What defines a sex addict

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 

Sex Addiction: Symptoms, Treatment, and Outlook

What is sex addiction?

Considerable controversy surrounds the diagnosis of “sex addiction. ” It’s been excluded from the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), but it’s still written about and studied in psychology and counseling circles.

Additionally, it can still be diagnosed using both DSM-5 (as “Other specified sexual dysfunction”) and the “International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems” (ICD-10) criteria (as “Other sexual dysfunction not due to a substance or known physiological condition”).

ICD-10 criteria

By way of a definition, “sex addiction” is described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts in order to achieve the kind of “fix” that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink or someone with opiate use disorder gets from using opiates.

Sex addiction (the compulsive sexual behavior described here) should not be confused with disorders such as pedophilia or bestiality.

For some people, sex addiction can be highly dangerous and result in considerable difficulties with relationships. Like drug or alcohol dependence, it has the potential to negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, personal relationships, quality of life, and safety.

It’s purported to be somewhat common (although statistics are inconsistent), and some argue that it’s often not diagnosed.

It’s believed that a person with sex addiction will seek out multiple sex partners, though this in itself is not necessarily a sign of a disorder. Some report that it may manifest itself as a compulsive need to masturbate, view pornography, or be in sexually stimulating situations.

A person with sex addiction may significantly alter their life and activities in order to perform sexual acts multiple times a day and are reportedly unable to control their behavior, despite severe negative consequences.

Since sex addiction isn’t outlined in the DSM-5, there’s considerable controversy about what criteria constitute an addiction.

One characteristic may be secrecy of behaviors, in which the person with the disorder becomes skilled at hiding their behavior and can even keep the condition secret from spouses, partners, and family members. They may lie about their activities or engage in them at times and places where they won’t be found out.

But sometimes symptoms are present and noticeable. A person may have a sex addiction if they show some or all of the following signs:

  • chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
  • compulsive relations with multiple partners, including strangers
  • lying to cover behaviors
  • preoccupation with having sex, even when it interferes with daily life, productivity, work performance, and so on
  • inability to stop or control the behaviors
  • putting oneself or others in danger due to sexual behavior
  • feeling remorse or guilt after sex
  • experiencing other negative personal or professional consequences

Compulsive behaviors can strain relationships, for example, with the stress of infidelity — although some people may claim to have a sex addiction as a way to explain infidelity in a relationship.

It’s important to remember that enjoying sexual activity is not a sign of sex addiction. Sex is a healthy human activity, and enjoying it is normal. In addition, differences in the level of sexual interest between partners does not mean that one partner has a sex addiction.

Since the diagnosis is controversial, evidence-based treatment options are lacking.

Those who describe treating sex addiction may recommend one or more of the following methods.

Inpatient treatment programs

There are many inpatient treatment centers that offer sex addiction recovery programs. Often, people with a sex addiction are removed from their normal daily lives for at least 30 days to help them regain control of their impulses and start healing. These types of programs typically include in-depth individual and group therapy sessions.

12-step programs

Programs such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) follow the same recovery model as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They can be very helpful for addressing sex addiction.

Members aren’t required to give up sex entirely, but they are encouraged to refrain from compulsive and destructive sexual behavior. Group meetings with others addressing the same challenges provide a good support system.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

This type of therapy can help a person identify triggers for sexual impulses and ultimately teach them how to alter behaviors. This is achieved through one-on-one sessions with a licensed mental health therapist.


Some people may benefit from a course of drug therapy. Certain antidepressants might help alleviate urges (which is separate from the potential side effects of some antidepressants that can cause decreased libido or impair other aspects of the sexual experience).

It’s not clear, however, whether a physician would prescribe drugs for this condition.

The person addressing sex addiction faces a unique set of challenges. They may be engaging in behaviors that put their relationships, their own safety and health, and the health of their partner in jeopardy. At the same time, sex addiction is considered a controversial diagnosis and it’s lacking diagnostic criteria as well as evidence-based treatments.

If you feel that you have a sex addiction, begin by talking with your family doctor. There are also organizations that can provide support.

If you or a loved one is experiencing sex addiction, these resources may be helpful:

  • Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
  • The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health
  • Relativity at Elements Behavioral Health (formerly the Sexual Recovery Institute)


At the CITA Drug Addiction and Addiction Center, not only are sex addictions treated, but we also provide drug addiction and sex addiction treatment, or Viagra, with the help of medical specialists and psychologists.

Sex addicts often have conduct disorder associated with the use of drugs or stimulants such as Viagra. The use of cocaine during sex is quite common among people who are sexually addicted. nine0003

This combination of addiction, sex addiction and drug addiction is known as chemsex, a term used to refer to the two addictions combined. Quite often, a patient suffering from sexual addiction gets into chemsex.


Sex addiction is grouped together with so-called behavioral addictions, in which a person inevitably exhibits addictive behavior that he cannot avoid or control. nine0003

Deprivation of this activity causes the patient to develop unbearable, anxious, and sometimes unbearable behavior. Sexual addiction is becoming more and more noticeable in some people, so appropriate treatment is needed.

Sex addiction and sex with a partner are really different when it comes to sex addiction. The first thing we do when we have a sexual disorder is take a sex addiction test.

In any case, it is important to determine whether a person has a sexual disease or not. People with sexual disorders need proportionate and appropriate treatment. nine0003

Sexual addiction is considered a disorder, which is defined as: “Compulsive out-of-control behavior; an involuntary, irresistible, repetitive and unthinking tendency to establish a stereotyped type of sexual relationship that leaves an overwhelming unsatisfactory feeling.

We see how this type of addiction affects all areas of personal life and is a source of dissatisfaction when the addict loses control of the situation, following his fantasy, making the pleasure of sexual relations "normal", becomes a cause of discomfort. nine0003

This is a compulsive behavior aimed at the wrong calming of anxiety, due to which irritation and anxiety are generated by what we had.

This is the time when self-denial occurs, knowing that such behavior not only does not allay anxiety, but creates many problems.

Sex addicts often have problems at work, family, economic and social problems because their sexual behavior requires them to frequent prostitutes, pornography, erotic lines or sex with strangers. nine0003

Even without the protection to turn your life around sex, most of the time with no pleasure other than guilt and pain.



Sex and cocaine is an explosive mixture that can increase bodily sensations in the short term, but with long-term abuse can lead to cocaine addiction with its dangers, as well as erectile dysfunction and priapism or painful erections. nine0003

Studies have shown that cocaine during sexual intercourse is a strong local anesthetic, reduces the sensitivity of the genitals. While erroneously thought to enhance sexual behavior or be a sexual stimulant, it produces euphoria and short-term social momentum.

This mixture of sex and cocaine and even sex, cocaine and Viagra can lead to a sexual disorder that can lead to a significant loss of sexual appetite.

According to a study by the American psychiatrist James Cokores, published in 1


According to psychiatrists at the Center for Addiction Research and Treatment, sex and amphetamine addiction is a problem caused by amphetamine itself during sex because it causes a physical reaction of great euphoria and affects orgasmic sensations and physical performance.

The problem is that the use of amphetamines during sex causes a rebound effect that prevents the male penis from getting erect for several hours after use. In addition, both sexes have an increased risk of heart disease and consume them. nine0003

According to CITA psychologists, the risk of amphetamine use and sex is that it will inevitably lead to addiction, which will lead to long-term mental disorders.


Viagra addiction usually arises from sexual addiction associated with the desire to satisfy women. Increasingly, many young people are becoming dangerously addicted to Viagra pills.

People suffering from Viagra suffer from a sexual and sexual disorder that leads to the abuse of substances such as Viagra and even the use of drugs to satisfy this need. nine0003

Viagra abuse has been proven to cause erectile dysfunction problems and is increasingly found in young people because they expect so much more from themselves. This results in them suffering a mental disorder that causes them to use more and more, to the point of addiction.


Compulsive sexual behavior is psychological in origin, when sexual fantasies, dreams and erotic thoughts become an escape valve for a series of problems that turn into a sexual outlet: work, relationships, self-esteem, problems, dissatisfaction, personal conflicts or other conflicts life experience. . nine0003

The addict is constantly forced to hide the problem through a "double life". Lies directed not only at others but also at oneself in order to convince oneself that everything is under control, with the characteristic feature "this will be the last time." Sex addicts develop various strategies to deceive third parties and, in particular, their partners. They are ashamed because they realize that they cannot stop their impulses, and this causes a strong sense of helplessness and suffering. nine0003

US National Council on Sexual Addiction (NCSA) data tells us that: 40% of addicts lose their partners, 40% suffer unwanted pregnancies, 72% have suicidal thoughts, 17% have attempted suicide, 36% have had abortions , 27% have problems giving birth and 68% are at risk of contracting AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.


Sex addiction is a disease with a good prognosis, provided that a specialist is consulted and special treatment is initiated. nine0003

Regardless of the cause, treatment for sex addiction is possible. With the help of psychotherapy, specialists look for possible addiction triggers and cognitive-behavioral treatments for the patient's sexual behavior.

Our treatment focuses on psychological and pharmacological assistance, depending on the duration, intensity and degree of reality distortion caused by the symptoms. We know that the fight against sex addiction is difficult and requires professional intervention, like other addictions. To do this, psychotherapeutic and educational strategies are combined, including individual therapy and other interdisciplinary interventions. nine0003

Prevention requires early learning to identify the circumstances causing it in order to develop a strategy for prevention or elimination.


The sex addict profile usually presents two types of altered episodes: depression and sexuality are altered aspects in the face of this addiction.

Sex is fundamental to a person, but when an obsession with sex arises that interferes with daily life, work, personal and social relationships, causing anxiety, stress and guilt, then it becomes a problem of consequences. nine0003

Excessive sexual appetite. Anxiety and restlessness. The symptoms end with guilt for feeling the symptoms of sexual pathology.

In many cases, sexual patients are aware of their sexual illness and turn to drug treatment clinics.

  • Excessive sexual appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of guilt0003

    Josep Mª Fàbregas Pedrell is currently a Narcologist and Director of the CITA Clinic Psychiatric Clinic for Addiction and Mental Health, consisting of the CITA Fundación, CITA Clínica and CITA Young therapy centers.

    He started his professional career at the Marmottande Hospital in Paris, where he works with Prof. Claude Oliewenstein.

    He later moved to New York and, after several years of professional experience, founded CITA (Center for the Study and Treatment of Addictions) in 1981 with the aim of developing a model professional therapeutic community that has been in operation since the age of 32. years old. nine0003

    Signs of addiction | Rehab


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