Sex addiction

What is sex addiction?

Sex addiction, which is sometimes also referred to as “compulsive sexual behavior”, is when a person repeatedly experiences irresistible urges to participate in sexual activity despite the harmful consequences. Compulsive sexual behaviors can disrupt a person’s daily activities and cause distress; both to the person experiencing them, and those around them. Some people might also experience other related mental health conditions or symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Individuals of any sexual orientation or gender identity can experience sex addiction.

There is significant demand for help with sexual addiction, although it is not currently a diagnosable mental health disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the tool that therapists use to diagnose mental health problems. This is a matter of ongoing debate.

Sex is often a fun and satisfying part of life, and it’s important to remember that a wide variety of sexual desires, preferences, and behaviors are considered normal and healthy. When compulsive sexual behavior becomes a recurring source of worry or interferes with day-to-day life, therapy – including, but not limited to, sex therapy – is one way to work towards healing.

How common is sex addiction?

It’s difficult to know exactly how prevalent sex addiction is because there is not a lot of data available. This may be because:

However, a review of the existing research estimated that 3-6% of people experience sexual addiction (1). One study of university students found that compulsive sexual behavior was experienced by 3% of men and 1.2% of women (2).

Types of compulsive sexual behavior

There are a variety of sexually compulsive behaviors that people can have difficulties with. They are generally divided into two types:

Symptoms of sex addiction

Symptoms related to sexual addiction vary widely, but a few of the most common ones include:

In addition, people might experience related symptoms, such as:

Treatment for sex addiction

If you are struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors, you might wish to consider one or more of these options:

Therapy types for sex addiction

Therapists trained specifically in sex therapy are best equipped to treat sex addictions, as they are trained in identifuying the physical and emotional causess of the addiction.

Your therapist will work with you to decide the most appropriate type of therapy. Common types of therapy modalities for treating compulsive sexual behavior include:

What to look for in a therapist for sex addiction

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a mental health professional, including:

Education and credentials: Look for a licensed mental health professional who has specialized training in sex addiction and experience working in the area.

Personal fit: It’s important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable working. The trusting working relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy. Talking about sexual addiction can be confronting and some people may feel embarrassed, so you want to be sure that you are working with someone you feel comfortable with and trust.

Talk in advance: The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call (you can do this with our vetted Zencare therapists). Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up. You can learn more about how to find a sex therapist here.

Find the best sex therapists near you

Find therapists who specialize in sex addiction on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

Sources and references