Female Sex Addiction: The Signs and Treatment
Female sex addiction continues to be a taboo topic, even more so than male sex addiction. However, female sex addiction is very common. Research shows that approximately one-third of people who are addicted to sex are women.
Many women in recovery from drugs and alcohol find themselves struggling with a sex addiction without even realising it. This sort of addiction transfer can happen when women are continuing to attempt to fill an emotional need or an internal void.
Wondering if you have an addiction to sex? Read on to discover what female sex addiction can look like. You'll learn about what can cause sex addiction to develop in women, and what the treatment options are.
Finally, know that sex itself is not the problem. Engaging in sex is a normal part of being human. It's what is driving that compulsive behaviour, that may be worth looking at deeper.
What is sex addiction?
Sex addiction is defined as a lack of control over sexual thoughts, urges, and impulses.
The urge to engage in sex or sexual behaviours is completely normal. However, it is referred to as an addiction when these behaviours are done in excess, and in turn, negatively impact your life.
Sex addiction is referred to in various ways by different professionals. It is also known as a compulsive sexual disorder, compulsive sexual behaviour, hypersexuality, and sexual compulsivity.
Although sex addiction isn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5, there are many proponents for including sex addiction as a behavioural addiction.
Sex addiction is, however, categorised in the ICD-11 as a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder. It is characterized by, “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses, resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour.”
The forms of sex that women can become addicted to
There are many different ways that female sex addiction can manifest.
Some of the ways in which sex addiction can manifest:
- Engaging in one-night stands
- Wanting sex as a way to feel loved by a partner
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Extramarital affairs
- Cybersex and internet chat rooms
So, how do you know if you're struggling with sex addiction? Engaging in sexual behaviours is completely normal, so how can you know if what you're experiencing is crossing over into the realm of addiction?
The signs and symptoms of female sex addiction
It can be difficult to discern whether you just enjoy sex, or if it's become an addiction. As previously mentioned, one of the key factors defining sex addiction is that your sexual behaviours have a negative impact on your life and that you continue to engage in them despite this.
Signs and symptoms of female sex addiction include:
- You find it difficult to maintain focus on activities outside of sex
- You're overwhelmed by your thoughts about sex
- When you engage in sex or sexual behaviours, they're interspersed with feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, or remorse
- You experience restlessness if you’re unable to satisfy sexual urges
- You feel like you're unable to control your compulsions related to sexual behaviour
- Your sexual behaviours have a negative impact on your life, but you continue to engage in them
- You are unable to stop engaging in the sexual behaviours that are causing issues within your life
- The relationships in your life, your career, your goals, and other obligations become pushed to the back burner as your main priority is seeking out sexual activity
- You engage in risky, or even illegal, behaviours to satisfy your sexual urges
- When you aren’t engaging in sex with other people, you engage in sexual behaviours alone, such as watching pornography or masturbating
- You engage in sexual behaviours with multiple partners, or you engage in extramarital affairs
Now you may have a better idea of what sex addiction can look like. You may be wondering, is it really such a bad thing to be addicted to sex?
Female sex addiction is a compulsive behavioural disorder
If you're a woman struggling with sex addiction, you may be dealing with an additional layer of challenges due to the nature of your compulsions. Unfortunately, there's no denying that we live in a society where it's okay and even admirable for men to have sex and talk about sex, but women are looked down upon for doing the same.
If a man engages in a lot of sex or sex with multiple women, he is seen as “the man.” However, a woman in the same position becomes vilified.
The double standard regarding sex in our society are what may be contributing to some of the additional emotional challenges you're facing.
You may experience feelings of judgment.
You may experience feelings of shame or guilt.
Additionally, you may feel that there is something inherently wrong with you for desiring or enjoying sex for what it is.
It's important to know that there is nothing wrong with you desiring and enjoying sex. Sex is natural for both men and women. It is completely natural for both men and women to desire sex.
When it comes to female sex addiction, the problem isn’t inherently because of the sex itself. The problem lies more in what drives the compulsive behaviours, rather than the behaviours themselves.
Sex addiction can develop as an unhealthy coping mechanism, in an attempt to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. You may engage in sexual behaviours in an effort to push down difficult emotions, distract yourself, forget painful memories, or even to feel something if you struggle with feeling numb.
What causes female sex addiction?
Sex addiction does appear to manifest differently for men and for women. Today, researchers continue to work on understanding the causes of female sex addiction in particular.
Although there isn’t one primary contributing factor, there are factors that may influence the development of this particular addiction in women, similar to what we would see with drug, alcohol or food addiction.
According to research conducted by the Sexual Recovery Institute, women who develop sex addiction often grow up in a household underscored by rigidity. Women may also grow up in an environment in which they receive a lack of emotional support from their parents or caregivers.
Research also indicates that disrupted bonds between mother and daughter can also contribute to the development of female sex addiction.
Experiencing shame as a reaction to sex, as well as conflicting cultural beliefs around sex, also appear to be contributing factors in the development of sex addiction specifically in women.
Additionally, research shows that 78% of women the struggle with sex addiction have experienced sexual abuse in childhood. Many people end up developing addictions unwittingly as a way of coping with early traumas.
Some research indicates that sexual addiction may fall into the category of obsessive-compulsive disorder, due to the nature of compulsions.
Contributing and risk factors for female sex addiction, include:
- Already having an addiction to something, such as drugs or alcohol, either presently or in the past
- A co-occurring mental health condition such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder
- Confusion regarding sexual identity
- Delayed intellectual development
- Childhood trauma
- A disrupted bond between mother and daughter during childhood
- Cultural and environmental influences
Now that you have some insight into what can cause female sex addiction and what female sex addiction is, you may be wondering what kind of treatment options are available for treating this particular condition.
Treatment options for female sex addiction
Fortunately, it is very possible to treat sex addiction. Treatment for sex addiction typically requires getting the help of a mental health professional.
Today, there are also many 12-step support groups designed to help those struggling specifically with sex addiction.
In some cases, attending an inpatient rehab facility may be your best option for treating more severe cases of sex addiction.
The nature of the treatment that’s best suited for you will be based on your own unique needs and experiences, as well as the underlying cause of your addiction and how it’s manifesting in your life.
Individual therapy with a sex therapist
A combination of talk therapy and sex education can prove to be incredibly beneficial in helping you get to the underlying cause of your addiction to sex. Speaking to a sex therapist, in particular, can help you learn how to manage your sexual urges. It will also help you understand your triggers, and develop new and healthy ways of coping.
Speaking with a sex therapist can help you gain an understanding of the underlying reasons for your addiction. Working through those underlying reasons can help provide you with freedom from the weight of your urges and compulsions.
Additionally, speaking with a sex therapist can help you learn how to go on and develop a healthy relationship with sex, because it is normal. It is something you should be able to enjoy without the added weight of your addiction tied to it.
Peer support groups for sex addiction
There are multiple 12-step programmes specifically for those struggling with sex addiction. These groups are typically peer-led, and can be offered either in person or online. Some 12-step groups for sex addiction are Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Recovery Anonymous, and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous.
Sex addiction can feel like an incredibly isolating experience, as you feel like no one could possibly understand what you're going through. As a woman struggling with sex addiction, you may often find yourself coming up against feelings of shame and remorse. This can cause you to further isolate yourself from others.
When you engage with a peer support group, you quickly learn that what you're going through is a shared experience. Many people understand the nuances of what you're dealing with and how you're feeling. A support group allows you to normalise your struggle, helping you to feel less alone.
Additionally, you have the opportunity of learning how to manage and cope with your sex addiction from people who have been where you are and have experienced recovery themselves.
Another option for treating female sex addiction is attending an inpatient rehab facility. Inpatient rehab means that you will live at the treatment facility for a set period of time, typically 30, 60, or even 90 days. By entering inpatient treatment, you're able to fully focus 100% of your energy on working through the underlying causes of your addiction and healing.
At an inpatient rehab facility, you're provided with round-the-clock care and a team of professionals to help provide you with the skills and tools you'll need to experience recovery from your sex addiction. At an inpatient rehab, you'll typically have one-on-one therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, and may even experience alternative forms of healing, depending on the facility itself. This can be a great option for treatment if your circumstances permit it.
A final word on female sex addiction
Remember, there is nothing wrong with sex itself. The nature of society's views on women and sex can prompt you to have compounding feelings of shame around your addiction when there is nothing shameful about sex inherently.
The reason that sex addiction will pose an issue for you is that it can be a manifestation of underlying emotions that haven't been worked through or are continuing to get pushed down. You deserve to experience mental and emotional freedom, as well as freedom from the weight of your addiction. You also deserve to be able to foster and enjoy a healthy relationship with sex.
If you want to join our free Recoverlution Community you will benefit from connecting with like-minded others, message boards, online meetings and recovery tools. You can start your journey of recovery, right here, right now.
Authors - Thurga/Sammi H
Q&A on Female Sex addiction - women who are addicted to sex
Is sex addiction an intimacy disorder?
Sex addiction falls under the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder. This diagnosis means that the symptoms of sex addiction are mainly related to compulsive behaviours that feel out of the person's control. Additionally, a person with sex addiction will rely on these behaviours as a coping mechanism to distract them from emotional pain.
Underlying sex addiction (and this applies to both men and women) is usually some form of trauma, dual diagnosis mental health illness or conditioned misbeliefs around sex. Many that suffer from sex addiction struggle with what true intimacy means. Female sex addicts will often struggle to form and sustain loving and intimate relationships with others. Trauma-driven sex addiction usually stems from a lack of nurturing and a lack of healthy love and boundaries during childhood, which is then carried into adulthood.
What are the signs your relationship is lacking intimacy?
Signs your relationship is lacking in intimacy include
- Feeling unable to turn to your partner for advice or asking them for guidance or help
- You are unable to talk about how your feelings with your partner
- You feel disconnected from your partner
- There is a lack of intimate nurturing in your relationship
- Most physical touch leads to sexual activity
What is the name for a female addicted to sex?
“Nymphomaniac” and “Nymphomania” are outdated and derogatory terms used to describe a woman with an insatiable appetite for sex. Now that sex addiction in females is recognised as a mental health disorder, sex addiction, compulsive sexual behaviour disorder and hypersexuality are used interchangeably to describe a person who is unable to control their sexual engagement levels and feels compelled to engage.
- Recognising Sex Addiction in Women - https://www.lifeworkscommunity.com/blog/recognising-sex-addiction-in-women
- Signs of a Sex Addict - https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-sex-addict
- Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction - https://www.verywellmind.com/sex-addiction-symptoms-2329082
- Differentiating the Female Sex Addict: A Literature Review Focused on Themes of Gender Difference Used to Inform Recommendations for Treating Women With Sex Addiction - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10720162.2014.931266?journalCode=usac20
- The contribution of personality factors and gender to ratings of sex addiction among men and women who use the Internet for sex purposes - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6376399/
- The Emergence of Female Sex Addiction: Understanding Gender Differences - https://www.academia.edu/1193969/The_Emergence_of_Female_Sex_Addiction_Understanding_Gender_Differences
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.) - https://slaafws.org/
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) - https://saa-recovery.org/
- Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA) - https://sexualrecovery.org/
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) - https://sca-recovery.org/WP/
- Sex and love addiction:https://www.rehab4addiction.co.uk/addictions/sex-love-addiction