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By definition, a “sex addictionis described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts to achieve a “fix,” much as someone with a substance abuse disorder compulsively needs drugs or alcohol to achieve a sense of euphoria or a “high.” This addiction should not be confused with other disorders, such as pedophilia or bestiality, as these are all completely different disorders. Sex addiction can be extremely dangerous and result in difficulties in relationships or daily life maintenance. It further has the potential to negatively affect a person’s mental and physical well-being, quality of life, and safety. 

Although sex addiction alone is a dangerous disorder to struggle with, many people couple sex addiction with other addictions, such as drugs or alcohol. As such, the shame, embarrassment, or feelings of powerlessness or isolation resulting from this addiction can be enough for one to feel the need to cope with other substances. Unfortunately, turning to substances to fill that empty void can have devastating, even deathly, effects on the person suffering. Therefore, if someone is suffering from either or both addictions, they must receive a comprehensive, well-rounded treatment plan to treat their addictions. This can help them move forward from addiction and find healthier coping mechanisms in the future.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sex Addict & How To Find Help

The desire for sexual connection is such a common desire for humans that the warning signs of becoming addicted can often be overlooked. As such, sex addiction may not be diagnosed or even recognized in the person addicted. However, if one was honest, they might realize that their need for sex may seem to supersede what they find “normal” or “appropriate.” Therefore, to figure out if one is addicted to sex, they might want to use some of the tell-tale signs and symptoms of an addiction to sex as a guide.

Symptoms of sex addiction include:

  • Keeping sexual behaviors secret, even keeping the condition secret from spouses, partners, family members, or friends
  • Lying about their activities or engaging in them in places where they won’t be found out 
  • Chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
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  • Having such preoccupation with sex that it starts interfering with daily life, productivity, work performance, etc.
  • Feeling guilt or regret after engaging in such behavior
  • Compulsively seeking out partners, including strangers
  • Continuing behavior despite any apparent dangerous consequences to the behavior

Remember, while desiring sexual activity in and of itself is not a sign of an addiction, the difference between “normal” sexual behavior and an addiction lies in any compulsiveness that starts interfering with daily life activities.

Side Effects and Symptoms that Increase Chances of an Addiction to Sex

Just as an addiction to drugs or alcohol can massively impact one’s social, mental, and physical well-being, so can addiction to sex. Some additional side effects that can result from sex addiction can include:

  • A decline in personal relationships, social, and family engagement 
  • Decreased productivity and concentration at work
  • A sexually-transmitted disease (STD), also known as a venereal disease, or sexual dysfunction as a result of engaging in the behavior
  • An increased risk of also engaging in other dangerous behaviors, such as substance abuse with drugs or alcohol
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  • Less time engaging in hobbies you once used to enjoy 
  • Financial strain due to overspending to satisfy one’s addiction
  • Loss of employment due to low productivity or absences of work

It is also common to feel psychological effects from an addiction to sex, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Feelings of: being abnormal, guilt, shame, hollowness, emptiness, numb, regretful

Some factors that may increase one’s chance of developing a sexual addiction may include:

  • Being male: Although many females struggle with this, it is most common in men.
  • Being in late adolescence to mid-20s: An increase in adolescent hormones and engagement in sexual behavior is deemed “normal” during this time.
  • Having low levels of serotonin: Neurotransmitter chemical imbalances can play a large role in engaging in “euphoric” behavior.
  • Experiencing childhood sexual abuse.
  • Family history of addiction: Having one or more parents addicted to sex or substances increases one’s chance of continuing the trend.
  • Having pre-existing mental health conditions, such as impulse control disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • Having medical conditions that increase hyper-sexuality, including injuries to the brain, tumors, lesions, seizure disorders, and dementia, all contribute to reduced inhibitions.

Finding Recovery for Sex Addiction Symptoms

While wanting sex often is not deemed an addiction, it is imperative that you seek treatment immediately if you sense that you have any abnormalities or compulsiveness to wanting and acting out in sexual behavior. As sex addiction mirrors many of the same characteristic behaviors of a drug or alcohol addiction, it is quite common that one engaging in one addiction will eventually turn to another addiction to satisfy the “void.” This is quite often because the shame and guilt of one addiction cause someone to find more coping mechanisms to avoid feeling the painful emotions resulting from addiction.

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Furthermore, since chemical imbalances can cause impulsive behavior, one might feel drawn to engage in more risky behavior to increase the once “extremely high” they once felt when they first started their addiction. Therefore, it is imperative that if one struggles with either or both of these addictions, they get help under the guidance of a medical professional specializing in addiction. Additionally, seeing a counselor to understand why one is coping with unhealthy behavior can help prevent a relapse in behavior in the future. 

Please do not delay seeking help for an addiction to sex. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact, it is a sign of strength. Dedicated and compassionate people are waiting to help you on your path of recovery, so contact us today.

Sources:

Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Tyler M. Sex Addiction: Symptoms, Treatment, and Outlook. Published July 26, 2018. Accessed July 5, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/sex
  2. Holoyda B, Sorrentino R, Friedman SH, Allgire J. Bestiality: An introduction for legal and mental health professionals. Behav Sci Law. 2018;36(6):687-697. doi:10.1002/bsl.2368
  3. Schreiber L, Odlaug BL, Grant JE. Impulse Control Disorders: Updated Review of Clinical Characteristics and Pharmacological Management. Front Psychiatry. 2011;2:1. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00001
  4. Bhandari S. What Is Conduct Disorder? WebMD. Published June 30, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-conduct-disorder
  5. Stoppler MC. Medical Definition of Venereal disease. MedicineNet. Published March 29, 2021. Accessed July 5, 2022. https://www.medicinenet.com/venereal_disease/definition.htm
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. Bipolar disorder – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published February 16, 2021. Accessed July 5, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed July 5, 2022

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