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What is Considered Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is defined as a lack of control over sexual thoughts, impulses, and urges. Read on to learn more about sex addiction.


Sex addiction is defined as a lack of control over sexual thoughts, impulses, and urges. While some sexual impulses are normal, those who struggle with sex addiction will have sexual behaviors and thoughts that are excessive and impact their life in a negative manner over an extended period of time.1


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Link Between Sex Offenders and Sex Addiction

Unfortunately, there is a strong link between sex offenders and sex addiction. According to The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, approximately 55% of incarcerated sex offenders are diagnosable as sex addicts. This is why proper treatment and support for those who struggle with sexual addictions is necessary to prevent any poor behaviors or decisions by those who are struggling.2

Symptoms of Sex Addiction

Common sexual addiction symptoms include:

  • Continuing to engage in sexual behavior despite detriments to relationships
  • Continuously engaging in excessive sexual activities despite wanting to stop
  • Craving sex to the point that it interferes with other engagements
  • Feeling withdrawals or negative feelings when unable to engage in sexual behavior
  • Needing to escalate sexual activity to achieve the desired effect
  • Neglecting other obligations in the pursuit of sex
  • Spending time in activities related to or that could lead to sex
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on sexual activity

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these sexual addiction symptoms, there are resources available that can help.

What Causes Sex Addiction?

There are many factors that can contribute to someone becoming addicted to sex. 

Strong Desire for Control

Someone who has a strong desire for control may be more prone to sexual addiction disorders. This strong desire for control can also lead to a number of negative behaviors and consequences. Not everyone who desires control will become a sex addict, but it is an indicator for many people. 

Those with OCD

Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may also be more prone to sexual addiction disorders. OCD can make people act irrational or  impulsive and feel the need to do certain behaviors repeatedly. This compulsive need can lead to sexual addictions and a variety of other issues as well. 

Those with Relationship Disorders

Relationship disorder, or relationship OCD, involves someone having intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviors specifically involving their romantic partner. People who struggle with relationship disorders may be more prone to sex addiction due to these compulsive behaviors.3

Those Who Use Sex to Cope with Trauma

Those who struggle with past trauma may also use sex as a way to cope. This can lead to compulsively having sex or thinking about sex when someone is reminded of a traumatic incident. This can also connect to needing a sense of control in order to overcome past trauma.  


If you think you or someone you know may be addicted to sex, getting a sex addiction diagnosis is a good first step towards finding help. Sex addiction is generally diagnosed by a medical professional using the DSM-5 criteria for mental health conditions.4

Some specific signs of a sex addiction may include:

  • Watching pornography excessively
  • Masturbating excessively
  • Engaging in sexual activities that put your safety at risk
  • Neglecting other aspects of your life to prioritize sexual activities

Factors of Diagnosis

While these are some of the main factors that can help in diagnosing sex addictions, there are others that could point to it as well. This includes the potential development of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as these could stem from engaging in sexual activities and not putting yourself in a safe position before participating in those acts. It may also include neglecting family, friends, or even work in the pursuit of sex or sexual activities.

Available Treatments for Sex Addiction

If you are looking for sex addiction help for either you or a loved one, there are many treatments available that can help with overcoming sexual addictions. 


Medicine for sex addiction may be available that can help, particularly if the addiction is being caused by a mental health condition. Oftentimes, treating the mental health condition through medication will also help during the treatment of sex addiction.

Psychosocial Therapy

When someone is addicted to sex, psychosocial therapy may also be a good treatment option. Psychosocial therapy involves psychological development and an individual’s reaction to their social environment. This can particularly be effective during sex addiction counseling by working with a patient and how they react within their daily social environment.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

If someone struggles with sex addiction syndrome, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be a good treatment option. CBT helps patients learn about how their thoughts affect their behaviors. This can be an effective form of sex addiction counseling by helping patients understand how their thoughts are contributing to their addiction and learn how to manage their thinking and behavior patterns over time. 

12-Step programs

12-step programs can also be effective in treating sex addiction syndrome. These programs for sex addiction will provide group members with a structured support system as they work towards recovery. They can also provide coping mechanisms in order to understand the causes of their addiction and how to overcome it.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Those who struggle with out-of-control sexual behavior may also benefit from psychodynamic therapy. This therapy focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of one’s emotions and how they affect mental processes. For those with underlying conditions that are contributing to sex addiction, psychodynamic therapy can help them work through emotional issues related to past trauma and other problems that may be leading to the addiction. 

Couples Therapy

For those who struggle with relationship OCD or who have a partner who struggles with sex addiction, couples therapy may also be a good treatment option. Couples therapy will work with both partners so they can learn how to cope and manage the sex addiction together. 

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

For those whose sex addiction stems from past trauma, EMDR therapy may also be a good option. EMDR is an interactive form of psychotherapy that helps patients relieve psychological stress associated with past trauma and other negative experiences. 

When to Seek Immediate Help

You should seek immediate help for sex addiction if you are:

  • Progressively taking more and more dangerous risks during sexual activities
  • Hurting yourself or others during sex
  • Having difficulty getting important tasks accomplished

If you or a loved one struggle with sex addiction, there are other self-care strategies that may also help you cope and create more positive behavioral patterns. Good self-care strategies include:

Get Sex Addiction Treatment at Boardwalk Recovery

If you or a loved one are struggling with sex addiction, we want to help. Boardwalk Recovery is a treatment center that specializes in helping those who struggle with sex addiction and other compulsive behaviors. Our team of experts will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that will help you regain control over your life. We will support and be with you every step of the way. Don’t let sex addiction rule your life any longer – get the help you need today.
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