone’s sexual feelings might also be interspersed with feelings of anxiety, shame, depression, or regret. The individual may feel shame about their sexual urges and their difficulty controlling those urges. 

They may even show signs of clinical depression or suicide ideation. Research shows that it isn't uncommon for people who are sexually compulsive to also show signs of depression, anxiety, and social anxiety. One study found that, among sexually compulsive men, 28% showed signs of depression, compared to 12% of the general population. 

Excluding Other Activities

A sex addict may fixate on sex to the point where they have difficulty engaging in their other activities. They may fall behind on responsibilities in school, work, or their personal lives or become socially withdrawn. They may also prioritize sexual behavior over other forms of relaxation or hobbies. Relationships with friends, families, and partners may suffer because of this. 

Masturbating Excessively 

While masturbation can be a healthy way to explore sexuality and express sexual drive, excessive masturbation can be a sign of sexual addiction. This might look like compulsive masturbation, masturbation during inappropriate times, or even masturbation to the point of causing physical discomfort or pain. 

Engaging in Risky or Inappropriate Behaviors 

In some cases, sexual addiction can lead to inappropriate and/or risky sexual behaviors. This can include exhibitionism, public sex, sex without protection, and sex with prostitutes. 

In some cases, this can lead someone to develop sexually transmitted diseases. Studies have shown that those who identify as sexually compulsive are more likely to develop sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. 

Cheating on Partners 

Someone with a sexual addiction may feel compelled to seek out sex with new partners, even if this means cheating on a partner or having an extramarital affair. They may seek out one-night stands on a regular basis or even cheat multiple times with different partners. 

Committing Criminal Sex Offenses 

In some extreme cases, people may engage in criminal activities like stalking, rape, or child molestation. While some sexual offenders may also be sex addicts, there is no evidence that sexual addiction can lead someone to commit sexual offenses. 

Treating Sexual Addiction

Can a sex addict change? Yes, although it may require treatment from a medical professional like a psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist.  

Depending on the underlying cause and how it manifests in someone’s personal life, treatment may vary. If the sex addiction presents alongside another underlying anxiety disorder or mood disorder, the treatment plan may also include medications.

Forms of treatment can include: 

  • One-on-one therapy with a mental health professional
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 
  •  Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) 
  • Psychodynamic therapy 
  • Group therapy 
  • Support groups
  • Inpatient treatment 
  • Couples counseling or marriage counseling 

Is there a sexual addiction? Sex addicts and a psychologist discuss

Afisha Daily talked to a man and a woman who believe they suffer from sex addiction and asked a sexologist to dispel the myths around this phenomenon.

Irina, 31 years old

Medical analyst

About awareness

At the age of 13, I began to be very interested in sex — I thought it was the same with everyone. Then there were a lot of books for girls, where they wrote about the first time and about how it should be. In these books they never said (and I specifically looked for) what to do if you really want to, but there is no one to do it with. Then I thought that something was probably wrong with me, since there was no answer to my question.

Public attitudes still influenced me. For example, I decided to keep my virginity until a certain point. Because of this, I refused vaginal sex and settled for other forms of sex. The first erotic experiences were even before I was 14. I had 4-5 guys a year, and with all of them I did petting and oral sex. I didn’t do much masturbation, and I still don’t know how to do it very well. At 15, I lost my virginity with my first love.


My mother caught me with a boyfriend when I was 15. I never talked to her about my peculiarities, but I think she guesses. One day she said a phrase from which it became clear: she is aware that I constantly need a partner.

There were sometimes problems at school because of my relationships with boys. One day my good friend, with whom we had sex, got drunk and started telling his friends how much fun he had with me. And we have a small town, rumors spread quickly. This resulted in a small scandal: my reputation suffered, and I was terribly offended by a friend - we never talked again.

There were some rumors. But I am an honest, clean person. I won't take anyone away. I don’t understand why take a husband or boyfriend away: there are a lot of free ones. And in my university, everyone had their oddities. My girlfriends did not understand me, because they were mostly virgins, but they treated me calmly.

My mother was most afraid that I would become pregnant, and this happened in my second year. She thought that I would leave the institute, but this did not happen, I finished my studies. We got married, among other things, in order to reassure our parents. The first year after the birth of the child, there was no strong desire, but then everything became as before. The marriage broke up after a few years, but not because of sex. I just felt like I outgrew that relationship.

At that time, twice a week was enough for me. It seems to me that this is an average, especially when you are 20 years old and you have a regular partner. But without those two times a week, I really couldn't function properly. After about a week without sex, obsessive thoughts appeared, aggression increased. From age 14 to 25, my longest break was one month. After three weeks of abstinence, my hands began to shake, I had big problems with sleep and food. I don't know for sure because I don't have any other dependencies, but I think it looks like a break. I climbed the wall. By the end of the month, I was not human.

I always realized that this was a problem, because this feature had to be constantly adjusted: like, for example, if we need to eat, we need to get food somewhere. When I needed to move to another city, I really tensed up: how come, I don’t have anyone there, so I urgently need to find someone, otherwise I won’t be able to function normally. You need to think about this all the time: you need to have a partner all the time, and if you don’t have one, you need to look for it.

Often I had several constant lovers: someone came once a week, and someone came twice. I did not seek sexual contact with different people - it was more of a necessity, because I need more sex than others. To be honest, even then I would gladly have one. I would not say that in my life there were just a huge number of partners: maybe 30. I have been with the same man for eight years now.

All lovers were aware that this was not an exclusive relationship. I can't lie and invent. Moreover, it was so difficult to build all this logistics: for example, no one can come this week, but everyone can come the next. One night stands were common, but I never liked putting in so much effort for one night. Especially since the first time is usually not the best.

The main problem is that my behavior was very different from what people expect from a woman. They expect you to break down, so you need to take care of it. But with me it's the other way around: first give me sex, and then courtship. I couldn't wait a month to be invited on a date. I took the bull by the horns, and many were frightened. I said that if you can't come twice a week, I need someone else. If my partner and I, for example, lived together, he simply knew that it was impossible to leave me for a long time. For two weeks it is possible, but more than three is quite heroism on my part.

One day after my divorce from my first husband, I didn't have sex for a week or two. I was riding the subway and saw a young man that I liked. I didn’t even ask his name, but simply said: “Do you want to come home to me?” He said: "I want." I brought him to me. We had sex, he left - and that's it.

Partners were from work, school, bars and nightclubs. I don’t understand at all why go to nightclubs if you don’t go out with someone. It seemed to me that this was a continuation of the night. What is the point of going there, suffering, staying up all night and leaving alone?

About the difference between men and women

Addiction gave me the ability to understand men better than my girlfriends, who say: “If she loves, let her wait six months” - or something like that. I know some people just can't wait.

There are no people with sexual addiction among my acquaintances. As a teenager, I thought that others were the same as me, especially guys. At first it seemed to me that all men should always want sex, and someone can just restrain himself so as not to cheat on his wife. It turned out that many men in general very rarely need sex - about once a month. They show on TV that men always want sex. It's probably hard for them to live with it.

I had one semi-erotic experience with a girl I liked, but it didn't go any further. I realized that everything is very difficult with women. First, it was not clear whether she wanted to continue or not. Everything is easy with men, and most importantly, they almost always like it. After that, I greatly respected my men. It seemed to me that they were doing a difficult job that I could not do.

On the one hand, it is difficult for a woman with sexual addiction, because society denies the existence of such women in principle. There is a feeling that you live in a gray field. On the other hand, a man with a sexual addiction needs to make efforts to satisfy his needs: pay money, lie, buy something. A woman, especially a young one, is easier in this sense. Went out and took it. And rarely does anyone refuse.

Perhaps there is no addiction now, because I feel good with my husband. Before, especially in my teens, it was difficult for me to achieve an orgasm. The partner really had to try for this. Although if there was no orgasm in sex, it was still valuable to me, because it relieved some of the tension.

Aleksey, 30 years old


About addiction and partners

In my youth, there were not very many sexual partners (by partners, I mean girls), so I did not pay attention to my peculiarity. I had a serious relationship twice, which lasted almost ten years in total. They came to an end primarily because the partners were much less interested in sex than I was. I can't approach sex mechanically when I just twitched and that's it. And the partners were very often ready to have sex, because I needed it. It did not suit me at all, because the emotional component was absent.

When I was in a long-term relationship, I could have sex with one of my girlfriends. It is important for me to know a person - probably, this is largely about safety. I can only speak of sex with a stranger from the subway as an abstract fantasy. When you can open up to a person and engage in all sorts of harmless perversions with him, the level of trust rises, you reach a more intimate level of communication. This is why I have sex.

A little less than six months ago, I had a permanent partner, with whom we, fortunately, coincided. We can have sex three or four times a day. The only problem is that then there is not enough time for anything. I think the acute phase of addiction is still going on for me. Sometimes, when we go home, I can masturbate five more times while watching porn.

In total, I had about 40 or 50 partners - I honestly lost count when there were about 20. Of course, I often need new people, but I prefer to go in the direction of quality, because over time and I open up, and people open up. They say that many women do not experience orgasm during sex, but in my experience, very many are capable of even squirting. For most partners, I was the first person they felt it with. But this never happens for the first time and even in the first week of sexual relations.


My job depends on being able to get people to buy a product. We create quite expensive products, and they take a lot of time, inspiration and involvement are required in production. But when sexual desire is a priority, the work gets up. Instead of doing it, you sit all the time on dating sites, watch pornography, go on dates. In fact, sex is very labor-intensive and time-consuming. If you do not have a permanent partner and you need a lot of sex, it can take almost all the time to search. Also, when you work with your peers, you begin to perceive them as sexual objects. In some cases, this was not very convenient.

Unfortunately, I asked for help. It is very difficult to find a good specialist: in Moscow they are terribly expensive - and as a result, I found a psychologist from a large provincial city, with whom we communicated via Skype. It was a bad experience: I got the impression that she had a very poor understanding of what I was talking about. After a couple of months of work, we did not come to anything.

Most of the information I got from books: it was useful at least in order to direct my own energy in a creative direction. I can’t say that I have solved all my problems: I still spend a lot of time on sex and little on work. What I'm most interested in is how to connect my own sexuality, which takes up a good half of me, with the rest of me, which has to earn money and establish business connections. I don't know the answer to this question yet.

Too much sex can lead to inflammation of the prostate and other consequences. I don't know if everything is fine with me in this regard. It would be worth going to the doctor. But I am regularly tested for HIV and hepatitis; and STDs should be checked more often. When there is no permanent partner, I make sure to check in about once every three months. I use a condom with a non-permanent partner, but not with a regular one.

I think it doesn't matter what society thinks. If one of my acquaintances found out about my features and began to say something negative, I would not care. I myself can name ten reasons why I don't like it. If they are stupid enough not to understand and accept me, that is their problem. But at the same time, I do not stick out my sexual side and do not connect it with everyday life: what happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom.

I almost never talked about sex with men, so I can only talk about the behavior of women. According to my observations, if a girl has a bright sexuality, she turns on only when the girl is in love. And when she is not in love, her libido drops to almost zero. One of my acquaintances is married for a long time, and she and her husband have almost no sex, but when she falls in love (and she fell in love with me, for example), it can turn into five times a day.

About the reasons

I have no answer to the question why I am like this. My biggest problem is not that I need a lot of sex, but that I am obsessed with group sex. Even if I have sex with one person, I still have fantasies about the fact that he is not alone. It turns me on, and for partners it means that I don’t really appreciate the relationship. At the same time, I am not interested in group sex without a permanent partner - for me this is a joint adventure, team building, so to speak. But in fact, it is very difficult to find even a third partner (and I would rather like it to be a man). It is necessary that both me and the partner like the person, and that we all coincide. I had group sex, but it was all far from being satisfied. Now I want to close this gestalt and stop thinking about it.

I am sure that there are practically no people who would meet all the standards. Probably, some deviations are accompanied by hypersexuality, some - complete asexuality, which I also met. I can't say what I have. Maybe just curiosity and a desire to explore. For sure, I can only say that it entails, I like it and I just can't stop. It's probably like with drugs.

If you have frequent sex, have many sexual partners outside of relationships, love sex, if you are polyamorous, if you are attracted to people of the same sex, fetishes, domination and submission - this does not mean that you have a sexual addiction. Just like drinking and enjoying alcohol does not make you an alcoholic.

If you or your partner don't like something about your sexual behavior, that doesn't make you a sex addict either. Also, one should not confuse people who commit sexual crimes with people who are sexually addicted. The latter, in the overwhelming majority of cases, enter into a voluntary and not prohibited by law relationship.

You can talk about sex addiction when you can't stop, when it goes on for a long time, and your life starts to fall apart. When it negatively affects work, family relationships, health, when you become infected with sexually transmitted diseases and infect others. In general, when you experience repeated intense experiences associated with sexual fantasies, impulses, urges, and behaviors that cause distress and psychosocial problems.

Typical signs of sexual addiction include constant porn viewing (with or without masturbation), frequent sex with new partners (when contacts are anonymous and for one night only), sexting, hours of texting with partners, excessive use of dating apps, including special applications for fast sex. Often, sex addicts lead a kind of double life, hide their connections, feel shame for their behavior and are afraid of exposure. Sexual fantasies, finding a partner, and having sex take up a disproportionate amount of their time. They experience incredible excitement from anticipation, search, seduction, but sex brings only short relief. At the same time, the person again and again promises himself to stop, but he cannot and, as if in a fog, finds himself in a situation that he avoided.

It is considered a problem when these or more of these signs have been observed for at least six months, and the person in question is over 18 years old.

Contrary to popular belief, sex addicts are not perverts and degraded people. These are ordinary people that we meet every day. Many of them grew up in an unstable family, lived next to relatives with mental disorders or alcoholism, where they did not have the experience of secure attachment. Some have been sexually abused, traumatized. Some sex addicts were raised by a narcissistic parent who gave warmth and approval only when the child did what the parent wanted. The child did not get the experience of intimacy and grew up without learning how to satisfy his needs within the framework of close relationships, where a person shows his vulnerability and healthy dependence on a partner. Unaccustomed to intimacy, comfort, trust and security, they derive satisfaction from intense emotions, including those associated with sex. Today, many therapists view such behavior as coping, that is, helping people cope with negative emotions. This pattern of behavior works, relieves tension for a while, but that is why it is so difficult to get rid of it.

In Russia and the rest of the world, ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision. - Note ed. ) is now used. It has a category F52.7 - increased sexual desire. My experience with fellow sexologists shows that they are not inclined to make this diagnosis. They code it according to the leading symptomatology, often in the categories of mood disorders, personality disorders, or sexual deviations.

The prevalence of sexual dependence disorders is 3-6%, although no large epidemiological studies have been conducted. Most sex addicts are men. The onset of the disorder usually occurs in late adolescence. Perhaps the lower number of women in the studies is due to stigma and cultural characteristics that lead them to withhold information.

Treatment of the disorder is difficult due to lack of research in this area. It usually requires a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. In my practice, I rarely meet with people who turn to me specifically in connection with sexual addiction. Usually, a pre-divorce situation or an increase in anxiety symptoms, depression due to the loss of a partner - that is, some kind of crisis - lead to people's therapy. And only then we discover that there is a sexual addiction.

The editors would like to thank Elena Rydkina and Daria Sargsyan for their help in preparing the material.

The names of the heroes of the material have been changed.

"Five times a day was not enough for me." Should sex addiction be treated?

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Image caption

Rebecca Barker admits her sex addiction ruined her life

Can sex addiction be considered a disorder? Experts have different opinions on this matter, some psychologists believe that people experiencing such problems should be provided with free help within the framework of the National Health System.

Two sexaholics talk about their personal, difficult experiences.

"In the worst days, even having sex five times a day wasn't enough," says 37-year-old mother-of-three Rebecca Barker, talking about her irresistible sex drive that destroyed her relationship with a loved one four years ago.

This addiction forced her to constantly demand sex from her then common-law husband.

"It was literally the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning, it was completely haunting," says Rebecca. lack of serotonin. It was like my whole body was craving just that. "

"Sex gave me strength for a moment, but five minutes later I began to feel like it again. I became a recluse. I stayed at home because I was ashamed that this was all I thought about. And even though no one couldn't read my mind, I felt awkward in the company," the woman continues. 9Rebecca Barker that at first he was pleased with her increased attention, in the end they parted.

"At first he was okay with it, but towards the end he couldn't understand me at all. After a few months he began to ask questions about why and where did it all come from? He accused me of having an affair with someone "He thought I must be feeling guilty and that's why I want to have sex with him," says Barker.

In November 2014, Rebecca decided to take a break from her relationship and moved in with her mother for a while.

  • Sex and pain: stories of women who live without intimacy
  • "Sex has always hurt me"

"Before I left, I told him that I needed to rest. He let me go, but after that our relationship ended pretty quickly. I already went to a psychiatrist at that point, and she kept saying that she could offer me another medicine, but she never said that there were support groups or something like that, "says Rebecca.

Rebecca was diagnosed with depression in 2012 after the birth of her third child. After she became worse in 2014 and her sexual addiction developed, she changed jobs, broke up with her common-law husband and moved to live in France.

"I changed my life to fight my depression and addiction, and it worked for me," she admits.

Image copyright Getty Images

Sex addicts should receive free psychological help through the National Health System.

Relate, the UK's largest charitable organization that provides psychological assistance to married couples, is calling for this.

What is sex addiction ?

Image copyright Getty Images

  • Relate defines sex addiction as "sexual activity of any kind that is out of control" .
  • Number of sex psychologists in the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Obsessive Disorders (ATSAC) psychological service doubled in the last five years to 170 people .
  • According to a questionnaire that has been completed since 2013 by 21,058 people on a website that provides help for sex addiction, 91% of those who need help are men .
  • Of these , the largest group is 31% male aged 26-35 , 1% is under 16, and 8% is over 55.
  • Expected May 2019 The World Health Organization (WHO) will approve the inclusion of "sexually motivated obsessive-compulsive disorder" in the new edition of its International Classification of Diseases handbook.
  • UK National Health Service experts disagree on whether sex addiction is a disorder and do not currently provide psychological support on this issue, redirecting patients to the charity Relate.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption

Graham says talking to his wife brought him relief

Paying for sex

Graham - who asked to change his name - admits that his sexual obsession led to that he began to cheat on his wife with "hundred" prostitutes, which in turn caused him a heartbreaking sense of guilt.

"When you have such a full-blown addiction, then you only think about it, from morning to evening. It was terrible, disgusting even - there was nothing "sexual" about it. When you wake up in the morning with a bouquet of chlamydia, there is nothing pleasant not in this. It brought great harm, it destroyed life," he says.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

Medical experts disagree on whether sex addiction is a disorder

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Graham, now in his sixties, says he spent hundreds of pounds a month on sex for several years; he even developed relationships with several women who provided him with sexual services.

"What started with one romance at work led to another, but unlike most office romances, mine did not stem from the fact that one of the participants was not happily married, mine stemmed from an addiction that I I had to feed every day,” he explains.

"First you have one affair, and then you want more and more. I soon realized that the fastest and most convenient way for me to satisfy my addiction was to pay for sex. I dated sex workers and girls from escort agencies services, three to four times a week," continues Graham.

"It's like being an alcoholic; you have a whole cycle in your head: you already feel high just thinking about how it will happen, and then you bring it all to life. And then, when everything over, you feel regret, you promise yourself that you will never do it again," the man admits.

"Sexaholics Anonymous"

Graham ended this terrible double life when his wife discovered his e-mail with a certain content and demanded an explanation from him.

Then he sought help from Sexaholics Anonymous (SAA), which has 78 support groups across the UK, and has been able to abstain from side sex for several years now.

"When all this came to light, I remember thinking, 'God, now maybe something will change!' virtue. "It's such a relief to attend support group meetings and realize that there are other people who are in the same terrible state as you are," Graham admits.

"I want to say to people in this situation that there is a way out, and you can break out of this vicious circle," he says.

Image copyright Getty Images

Relate psychologist Peter Saddington says there are psychotherapy and group sessions for sexaholics, but mostly in private.

Learn more