Sex Addiction Symptoms: Signs of a Sex Addict
Sex addiction, otherwise known as Compulsive Sexual Behavioural Disorder, is one of the lesser talked about addictions. So, let’s talk about sex and lift the lid on it. Our hope is that in doing so, more people who suffer will come forwards and ask for help.
Sex is a totally natural way to feel pleasure. It helps foster intimacy and, of course, it leads to procreation. Sex is nothing to feel ashamed about.
Unfortunately, sex addiction seems to have its own unique stigma attached to it versus other addictions.
Rarely are there mentions of sex addiction within the media without a negative connotation being attached. It is hardly ever talked about unless a criminal conviction or the breakdown of a celebrity relationship is involved.
The full picture of Compulsive Sexual Behavioural Disorder (CSBD) is often not wholly painted.
The truth is, sex addiction can cause untold harm and torment to loved ones and to the sufferer due to its nature and accessibility.
Those that have this particular behavioural disorder tend to feel so much shame and remorse around their actions that they struggle to ask for help. This can result in feelings of hopelessness and at worst, suicide.
What is sex addiction?
Sex addiction, also known as Compulsive Sexual Behaviour and hypersexuality is a recognised mental health disorder that can take on different forms.
Whether the addiction manifests in porn addiction, sex with strangers, compulsive masturbation, or having sex multiple times a day, the common denominator is a person’s inability to control their engagement levels and symptoms.
Suffering from sex addiction is much more than just having a high sex drive. It is also more than having a sexual fetish for something society deems “unusual,” or wanting to experiment.
Someone addicted to sex will feel compelled to engage in sexual activity, regardless of the cost to themselves or to their loved ones.
The rewards a sex addict receives in the brain for engaging in sexual activity are more pronounced than in a healthy brain.
Sexual addiction is medically known as Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (CSBD) and hyper-sexuality. Sexual addiction in women is sometimes referred to as nymphomania. However, referring to a female with sex addiction as a nymphomaniac is an outdated term. Today's healthcare professionals prefer to use the terms hypersexuality disorder, sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behaviour.
Just like any substance or behavioural addiction, whether that be to gambling, porn or shopping, sex addiction is progressive in its nature and considered a chronic condition.
Suffering from sex addiction causes its sufferers to take their sexual activity to such extremes that it negatively impacts other areas of their life.
Regardless of the form a sexual addiction takes, it carries many of the same behavioural traits as a substance addiction.
Here's how to know if you or someone you love suffers from sex addiction.
The 5 main signs of sexual addiction are as follows:
- Preoccupation - Constantly thinking about, recovering from, or engaging in sexual activity
- Progression - Engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity to feel satisfied. With porn, this would amount to watching more extreme forms of pornography and more frequently
- Obsession - Unable to limit the amount of time thinking about sexual activity
- Compulsion - Having overwhelming urges to engage in sexual activity or watch pornography regardless of the possible consequences
- A distinct lack of control - Inability to control engagement levels and thought processes related to sexual activity
The characteristics and symptoms of a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder ultimately result in negative consequences. Despite suffering consequences to productivity, personal relationships, social life, and mental & physical health, a person with an addiction to sex will not be able to “just stop.”
Sexual addiction occurs when a person’s brain structure undergoes long-lasting and profound changes. The changes that occur in a sex addict's or porn addict's brain cause them to progressively prioritise the activity above other basic human needs such as love, companionship, food, and shelter.
No one knows exactly why some people develop a Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder and others don't. However, there are some recognised contributing factors that place a person at higher risk.
Risk factors for developing Sex addiction (CSBD): What causes sexual addiction?
- Environment - Childhood neglect, early exposure to sex, peer pressure or dysfunctional upbringing
- Genetics - A history of addiction running in the family and other addictions
- Mental health illness - Mental health illness can cause a person to seek relief in a substance or activity. Bipolar disorder is known to cause hypersexuality
- Trauma - Trauma, especially childhood trauma, has a highly detrimental impact on the brain. It damages parts of the brain that regulate thought, affects memory, control impulse, and regulate emotions
- Medications and substances - Some medications and substances, such as crack cocaine, can cause hypersexual arousal and a disregard for risk
Sexual addiction can carry many negative consequences. Below are just a few of the consequences someone with sex addiction can suffer
Consequences of sexual addiction can include
- Physical injury
- Criminal activity
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unwanted pregnancies
- Damage to personal relationships
It is worth noting that due to the lack of research conducted on sex addiction, the percentage of people with STDs who meet the criteria for a compulsive sexual behavioural disorder is unknown.
Sexual addiction symptoms - Am I a sex addict?
Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder (sex addiction) is now a recognised mental health disorder. Much like any other addiction, breaking the cycle of harmful behaviour can be impossible without the right help and support.
If any sexual behaviour feels out of your control and is causing you or your loved ones distress, it is important to seek help sooner rather than later.
If you are worried that you or someone you love may have an addiction to sex or pornography, the following symptoms of sex addiction may help to determine if professional help would be beneficial.
Signs and symptoms of sex addiction/hyper-sexuality :
- Psychological suffering - Feeling remorse, guilt, shame, stress, hopelessness, depression and anxiety related to sexual activity
- Inability to form healthy and lasting intimate relationships
- Failure to stay faithful (dependent on the form the sexual addiction takes)
- Spending so much time thinking about, planning, or engaging in sexual activity that it affects productivity or occupation
- Needing more extreme forms of sexual activity and taking bigger risks in order to feel gratified
- Suffering consequences as a direct result of sexual activity - Including, but not limited to relationship break-ups, job loss, physical injury or disease, unwanted pregnancies, social withdrawal, & financial troubles
- Unable to control or moderate sexual urges
Understanding sexual addiction further:
The following video presented by Casper Schmidt talks about the symptoms of sexual addiction and why it is important to spot them.
If you do suffer from an addiction to sex or to pornography, you may well feel tremendous fear around seeking professional help. Sadly, the media’s stigmatisation of “sexual offences” has done nothing to promote that this is a treatable condition and a condition that is not your fault.
Sex addiction is treatable, so it is important not to focus on the stigma associated with compulsive sexual behavioural disorders.
WHO now recognises sexual addiction as a mental health condition
The World Health Organisation (WHO) added Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder to their 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases Manual on 18th June 2018. This reclassification now helps medical professionals around the world to diagnose and treat the condition effectively.
WHO also list the signs and symptoms of sex addiction, so that more people can be correctly diagnosed and treated.
Treatment and therapy for sex addiction
The most widely available and accessible treatment for CSBD and hyper-sexuality involves 12-Step support groups. These groups provide a 12-step recovery programme for anyone suffering from an addiction to sex. Groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) can be accessed online and through face-to-face meetings.
SMART Recovery also offers a very accessible science-based programme that can treat the symptoms and causes of a sex addiction
In addition to joining a relevant support group, counselling and psychotherapy are also recommended as part of the recovery process. Professional therapy can help to unearth and heal the underlying causes and contributing factors of sexual addiction.
Therapy and support groups can also assist in learning healthy sexual behaviours, boundaries, relapse prevention, and how to form healthy intimacy.
Learning how to have healthy intimate relationships is so very important, as sexual addictions tend to involve a lot of deception, violation of trust, lack of boundaries, and an unhealthy perception of sex.
CBT treatment for Compulsive Sexual Behavioural Disorder (sexual addiction)
Thankfully, treatment for sex addiction can work if a person truly wants to engage in the treatment process and get well.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy are the two most common approaches to treating hypersexuality and compulsive sexual behaviours. These therapies focus on identifying triggers, reshaping cognitive distortions, and implementing alternative, healthy coping strategies.
Because those who suffer from a sex addiction often struggle with healthy intimacy, rehabilitation needs to teach the person how to be intimate both with and without sex.
Giving up sex is only temporary
Many people who suffer from a sexual addiction fear that they will have to give up sex or anything related to sex such as porn or masturbation. Whilst this is necessary during the detoxification process and in reshaping the way a person views sex, it is not forever. Much like a substance abuse disorder, the cessation of the substance is necessary before therapy can be of maximum benefit.
With the correct treatment process and support, a person who once had a sexual addiction can learn to establish a healthy relationship with sex. A relationship that is nurturing, respectful, and intimate.
Support in our judgment-free zone
If you are looking to connect with like-minded others and find support and recovery for an addiction to a sexual activity, you have come to the right place.
At Recoverlution we welcome anyone who is trying to overcome addiction, or who is in recovery. Whether that addiction is to alcohol, drugs, shopping, porn, gambling, food, or sex, you are welcome to stay and make use of what we have to offer.
We have created a safe and confidential space where you can access various means of free local treatment for sexual addiction within our Hub of Hope. You can also have a voice here, without fear of judgment.
Recoverlution believes in recovery for all, with a no one size fits all approach. You can access our wellness hub where we have qualified therapists and many methods of increasing overall well-being. You can browse through our knowledge hub and discover different tools that may help you on your journey.
Within the safety of our purpose-built addiction recovery platform, you can access a free community of support and meetings. Above all else, please know that you are not alone. We are all here to help and support one another in our personal recovery from addiction.
Q&A’s on Sex addiction
How do I know if my partner is addicted to sex?
When someone is addicted to sex, they will suffer negative consequences as a result, yet still, be unable to stop. The signs of a partner who is addicted to sex can manifest in a number of ways and not necessarily in unfaithfulness. For example, if your partner uses pornography to the extent that it is impacting your relationship, their career or other areas of their life, it may be they are suffering from sexual addiction. The good news is that treatment allows sex addicts to stop compulsive behaviour and reframe their beliefs, thoughts and behaviours around sex. Thus improving their relationships with others and themselves
Is a sex addict capable of falling in love?
Yes, absolutely, falling and being in love is entirely possible for someone with sexual addiction. However, until treatment is undertaken, they may have an innate fear of intimacy and of developing close bonds with others. Some that suffer from sex addictions do not equate sex with love and so are easily able to separate the two. However, for others, it can be far more complex. This is why counselling and treatment are always recommended.
What are the withdrawal symptoms of sex addiction?
Sex addiction withdrawal symptoms are mainly psychological and can last from a few days up to a few months.
Sexual addiction withdrawal symptoms include
- Isolating from family and friends
- Depression and anxiety
- Restlessness and Irritability
- Ruminating in negative thoughts of shame, guilt and remorse
- A constant need to distract oneself
- Cravings for sexual activity
The timeline and severity of sexual withdrawal symptoms can be drastically reduced with the help of therapy, a treatment programme and like-minded support from others.
Is recovery from sexual addiction possible?
Recovery is possible! However, commitment to the recovery process is paramount if someone is to overcome an addiction to sex. This means looking at sometimes painful reasons why a person may have become addicted to sex and healing them with the appropriate support. Additionally, as addiction is a chronic illness (meaning it cannot be cured) maintaining recovery on a daily basis is a must in order to prevent release.
Can you be addicted to watching pornography?
Absolutely, being addicted to watching pornography is one of the more common manifestations of sexual addiction. Porn addiction is characterised by a compulsive need to watch porn that overrides everything else and watch more extreme forms of pornography. This will often leave the sufferer with feelings of guilt, disgust and shame afterwards and will spill over into other areas of their life leaving a negative impact. Thankfully, porn addiction can be treated in the same way as any sexual addiction. As previously stated, sexual addiction can take on many different forms. It is not the form that it takes that matters, it is the loss of control and the negative effects that engagement levels have on a person's mental, spiritual and sometimes physical health.
- Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviours - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945841/
- What Causes Sex Addiction? - https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-causes-sex-addiction
- World Health Organisation - Public release on reclassification of Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder - https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/18-06-2018-who-releases-new-international-classification-of-diseases-(icd-11)
- Can you become addicted to sex? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/can-you-become-addicted-to-sex/
- Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_sexual_behaviour_disorder
- 6C72 Compulsive sexual behaviour disorder - https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/1630268048
- When pornography becomes a problem: Clinical insights https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/when-pornography-becomes-problem-clinical-insights
- Stein, Dan J. (2008). "Classifying Hypersexual Disorders: Compulsive, Impulsive, and Addictive Models". Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 31 (4): 587–591. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2008.06.007. PMID 18996299. S2CID 9083474.
- signs of porn addiction you shouldn't ignore: https://www.rehabguide.co.uk/pornography-addiction/